In the stereotypical college experience, your parents drop you off at your dorm. Maybe your mom cries a little and your dad hugs you a second too long before saying goodbye. After that, they leave you to navigate the joys and challenges of college life on your own.
Living on campus is thought to be a critical step in the process of growing up, so one would think that living at home means giving up a part of the college experience. But living at home while in college might just be one of the best decisions you make.
Sage Singleton, 25, graduated in 2012 from Westminster College in Utah and had it both ways. She lived with her parents freshman year before moving closer to campus with friends for sophomore year. While she enjoyed the experience of living on her own, she was back in her childhood bedroom for her final two years of college.
"Living at home was great because I saved money on rent, groceries and laundry," she said.
Saving money is just one of the many reasons it might make sense for you to live at home during college. Here are some of the other benefits, as well as some drawbacks, of living at home in college.
While not having to brave the mystery meat you'll likely encounter in a college cafeteria is one benefit of living at home, it's not the only one.
After living on campus, Singleton felt that living at home better suited her personality and work habits.
"I like alone time," she said. "Living on campus, I was constantly surrounded by people and it was always busy."
Living at home allowed her more quiet study time and less potential conflict with roommates. It's a decision that she's still glad she made, because it also helped her graduate without student loan debt.
"I easily saved $30,000 living at home," said Singleton. "Room and board at my college was around $10,000 a year and I lived at home for three of the four years of school. I probably saved another $5,000 in food, groceries and laundry."
Christina Oswald, 29, who graduated in 2012 from Oakland University in Michigan, had just $20,000 in student debt for six years of college because she lived at home. She decided to do so because she wasn't sure what she wanted to study when she first started school and knew it might take her extra time to finish her degree.
Oswald also found that living further away from the college crowd meant that she was able to get a better part-time job because she wasn't competing with all of the college students.
Other benefits of living at home in college include having the support of your family and not having to share your room. Many students also live at home for the first two years while attending a community college to earn credits and save money before moving to their dream school.
Living at home could give you a bad case of FOMO — and for good reason. It's harder to stay involved in campus life when you're not there all the time.
"While living at home, I did feel like I missed out on campus life," said Singleton.
There were a lot of things that Singleton enjoyed about living on campus sophomore year. "I loved being on my own, learning to manage money, doing my laundry, cooking new recipes and making new friends," she said.
Oswald agrees. "I did make friends in college," she said, "although none of the relationships are as deep as friendships my peers made away at college."
Despite these drawbacks, both agree that they focused on their classes rather making connections, but say that there are ways to stay involved on campus even if you live at home.
"Join a club, attend the activities, stay on campus to eat lunch and dinner and spend as much time on campus as you can," said Singleton.
Is Living at Home Right for You?
Whether living at home in college is right for you is a personal decision that depends on things like your financial situation, the proximity to your college, your relationship with your parents and your ideal college experience. You can also do what Singleton did and try both.
If you do decide to live at home, it's important to negotiate your relationship with your parents. After all, you're no longer in high school but your parents might have a hard time making that mental shift. Singleton encourages students to openly discuss this with their parents.
"When living at home, I understood that it was still my parents' home and rules, and I had to respect those rules," said Singleton. "However, I told them that I expected more freedom and independence than I had in high school."
That worked out for Singleton and her parents, but the transition could be more difficult for some families. Singleton suggests you revisit the conversation each semester to set new boundaries.
Glad They Lived At Home
Ultimately, both Singleton and Oswald are happy with the decision that they made. After all, they enjoyed their college years and are still enjoying the benefits of having less student loan debt than their peers. In fact, Oswald recently did something special with her savings — she used it as a down payment.
"With all the money I saved," she said, "I was able to buy a house."