Living at home is great. You have home cooked meals, adequate supply of laundry detergent, rent-free room and board, and parents to clean your room when you lose your carpet under socks and homework. You may not be able to stay up as late as you want, but for the most part, pay no bills and get to come home to a place where people love and support you every night.
As the economy worsens, many students opt out of living on-campus and instead choose to commute from home to save money and lighten the loan-loads. A study by the U.S. Department of Educated stated that in 2008, students that chose to live at home and commute to school made up 31.5% of all U.S. undergraduates. Why? To save money.
If you’re a soon to be college Freshmen and can’t decide if you want to commute to school or live on campus, here’s a few pros or cons to help you decide. Remember that some schools even require first-year students to live on campus, so check with your top university choices to make sure that living off-campus is an option for you. Secondly, check with your parents!
1) Pro: Cost – This is usually the biggest contributing factor when students are assessing their decision to live on-campus or commute from home. It’s no surprise that the economy has gone downhill over the past year and a half, leaving students with college debt and loans to pay that stick with them much through their adult life. The solution for students who still wanted to attend their choice of University? Save money by commuting from home. Living-on campus can rack up to almost $9000 per year, per student for room and board and other contributing factors. That, in addition to tuition fees, books, etc can add up to quite a hefty sum of cash that most people are finding is harder to part with in today’s economy. Sure – you pay more money commuting back in forth with today’s gas prices but if you carpool with friends or take public transportation, the monetary value is still far less.
2) Con: Miss the ‘college experience’ – Everyone knows that going off to college is a rewarding experience for both students AND parents. Students learn what it’s like to live on their own for their first time, wherein they learn how to be responsible, budget appropriately, and work off of their own schedules. It’s by living on-campus that they get to meet thousands of other students from all over the world and partake in activities, student organizations, and events that go on at the University. Students who commute from home have a harder time meeting new friends, and miss out on the roommate bonding experience that teaches them a lot about working and living with someone new. Even if a roommate selection didn’t work out as well as student’s always hope they will, the experience still teaches students about conflict management, mediation and learning to deal with people that they wouldn’t normally socialize with. The best part about these situations is that two roommates that are complete strangers in the beginning can end up leaving their residence hall experience with a lifelong friend.
3) Pro: Food is always accessible: I don’t care who you are, everyone loves food. Living on campus provides you with mostly three options: Cafeteria food (when it’s open), recipes you can whip up in your residence hall microwave/common kitchen, or c – the closest and cheapest fast food restaurant. Although all of these options could yield delicious and tasty treats, there’s nothing better than mom’s cooking (unless your mom isn’t the best of cooks, then maybe nothing beats Dad or Grandma’s home cooking)! You don’t ever have to worry about cooking it, and the best part, you know there’s always left overs in the fridge for you when you want them. You aren’t spending money on groceries or fast-food, so your ability to save money is also enhanced.
On the other hand, mom’s cooking IS great, but imagine how much more you’d appreciate it if you didn’t have access to it as often. Coming home from college for breaks is all about indulging in all of the things you missed while you were away: hugging your pets, eating mom’s cooking, and getting that 9 month supply of laundry you’ve been hiding around your room finally washed AND dried.
4) Con: Postpone individual growth and independence: When you live at home and choose to not live on-campus, you miss out on a lot of other things besides meeting new people and missing out on events. You also kind of stunt your sense of growth and self enlightenment. When you go off to college, you go through that uncomfortable experience of trying to find your own place in the world. You move in with someone you’ve never met before, who you may or may not mesh well with right off the bat – or ever. If you’re used to having your own private room at home, you now have to get accustomed to sharing your immediate space with someone else. You also share bathrooms. With your roommate, or the whole residence hall floor. It may be uncomfortable at first, but all of these things really help you expand your mindset and grow as a person. You learn to become comfortable in your own skin and learn the building blocks you’ll need for when you get your first job, or move out on your own.
This also includes finding your first college-job and learning to save and budget your money effectively. You learn the value of a dollar, and really start saving money for things you need like toilet paper, cleaning wipes, toothpaste, and more.
There’s tons of reasons to add to both the Pro and Con’s list that you just read through. At the end of the day, your decision should be based off of what your financial needs are, and what is best for your individual case. Living on campus can provide a great and rewarding experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. On the flip-side, commuting at home could give you a little more time that you may need to leave the nest. If this is your decision, take it as an opportunity to save up money and budget appropriately. Have any other reasons to add to the Pro or Con’s list? Comment them here!
For those of you who lived on campus – did you love the experience and wouldn’t trade it for the world, or did you wish you had the opportunity to stay at home a little longer and save up money? Share!
Filed Under: College Life, Lifestyle, Parent's CornerTagged With: College, Commuting, On Campus
Many colleges require freshmen and sometimes sophomores to live on campus. Juniors and seniors usually have the option to live off campus, which may be a way to save money and possibly improve social and academic circumstances.
I’ve experienced both sides of that coin. I lived in a dorm my first year of college and lived off campus my remaining undergraduate years. As you recent high school graduates head to campus this fall, you’ll be transitioning to a whole new domestic and social world.
Of course, for some of you, this may be old hat. You already may have done summer college programs where you resided in dorms with one or several roommates. If so, your transition will not be as stark as those of you who have never had to share living quarters with someone else, and likely a complete stranger, to boot.
Eventually (hopefully), all you about-to-be first-year college students will reach the place where you will have the option to decide between dorm or off-campus life. I thought it would be useful to explore the pros and cons of living on campus.
CollegeNews.com proffers a list of pros and cons about dorm life. So, I’ll make a few brief comments on some them, based on my experience (if you can trust someone my age :-)).
– Easier to become involved on campus
Amen to this. During my sophomore through senior year, I commuted to campus (from 40 miles away — I was married and my wife worked as a nurse at a hospital far from campus), I felt completely divorced from what was happening on campus: concerts, sporting events, parties, etc. That was a significant negative for me.
– Access to all the resources the campus offers (computer labs, library, etc.)
This is an important advantage. Putting distance between yourself and these resources can lead to missed opportunities that can take a toll on academic performance.
– No parent-enforced curfew
If you’re living at home, Mom and Dad will be keeping an eye on your comings and goings. Not so in a dorm, where you can be out all night (or for days at a time). The obvious caution is, “Don’t get hurt, sick, or killed!”
– Easier to be a student worker while living on campus
Once again, the distance factor has an advantage. You’re probably more likely to engage a job on campus if you don’t need public transportation to get to and from it.
– Less of a commute to class
I had to drive for almost an hour to get from my home to my big-university’s campus. One term I had an eight o’clock English class on a Monday morning. I look back now and wonder how I ever got up at that awful, early hour and made it to class on time.
– Ability to meet with professors more often or, even, at their house
Very true. Living far off campus, I discovered that my profs’ office hours fell mainly during inconvenient times for me. Just when I needed to speak with a prof about something, I would find that I had a conflict with something at home. Living off campus where you need to rely on public (or even private) transportation can also conflict with professorial office hours — take a meeting, miss your bus.
This would affect students who are within a reasonable distance from home. If you’re going to a West Coast college and your home is on the East Coast, then you’ll have to suck it up, since flying across America just because you miss your dog, cat, Mom, Dad, etc. is extremely impractical.
– Having to stick to a meal plan
This is an economic factor. Most colleges won’t refund for uneaten meals. Breakfast may be the most-missed meal on meal plans due to students’ propensity to sleep as late as possible. The flexibility factor comes into play, too. If you’re tired of Mystery Meat Mondays, you’re probably going to spend your own cash of non-college food. That can add up, leading to a shortage of spending money and wasted meal plan dollars.
– Limited privacy
A middle-ground solution here is a private dorm room, but they can be hard to get, plus there’s no guarantee that your little haven won’t become a hangout for other dorm residents. If you don’t study effectively amid noisy surroundings, dorm life can be quite distracting. It won’t be like your bedroom at home, that’s for sure.
– Not being able to “get away” from campus environment
Even a big university can become way too familiar. This factor has been identified as the motivation for the infamous college “road trip.”
– Having to deal with roommates
This issue is worthy of an entire article. My freshman roommate was a chain smoker and although he would put out his smoke when I appeared back in our room, everything in my room, most disturbingly my clothes, smelled of cigarette smoke. Yuck! Of course, other issues can arise, such as dissimilar interests, quirky behavior, and even having to listen to your roommate make out with his/her significant other while you try to solve differential equations. Yuck [again]!
– Limited access to appliances like stoves, ovens, washers and dryers
While many colleges today provide amenities like this in common areas, it’s not like home or the convenience of your own apartment. The kicker here is having to share with the general population of your dorm. That’s something you can avoid by living off campus.
– Student housing restrictions on parties, drinking, etc.
Well, even apartments can have landlord-based restrictions, but, thanks to Resident Advisers (RAs) and the institutional rules they must enforce, the “fun factor” of dorm life can be highly limited.
Check the entire College News article for deeper insights. Overall, deciding the the issue of on- or off-campus living can make a big difference in your college experience. Don’t take that decision lightly.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.