Living at Home for College
Starting College While Living at Home
Though dorm life is generally synonymous with starting college, it can also be a great choice to live at home while pursuing your undergraduate degree. Though we've all seen the movies and heard the stories about crazy roommates, dorm hall shenanigans, and late-night cafeteria trips, what we don't hear about is the escalating cost of living in a dorm.
Did you know that dorm fees plus the cafeteria meal plan (often required for freshman who don't live at home with their parents) can run from $8,000 to $15,000 on top of your tuition bill? If you break that down by month, you could live in a higher-end apartment for less!
Or, you could live at home for free--and less debt means more freedom for your future, including freedom to choose a job that best fits your ambitions and personality, not one that can meet your exorbitant loan payments.
Read on for pros, cons, and advice on living at home in college.
Living at Home While in College Saves Money
You've seen the dorm fee figures above--if you're already taking out student loans to attend college, you won't want to increase your debt load anymore than necessary. While such large sums can seem imaginary when you're 18, paying them back when you're 22 can be crushing.
Large amounts of debts can delay the ability to afford a wedding or a house, much less luxuries like vacation.
However, if you choose to live at home while in college, you will reduce your debt load not only in regard to paying the dorm fees, but also in other ways; you won't be put out the expense that comes with furnishing a dorm room (television, XL sheet sets, mini-fridge) and you likely won't have to pay for a meal plan (unless your parents expect you to contribute some sort of monthly fee for groceries and utilities).
Living at Home While in College Reduces Stress
In addition to saving money, living at home can reduce stress and thus increase your chances of success in college. Sharing a tiny dorm room with another person can be an amazing experience--if you get along. But what are the chances you will get along with a complete stranger, especially in such close quarters?
College is about not only education, but exploring responsibility, freedom, and boundaries. Your roommate might not care that you have a paper due the next day or an exam; that won't necessarily stop them from staying out all night and stumbling in at the wee hours, or from blasting music while they shower at 3 a.m.
It's almost impossible to study or get enough sleep under such conditions, and if you have friction with your roommate the tension will also be distracting and making your living conditions very unpleasant.
If you choose to live at home during college, you will keep the comfort of your own room and have the peace and quiet you need to study and to excel.
Advice on Dealing with Roommates
Drawbacks of Living at Home During College
Of course, living at home during college also has its drawbacks. By the time you reach college-age, you're probably ready to break away from your parents and enjoy a little more responsibility. You'll be looking forward to no curfew, fewer rules, making new friends, and having new experiences.
If you do stay at home with your parents, it will likely be hard for them to view you in a different way--they will still treat you as the teenager they are used to. This can be very frustrating when you're trying to branch out into adulthood, and understandably so.
To head off problems before they start, sit down with your parents and talk about the changes college will bring--affirm that you will still be following their rules, but will need more freedom to come and go; work to act like an adult, and they will change their perspective and begin to treat you like one.
Do have the courtesy to tell them when you will be in late, and consider getting a part-time job to cover some of your own expenses; that will show them you're serious about acting and being treated like a college-age adult, and aren't just the same mooching teenager.
While you may miss out on some "typical" college experiences, don't confuse "typical" with "valuable"--is extra debt really worth a few great parties with no curfew?
Decisions Aren't Permanent
Whatever you choose, know that your decisions aren't permanent. If you live in the dorm and it's not a good fit, you can try to move back home at the end of the semester and ask for a partial refund. If you start out living at home and absolutely hate it, ask if the school has available housing in the new semester.
Choose what's right for you, and enjoy your college experience!
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