When people envision a college experience, their minds often go to a gaggle of young people walking amongst ivy-clad buildings, or a dormitory abuzz with activity as students cram for finals.
That vision, however, is being fulfilled by fewer and fewer students. The 2017 Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey, “How America Pays for College,” found that 50% of college students were living at home. While the motives for living at home are varied, below are five reasons it can be a great option.
The most obvious reason students are choosing to live at home is money. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost in 2014-2015 for a private four-year college was $37,990 per year, and for a public four-year college, it averaged out to $18,632. That’s a 26% increase in the cost for private nonprofit institutions since 2004-2005, and a 33% increase for public institutions, after adjustment for inflation.
While grants and scholarships are available, the final costs are the responsibility of the students and their families. Eliminating the need to pay for room and board can help control those costs. Whether it’s the parents or the children paying, going into more debt than necessary is not an attractive option. Dr. Andrea Riskin of ProPsych Associates of New Jersey specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, parenting, and ADHD. She says, “Some students make the decision to stay home for college in order to graduate debt free. This is a thoughtful and mature decision.”
Moving away from home for the first time can be a shock to the system. A whole host of obligations which may have been handled by parents or others in the household are now the young adult’s responsibility. Some parents may feel their children need to be on their own even if it means they possibly fall on their face. After all, they reason, this will ultimately be a learning opportunity for their children and prepare them for “real life.”
However, expecting children to magically blossom simply because they are on their own is not necessarily realistic. “If the child was unable to manage their responsibilities during their high school career, attending a local or community college where they can focus on grades could prove beneficial,” says Dr. Riskin.
It’s expected that college graduates are well rounded due to the variety of classes they take beyond their major. While a virtuous result, it is not the primary purpose for attending college. The annual survey of American freshmen found that 85% of freshmen said getting a better job was the number one reason that they were attending college, and 60% of freshman chose a college based on its ability to help them find a job.
What about those students who have jobs during high school? Those jobs might even be in fields that the student plans on majoring in. They may be learning valuable skills and making meaningful connections. Staying home for college can allow them more time to grow their skills and foster their network. Going away to college and giving up the good gig they have going could stifle the professional momentum they’ve built.
For extroverts, college can be a bonanza. Whether it’s a fraternity, a club, or a class, the opportunities to meet new people are endless. While staying home for college limits social opportunities, they still exist for those who make efforts.
Furthermore, a smaller social circle could prove helpful for introverts, allowing them to pick and choose social situations and ease themselves into the transition to college. They can also maintain friendships with those individuals who remain in the area. For those who have anxiety, Dr. Riskin says, “Staying home can be comforting, and help the student engage in social activities and life available at the school. The graded [limited] exposure could be the first step towards getting more comfortable, managing daily structures and reducing anxiety.”
Being away from home and familiar surroundings for the first time can leave a student vulnerable. He or she wants to fit in with the group. Peer pressure can come in the form of abuse of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that abuse of alcohol in college students has led to numerous issues, including 1,825 fatalities, and nearly 800,000 physical or sexual assaults, per year.
Students who stay home for college are more grounded. They have the familiarity of home and the supervision of parents to help guide them to wiser decisions. Whether it’s the opportunity to easily talk to a parent or trusted adult, or the ability to walk away from the situation on campus, staying home for college leaves a student less susceptible to the dangerous consequences of substance abuse.
While staying home for college might not be what you or your child envision, it could very well be the right decision. Each child and situation is different, and many factors need to be considered when the time comes to pursue a higher education. Whether to leave one’s own backyard is certainly one of them.
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