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Living at Home During College:Yes? No? How?

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If you attend a college close to home, you may find yourself facing The Question: Should I live at home? Reasons for living at home while you are still in school are many: for a majority, finances play a major role. If you’re going to a school close to home, it’s hard to deny the savings advantage of continuing to use your own home rather than establishing a new one. There are many other reasons, however—you may have a health issue that requires special care, or you may help with another family who does.

You may wish to avoid the noise and lack of privacy that inevitably accompanies most of dorm life. And of course, some people just plain like their families, enjoy living together, and would prefer to stay put.

Whatever your reasons, if you decide to live at home while in college then there are a few issues to consider. You are, legally, a grown-up. College is not high school part two, and if you treat it as such you’ll miss out on some valuable growing opportunities. This principle applies to your studies, how you spend your free time, and how you conduct yourself in everyday relationships.

A mistake many college students make is failing to work out new terms of their relationship with their parents. Part of becoming an adult, normally learned during the college years, is learning to take the initiative in relationships with other adults. It’s a smart idea to sit your parents down and say, “let’s talk about how it’s going to work when I’m in college”. Will you pay rent? Contribute to expenses, like groceries and utilities? Buy your own groceries? Help out around the house? Will you have a curfew? What are the rules about having company over? While you and your parents may have different ideas about the answers to some of these questions, you can avoid both avoid problems and earn their respect by addressing the issues head-on.

One great way to establish and increase your independence as a college student living at home is simply to take on the responsibilities you would have if you were living in a dorm, and do them without being asked. Do your own laundry, take responsibility for getting yourself fed, and clean up after yourself in common areas (your bedroom can be another story).

Also when deciding whether to live at home, consider transportation costs and issues. How long is your commute? When assessing the cost of living at home vs. living on campus, cost out your commute, including gas, public transportation costs, and/or wear on a vehicle. Don’t treat your time as if it is free, either—if it takes you half an hour to get to campus and another half hour to return home, include the cost of an hour of your labor (at least minimum wage!) as part of the overall cost of the commute. Assume that, even if it isn’t a regular occurrence, that you’ll have times that you stay late into the evening on campus, be it for a social event, library research, or other activity. Will you feel safe and do you have reliable transportation?

Lastly, even if you enjoy living at home, don’t forget to cultivate a life on campus that goes beyond your schoolwork. Join clubs and organizations, get a job on campus, and study on campus, including on weekends. Build a life outside the home and you’ll build a bridge to your life after college and the world beyond.

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Elisabeth Bailey+

Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.


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