One of the biggest decisions that high school seniors must make is where they will go to school after graduation. The options are many: university, vocational school, community college and more. Something that may not always be a huge factor, but ultimately makes a tremendous difference, is the proximity of the student’s home to the university. While the argument can be firmly made for both sides — and it can really depend on an individual student’s personality — students, for the most part, are better off living farther away from home — and I say this as someone who has commuted for three straight years.
I first want to make clear that living at home is not a bad idea in any way. The opportunity to have free food, rent with no utility or house payments is a thing of beauty for a starving college student. However, dependence on your parents impedes the experiences of college: independence and self-reliance. It’s not to say that someone living at home, or at a college nearby their home, can’t be independent. It is just more difficult to develop these life traits when home is a hop, skip and a jump away.
The problem of living at home or residing at a college nearby is that it can be difficult to find your own new identity as an independent adult. With home-cooked meals, your old bed and your beloved pet right around the corner, it can be easy just to fall back on the comfortable and familiar. In order to grow, students need to learn how to rely on themselves not only for academics, but for all aspects of life.
According to the study conducted by The South West Association of College and University Housing Officers in 2007, students who live on-campus usually have a “better understanding of self, experience positive changes in values, have higher self esteem, and are more satisfied with their collegiate experience.” There is invaluable development that can be attained by attending a university farther away from home, or at least living on your own near campus.
Now, it’s not like anyone can survive completely on their own — having familiar things to lean on is a good thing now and then. But that’s the beauty of things like Skype or Google Hangouts. Though nothing can replicate home perfectly, living in this age of technology is helpful for connecting and disconnecting when necessary. A 2012 study by Patrick Thomas Spence of Loyola University Chicago said that “the average amount of contact between student and parent (had reached) over 13 times a week.” With social media and mobile interaction already on the rise so much, it becomes even more necessary for a healthy literal physical distance.
Furthermore, it is difficult to know how to function independently if you are living with an authority figure constantly looking after you. Not only are you truly free to do what you want for fun — but you can also figure out what the real-life consequences and responsibilities of your own actions are and how they affect you in different areas of your life. Stay up partying and fail a test? No one will be mad at you for it but yourself.
What needs to be gained is a mental independence rather than a physical one. College students living at home, such as myself, often have a near-complete physical independence since we don’t have to attend family functions, and are able to be independent adults in that way. The detriment of not having mental independence ties back to the aforementioned reliance on one’s self and acceptance of consequences. Living farther away allows students to break free and experience that mental independence. They cannot go home if they just feel like it. They have to deal with their problems by themselves, or if they’re lucky, receive help from a nice roommate. A call home can only do so much, as even video chat can’t replace the experience of being at home.
Those still considering where to go to school should try and realize the large implications that the location of their school relative to home will have. If a suitable school is farther away and looks good to you, go for it — college is the time to learn and think for yourself, make mistakes and find out what works for you for the first time. And the same goes for those of us who are living close to home or at home — don’t waste this time being “comfortable.” Find your passion. Make a mistake, then fix it. But try it yourself this time.