My family is going through a wonderful milestone at present.  One that many other families are going through as well.  It’s graduation season and for students graduating from high school, it can be a time filled with mixed emotions as they plan the next chapter in their lives.

A little bit of background to our story:  Rewind just over 17 years ago when my daughter was born.  Like many first time parents, my husband and I had our new parent checklist and opening up an RESP plan early was a priority for us.  We opened up our first RESP  when my daughter was a few weeks old.

Fast forward to today:  We have been saving for over 17 years mindful of ensuring we were putting away enough to cover the projected costs. Our end goal was to ensure that our daughter, Tess, would have enough money to go to any Canadian university of her choice and graduate debt free.

During my undergrad years, I worked during the summers as a tree planter in Northern Ontario to help offset the costs of my studies.   I also worked full-time while I completed my Masters degree at night.  I knew first hand the demands of university studies and the burden placed on students to help pay for that education either partially or fully.  I wanted to ensure that I could help my daughter out as much as possible.

My husband and I are blessed with a daughter who has a very strong sense of self-awareness and determination.  Since she started high school four years ago, she has always wanted to study science at the University of British Columbia.  The stunning campus, laidback, healthy lifestyle and access to mountain skiing perfectly aligned with her interests and value system.  Living out west became her dream and a goal she was determined to achieve.

And, boy has she worked hard to get there.

The long nights studying and sacrifices that she has made to ensure she had the marks for entry has been quite astonishing.  As a parent, I would have been heartbroken watching how hard she has worked over the years if she was shy of attaining her dream and goal.  The wonderful news is, she did get accepted to UBC in the undergraduate science program and her long awaited next chapter will soon be a reality.

I had the pleasure of visiting the UBC campus with my daughter this May to attend an orientation weekend hosted by the school.  When the airplane was starting its decent to the Vancouver airport, my daughter looked out the window and could see the mountain peaks.  Her face lit up and her jaw dropped.  I could see how excited she became knowing this beautiful land would soon become her new home.  Needless to say, the waterworks were turned on for me as tears ran down my cheeks.  I knew I was taking her to where she truly belonged and it was time to let go as a parent.  It was an incredibly emotional moment for me; I’m choked up writing about it even now.

An even sweeter moment though, was when she let my husband and I know how grateful she was that we had the foresight and discipline to save all these years so she could afford to study away from home.  She let us know that so many of her friends have to live at home and select programs close by because their parents don’t have enough to send them away.  What an incredible moment when your child thanks you and you can see how truly grateful they are...

There are so many other families and young minds like my daughter experiencing similar bittersweet moments.  Our ability to send our children off, expand their minds and experience independent living for the first time in their young adult lives without the burden of worrying about the cost, is a life altering gift.  Bittersweet indeed....