Twin students thrive, struggle with separation

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For most college-bound students, the transition from home to campus and the accompanying distance from family are difficult enough. For twins going away to college, these challenges can be more extreme and even influence their college selection process.

Compared to ordinary sibling relationships, experts say the connection between twins is much more intense. So what happens when the most profound sibling bond undergoes one of life’s most extreme departures from familiarity by going off to college?

Many college-bound twins come to a crossroads at some point during their school selection process where they need to determine whether to follow each other or go their separate ways.

For twins Jay and Joe Emmer, it was a matter of practicality and similar academic interests that led them both to choose Marquette.

“We chose to go to the same school because we could be roommates and avoid the awkward new roommate thing,” said Jay Emmer, a senior in the College of Engineering. “We could also share a vehicle and TV and such to help share expenses on necessities.”

While the separation can be tough, some twins end up going down different paths to continue their education.

Katalin Skelton, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, is separated by hundreds of miles from her twin sister Maggie, who attends college in Washington, D.C.

“We decided to choose the schools that we wanted to choose, and if we happened to choose the same school, then so be it,” Skelton said. “The schools are further apart than we would have hoped, but it has turned out to be fine — I wanted to be seen as more of an individual and not as ‘Maggie’s twin’ or her as ‘my twin.’ ”

Allison Haslee, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, said being a twin did not impact her or her sister’s college decisions, though they mostly applied to the same schools.

“We both wanted to stay somewhat close to home,” Haslee said. “We really didn’t make it a decision about going to school together. We more wanted each other to go to wherever would best suit the other.”

For some twins who choose to attend different colleges, the initial separation is difficult.

“We were close in high school, but fought a lot, too,” Skelton said of her twin sister. “When we were separated, we realized how much we really needed each other. … It was a lot harder to be apart than we thought it would be.”

Haslee also felt it was difficult to be away from her sister Carly, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It was hard at first, since we’ve been together our whole lives,” Allison Haslee said. “It was also different at first since we had the same group of friends, and everyone knew we were twins.”

Nonetheless, both learned to cope with their new situations away from their twin sibling.

“It has gotten easier as we have become more comfortable at our schools and have found other support systems,” Skelton said. “But it is still hard to not be there for her, and not have her here when I need her.”

Haslee also said she thinks she and her sister have grown closer since going to college.

“It’s a lot easier to get along when you’re not sharing a room and constantly together,” Haslee said.

Skelton agrees that distance has brought her and her sister closer.

“We don’t get caught up in the stupid little things that sometimes get irritating — we are more focused on each others’ well-being,” Skelton said. “We have a much closer and more mature relationship now that we are far apart.”

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