Guide to Living at Home During College

By Reese Lopez

Published on September 21, 2021

Guide to Living at Home During College

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Economic uncertainty coupled with the rising cost of higher education has led many young adults to continue living at home during college, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. The Pew Research Center reports that as of July 2020, 52% of U.S. adults aged 18-29 were living with their parents — the highest share since the Great Depression.

While not ideal for all students, living at home during college offers many benefits, including the ability to save thousands of dollars each year on room and board. This guide offers an overview of living off campus, including tips for keeping the peace with your parents and engaging with your college community.

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Why College Students Live at Home

Students live off campus during college for many reasons, including financial concerns, family obligations, and a lack of campus housing. This list highlights several of the most common reasons students live off campus while attending college.

Family Obligations
Some students may live off campus to support their families. Support can take many forms, such as caring for ill or eldery parents, helping out with younger siblings, or providing financial support to family members. For these students, living at home may not be a choice but a necessity.
Support from Family
Students may live off campus to benefit from their family support network. Students with physical disabilities or mental health issues may benefit from the added support that can come with living at home.
Cost of Room and Board
Traditional room-and-board expenses average $11,451 per year at public colleges and $12,682 per year at private colleges. Off-campus living can greatly reduce annual expenses, enabling students to save thousands of dollars on their education.
All of Your Courses Are Online
Online students commonly live off campus while completing their degree. Particularly for distance learners who live or work far away from their college, living in a dorm or apartment may pose an inconvenience.
No On-campus Housing Option
Some colleges (often known as commuter schools) offer few or no campus housing options, with most students commuting to attend classes. These schools often appeal to working students.

Pros and Cons of Living at Home

Pros of Living at Home

While some students may crave the social thrill of dorm living, off-campus living offers several notable benefits. For instance, students can save thousands of dollars on room and board by living at home. Off-campus living may also feature fewer distractions, making it easier to concentrate on schoolwork.

Cons of Living at Home

For some students, living off campus comes with drawbacks. Living away from campus means regularly commuting to and from school, which takes both time and money. Students living at home during college may also miss out on some social experiences that come with on-campus living. While it's still possible to make friends and lead an active social life while living off campus, some off-campus students may feel detached from their campus community.

How to Have the College Experience While Living at Home


Living at home during college can make it harder to feel connected to a campus. But students can still find plenty of opportunities to engage with their academic community. This list highlights some of the many campus resources available to help students connect with peers and create a satisfying college experience.

1. Attend Orientation Sessions

Students can build connections with peers, faculty, and staff by attending campus orientation sessions held at the beginning of the year. Orientation events allow students to meet with other campus community members and learn about campus resources.

2. Sign Up for Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities offer opportunities to collaborate and socialize with other students. Many schools host extracurriculars in areas including sports, arts, academics, and business. Schools typically maintain an online list of campus clubs and other student groups.

3. Find a Job on Campus

Finding a part-time campus job can help students increase their income and build closer ties to their college community. Colleges typically offer a variety of campus jobs, many of which relate to students' academic and professional interests. Eligible students may also receive work-study opportunities, which can increase campus job opportunities.

4. Form a Study Group

Forming a study group can help students improve their academic performance and connect with classmates. Study groups meet outside of class to work on assignments and prepare for exams together, often in campus spaces such as libraries or coffee shops.

5. Use Common Study Spaces

Living at home during college doesn't prevent students from using campus resources, including common study spaces, like libraries and computer labs. These study spaces give students opportunities to socialize with their peers. Visiting study spaces before or after class can help off-campus students maximize their time on campus.

Tips for Keeping the Peace with Your Parents


College often marks the transition to adulthood, so living at home during this time can create some tension with students' parents. As an adult, you're generally free to do what you like to, but as a resident of your parents' house, you still need to follow their rules. This section outlines some tips for keeping the peace with your parents while you live at home.

What to Do

Communicate and Discuss Expectations
Try to clearly communicate with your parents. Before you start school, consider discussing how things might function differently even though you still live at home. You can discuss expectations on issues like privacy, curfew, and having friends over.
Set Boundaries
Parents may have trouble acknowledging your independence while you still live at home. Try to set clear boundaries to avoid unnecessary conflict. For example, you might set the boundary that no one should enter your room in the evening while you're focusing on classwork.
Express Gratitude
When living off campus, try to acknowledge your parents' generosity. Students living at home during college often don't pay for rent or food, which offers a major financial advantage.

What Not To Do

Be Irresponsible
College students usually open themselves up to new experiences, but make sure you don't bring too much of the party home with you. Exercise respect and responsibility at home when it comes to socializing with friends and any other aspects of college life.
Be Inconsiderate
Treat your family like roommates that you respect. Observe general roommate etiquette, such as cleaning up after yourself and not making too much noise late at night.
Depend on Parents Too Much
College serves as an opportunity for personal growth, even when you live off campus. Take advantage of your parents' support, but try not to depend on them too heavily. For example, if you've never done your own laundry, college is definitely the time to start.

Chapman University in Orange, CA

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?

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 first-year student 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?

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 was attending 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 my friends from college don’t have credit cards or are in debt with student loans, I paid off all of my student loans within three 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?

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?

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.

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?

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 first 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.

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