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Is It Better to Go Away for College or Stay Home?

by Kori Morgan

For some students, seeing their parents drive away from their college dorm marks a new chapter in their education. For others, though, this chapter begins in the same place where high school ended: their parents' home. While numerous factors, such as money and the challenges of adjusting to college, can influence whether you stay at home or go away, the decision ultimately depends on which option best fits your particular needs and goals.

Dorm Dollars

Saving money is an important factor in the decision of where to go to college for many people. The student loan agency Sallie Mae reports that during the fall 2012 semester, half of American college students lived with their parents. On top of already high tuition rates, Jerry Slavonia, CEO of the college advice website Campus Explorer, in an article for Fox Business, reports that college students typically spend $10,000 per semester on room-and-board costs. Going to school out-of-state can also be a financial strain, as out-of-state students aren't eligible for lowered rates that apply to in-state applicants. If funds for housing or tuition are a concern, it may be best to stay close to home. If other factors outweigh the cost on your list of priorities, living in the dorm or attending that more expensive school far away may be the better choice.

Coping With Change

Many students go away to college only to find that the transition is more than they're able to handle. Living with a roommate, new social pressures, homesickness and the challenge of university classes can all induce high levels of stress. Stanford University professor Thomas Plante states in an article from Psychology Today that students who have trouble dealing with the transition frequently fall victim to depression, binge drinking, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviors. Students who anticipate problems separating from their families may choose to ease into college life by living at home first.

You Can Go Your Own Way

On the other hand, many new freshmen embrace the adventure of going away to school as a chance to discover their identities as adults. While students who live at home may be tempted to let their parents foot the bills and do their laundry, on-campus students get their first crack at managing life on their own. The opportunity to direct their own schedule and make decisions for themselves can create a clear distinction between high school and college, while living at home can continue to feel much like "thirteenth grade" for students who choose to stay.

A Whole New World

Another benefit of going away to college is that it gives you the chance to have new experiences and relationships that wouldn't be possible at home. Living with a roommate and getting to know people in your residence hall can lead to friendships with students who come from different backgrounds than you. Campus activities also provide an outlet to get connected; volunteer groups, religious organizations and fraternities and sororities all give you the opportunity to create your own community away from home. Although students living at home can still join organizations, being in the midst of campus activity gives you a stronger, more immediate connection to the university.

College Compromises

Alternative arrangements can also give students the ability to experience the freedom of college while still being close to home. To take advantage of in-state tuition rates, you may choose to go to a school within driving distance of your hometown. This option allows you to see what it's like to be on your own while still having your parents nearby. Similarly, if financial restrictions force you to live at home, it doesn't have to be a permanent arrangement. You can spend a year or two saving money, then move to a dorm or apartment near campus.

About the Author

Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.

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