Growing up Without Going Away

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The assumption that every college freshman moves into a tiny dorm room, leaving parents and old friends behind in one fell swoop isn’t all that accurate. In 2011, over 50 percent of college students lived with their parents according to a National Retail Foundation survey.

Angela Rondon, who lived with her parents for a year while attending Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor Michigan, says their relationship underwent a transformation: “My parents had always been very trusting but once I started college, they grew more like friends who were there to give me support, guidance and advice.”

Rondon transferred to the University of Michigan where she now lives in a house with 11 other girls, but she wasn’t in a rush to move out. “My parents trusted me a lot and gave me a lot of freedom,” she says.

“When kids become college students, parents’ roles change and they become trusted consultants rather than enforcers,” says Christine Schelhaus-Miller, co-author of a book for the parents of new college students titled “Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money.”

“That’s relevant whether children are living at home or away at college,” she adds.

Why stay with your parents while in college?

Save money: This is probably the number one reason students decide to stay with their parents. Face it, living in a dorm or apartment costs money–just under $8,000 a year based on surveys by the College Board.

Stay connected: In a 2011 survey of college freshmen at four-year universities, about 29 percent reported feeling “overwhelmed by all I had to do.” How nice to have a familiar place to come home to while you’re adjusting to the new demands of college classes, studying and making new friends.

Save hassles: No strange roommates, no tiny bunk beds, no need for quarters for laundry, no dorm food, no community showers. While it can be fun and liberating to move away from home and live on your own, dorm life just isn’t for everyone.

“When kids become college students, parents’ roles change. That’s relevant whether they’re living at home or away.”

What’s different now?

Talk with your parents about how the house rules will change now that you’re a college student. “It is harder for parents to stop managing their child’s life at home,” says Schelhaus-Miller. “So they need to work hard to be conscious of their new role and to negotiate new boundaries.”

On the flip side, you may have to do more for yourself. You may be expected to pay rent, cell phone bills or your share of food costs.

“Before problems arise, parents and students should have a conversation in which they share their expectations regarding finances, curfews and hours, use of the car, responsibilities and chores at home, etc,” says Schelhaus-Miller. “My advice would be for students and parents to make their expectations clear to each other, now that the student is in a new stage of life.”


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