After her son John was admitted to Amherst College last December, Michelle Fitzhenry thought dropping him off to start his freshman year would be a family event. She and her husband, Jim, had planned to fly with him to Massachusetts from Portland, Ore., in August, spend a couple of days shopping for dorm essentials and then help him move into his room, meeting his new roommate’s parents and staying around for dinner.

The plan now? To get in and out as fast as possible.

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