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College Students Living at Home
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According to a 2017 study by Sallie Mae, approximately half of all students attending college lived at home to cut costs. On-campus housing adds thousands of dollars each year to an already high cost for completing postsecondary education, making it attractive for many students to avoid those costs by staying with their families a few more years. The following guide takes a look at the pros and cons of living at home, how to keep the peace with your parents, and how to make the most of college while living at home. We also include a quiz to help on-the-fence learners figure out their best option and provide expert guidance.

Meet the Expert

Marissa Chiechi Founder, PULSE PR

Written by:

Why College Students Live at Home

When assessing whether it’s prudent to live at home during college, learners have many reasons to opt for this option. Some of them are discussed below.

Family obligations/helping family members

Whether caring for an ailing parent, ensuring you get to spend ample time with aging grandparents, or wanting to be there while a younger sibling grows up, staying at home to be with your family is a great reason to opt out of dorm life. As the last time many students ever live at home, these years can provide a special time of bonding as parents recognize their children are now adults and get to experience that transition together.

According to College Board, students completing postsecondary educations during the 2017-2018 school year paid an average of $12,210 in room and board fees at private four-year institutions and $10,800 for public four-year schools. Over the course of four years, these fees add up significantly. As the cost of tuition continues to rise year-on-year, living at home is a relatively painless way to save between $40,000 and $50,000 dollars.

For some students, living on campus isn’t even an option. Especially at two-year community colleges, vocational schools and trade colleges, campus-based housing doesn’t exist since, so many students prefer to live at home rather than pay money towards rent for their own place. Students who plan to launch their careers after completing a two-year degree – or those who want to save money before transferring to a bachelor’s program – often decide to live at home to cut costs.

Online Students Living at Home

Online degrees offer a perennially popular option for many different types of students thanks to both the flexibility and affordability they provide. In addition to completing assignments, communicating with professors and colleagues, and listening to pre-recorded lectures at times best suited to unique schedules, completing a program online also means the student rarely – if ever – needs to visit campus. Because of this, many traditional online degree seekers elect to live at home. In addition to saving money on things like transport and parking, students can save further by avoiding high room and board fees.

Benefits & Drawbacks to Living at Home

PROS
  • Fewer distractions

    Although you may still need to set up some boundaries at home, it’s typically much easier to get work done when you aren’t sharing a room or study hall with others.

  • Better structure

    Because you must get up every day and drive to campus, you get in a healthier routine than students who often roll out of bed and bust it to class.

  • Healthier meals

    Let’s be honest: sometimes you simply can’t resist the urge to eat pizza in the school cafeteria when it’s available every day. Students who live with their families typically enjoy more nutritious, well-rounded and home-cooked meals.

  • Save money

    By avoiding the often-inflated costs of room and board charged by colleges, students save thousands of dollars each year they’re in school.

  • Family support

    While it can be difficult to open up to new roommates or classmates about life struggles on campus, students living at home can talk about this things with family members who know them well.

  • You get to leave

    Students who feel overwhelmed by school benefit from getting to leave campus and physically/mentally disconnect from their day when they return home.

  • Four-legged family time

    Students with pets can’t bring their furry friends to college in most cases, but those living at home know they’ll get a warm greeting upon returning home each day.

  • No need to move

    Rather than packing up at the end of each academic year, commuters know they get to stay put and live in the same space each year.

  • Avoid dorm rules

    Some schools have rules about curfews, friends visiting, and even whether learners can use candles. Students living at home usually don’t need to abide by the same rules.

  • Easier to work

    Students living on campus often find it more difficult to work as they get tied up with other campus-based activities that take up free time. Those who must earn money while in school find it easier to disconnect from campus after classes end and therefore have more time for jobs.

CONS
  • Lack of involvement

    Because commuting students don’t spend every moment of every day on campus, they may feel like they’re missing out on bonding experiences.

  • Freedom to enjoy youth

    Rather than worrying about things like traffic, finding parking, or working, campus-based students get to prolong their youthfulness a bit longer while also experiencing newfound independence.

  • Shared experiences

    Sure, the cafeteria food may be monotonous after a few months and the dorms desperately need facelifts, but there’s something to be said for sharing those experiences with others.

  • Learning how to multi-task

    Some students need structure, alone time, and their own space to thrive, but other students simply need to learn how to multi-task – living on campus provides a great opportunity to do that.

  • Still feeling like a kid

    Some students who continue living with their parents still need to do chores and abide by house rules, which can sometimes feel like an extension of high school.

  • You can’t stay

    No matter how late a group project goes or how early a class starts, commuter students have no choice but to go home and come back each day as they have no living space on campus to crash.

  • It’s harder to hang with friends on the spur-of-the-moment

    Depending on how far away your parents’ house is from campus, you may find it difficult to attend parties as a commuter student unless you have extra cash for things like Uber or Lyft.

  • Commuting

    Especially if you live in an area where morning/afternoon traffic is no joke, all that time spent getting to and from campus can really add up.

  • Having friends over

    Even if your parents don’t mind your friends visiting, chances are most students don’t want to make a long drive on a school night.

  • Participating in school events

    Many colleges have evening classes, student organization meetings, rehearsals, and intermural games at night, but students living at home may have other commitments to their families at those times.

How to Have the College Experience While Living at Home

Despite living at home, commuting college students can still have a full postsecondary experience if they put forth effort, get involved, and learn how to make the most of their time on campus. Use the top tips highlighted below to get – and stay – plugged into campus while commuting.

1.
Attend all orientation sessions.

Most colleges offer a summer orientation session for newly admitted learners to sign up for classes, learn more about campus, and get to know fellow students. They also typically offer an orientation during the first week of classes to help further integrate new degree seekers into the community. Take advantage of all these sessions as they provide a great way to meet a few potential new friends and feel like you have a true sense of campus.

2.
Sign up for extracurriculars.

Colleges and universities offer tons of extracurricular activities to both campus-based and commuting students. Whether a learner wants to take part in student government, Greek life, an intramural basketball team, or the French language group, chances are these and more activities exist on campus and provide a great way to hone skills and make friends.

3.
Find an on-campus job.

Many students qualify for work-study funds through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; if this is the case, use your college’s website to find a list of work-study jobs available on campus and apply to them. In addition to working alongside other student employees, students can build their resumes and get to know faculty members and administrative staff in the process.

4.
Form a study group.

No matter if you’re hoping to ace a difficult chemistry exam or just want to keep up with the endless homework in that advanced accounting course, forming a study group can help encourage academic success. These groups also provide the perfect opportunity to get to know others in your class a little better and potentially form new friendships that last beyond the semester.

5.
Use common study spaces.

Colleges are filled with libraries, reading nooks and common spaces where students love to empty out their backpacks, spread out books and get started on homework. Rather than writing papers or studying for an upcoming test at home, use these spaces to meet up with other learners in your class and tackle assignments together.

6 Surefire Tips for Keeping the Peace and Being Respectful to Your Parents

When living at home during college, many students and parents may feel concern about how their relationship will change over time and if there will be tension as both learn how to manage new roles, schedules, and responsibilities. To avoid strife or conflict during a time that should be exciting and filled with new opportunities, students need to make sure they clearly communicate about their parents’ expectations throughout their time at home. Check out the tips below to ensure you and your parents keep the peace.

Dos and Don’ts of Living at Home

Before deciding to live at home during college, make sure you have a good idea of what to do – and not do – to ensure you and your family have a great experience.

Do

  • Feel confident in your decision. If you think you really want to be on campus, see if you can find scholarships or grant funds to make up the cost before giving up.
  • Be considerate. Now that you’re an adult, remember to contribute to the upkeep and smooth running of the house. Even if your parents don’t require you to pay rent, make sure you contribute in other ways, such as making dinner, cleaning, walking the dog, or running necessary errands.
  • Set up your own space. Most college dorm rooms and apartments come outfitted with desks so learners can complete their homework. Make sure you have a dedicated space at home where you can study without distraction.
  • Make sure you allow plenty of time for getting to class. Depending on how far away you live from campus, getting to school during rush hour traffic can take a long time. Leave home each day with plenty of time to drive to campus, find parking, and walk to your class.
  • Take advantage of a few extra years with your family. This is likely the last time you’ll get to see your parents and sibling(s) on such a regular basis, so savor everyday moments as well as celebrations such as birthdays and holidays.

Don’t

  • Forget to talk with your family about what it means to live at home in college versus in high school. Even if they still have rules for you to follow, it’s important to establish your independence as well.
  • Stay at home all the time. While college predominately exists to deepen your knowledge and prepare you for a career, it’s also a great time to make lifelong friends. Be sure to spend lots of time on campus outside class by participating in clubs and organizations, sports teams, study groups, and mealtimes.
  • Forget to watch your spending. Most students decide to live at home to cut costs; make sure you aren’t overspending in other areas of your life and thereby negating the money you save on accommodations.
  • Rely on an unreliable car. Students who miss class regularly can see their grades lowered or even be dropped from the class, so make sure you have a vehicle that can get you from home to school without breaking down.

From the Expert

Marissa Chiechi received her degree in public relations and advertising with a double minor in psychology and leadership studies from Chapman University in Orange, CA while living at home. She was a founding member of the school’s Off-Campus Council, a club for students who live off campus.

Q: How did you decide to live at home during college? Which factors helped make your decision? 

A: If it was completely my choice, I would have loved to live on campus. I went to a college that was only a 25-minute drive from my house. My family said it would be easier to commute and save money. Being a private school, tuition was $50,000 a year and it would have been an extra $10,000 on top of that if I lived on campus. However, I was worried I was going to miss the whole freshmen experience, which you can’t put a price on. We actually called my school the second week in and tried to get a space in the dorms, but they didn’t have any room left. I ended up commuting all four years of college. 

Q: What advice do you have for students considering this path? 

A: Know that it is a challenge, but it is possible. Sometimes, I would drive back and forth three times a day when there were events, parties or other things that everyone is going to and I didn’t want to miss out. You need to be organized with your time and plan out your day so you can have all your materials and clothes with you so you don’t have to go back and forth. A huge plus is the amount of money I have saved as a 24-year-old. While most of friend from college don’t have credit cards or are in debt with student loans, I paid off all of my student loans within 3 years of graduating and have thousands of dollars saved from not getting an apartment in college. This has been amazing and has allowed me to live the best life I can after I graduated.

Q: Is there anything you would have changed about your experience looking back? 

A: Besides actually living on campus, no. I definitely made the most of my time while I was on campus. I was in a sorority, had two on-campus jobs, held positions in my sorority and two major clubs, and had jobs and internships in LA or OC every semester. My flexibility and commuting allowed for all of that to happen. It’s definitely possible! 

Q: What is your best advice for students who worry they won’t feel connected to campus? 

A: My advice would be to get as involved as fast as you can. I joined several clubs my first semester and actually held positions in a few of those. I was one of the founding members of the Chapman University Off-Campus Council, which was full of commuters like myself who hosted events for those who lived at home. Join a sorority, join clubs, get an on-campus job and stay on campus all day (there really isn’t a rush to get home). I used to stay all day at our Student Union, get meals with friends and do my homework. It felt more like the college experience that way. I was lucky enough to make friends right away that actually let me stay in their dorms on late nights etc. 

Q: How can learners successfully make the transition from their parents viewing them as high school students to college students? What advice do you have for managing that relationship?

A: The lifestyle is very different in high school than college. You will probably be home or available a lot less and hopefully they will realize that soon enough. Get a job! That’s the first step for your parents to see you’re getting older. I actually got an on-campus job my freshman year and worked there all four years. Mention to your parents that you will be less available and that if you are commuting, you need to make an effort to be on campus more and be more involved.