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Saturday, August 3, 2013

The value of the family home

Going ‘away’ to university seems to be the rage these days.  Many students are not considering living at home when it comes to university, but rather are looking at the entire country for university choices.  Although I have heard of the ‘university experience’ and ‘learning to live on your own experience’ as arguments why it’s ‘important’ to live on campus, there are many arguments against living away during university.  Here there are:

1. The cost: living away during university (a time when making money is difficult because of the time spent attending classes and studying being all-consuming) is VERY expensive: an apartment (even shared) is at least $500/month and buying groceries for one is more expensive than your share of food at home.  Residence is even more expensive.

2. Time: it takes more time to manage on your own (away from your family) each day: going out to do your laundry; going grocery shopping; preparing meals; cleaning and managing your shared abode; dealing with the owner of your home; and ‘wasting time’ socializing with your housemates or fighting with them.  All these would normally be taken care of by your parents, and if some of these chores are shared at home, they would still take less time than if you are on your own.

3. Living two big ‘firsts’ at the same time: studying at university or college is very different than doing the same in high school: the teachers at university do not know you as well as in high school; you are not as monitored in your studies as you are in high school, so you have to be much more independent and responsible; your class schedule is a lot ‘lighter’, with more time for studying (and a lot more studying is required); and you have to keep track of your program’s requirement to graduate with the degree you want.  All of this is happening at the same time you are learning to live on your own.  These are two ‘firsts’ at the same time and perhaps it is too much – many first and second year students (second year students are often living in an apartment for the first time, the first year being often spent in residence where there is more supervision) struggle because there is just too many changes happening all at once.  The new freedom of not living at home is accompanied by many new responsibilities, and university and college studies are different from high school ones.

4. People who swear by ‘going away to university’ are typically the ones who had that experience: however, they did not have the experience of living at home during university so they cannot compare the two.  I lived at home during my undergraduate degree (B.Sc.) and I loved my experience.  My husband lived on campus and he loved his experience too.  Is one better than the other? I don’t think so – they are different, but one better than the other? I don’t think so.  However, one is definitely cheaper than the other.

5. The comfort: it’s unlikely that your apartment at college will be more or as comfortable as your family home.  TV, home cooked meals, heat, and a nicely decorated home have to be more comfortable than an apartment that is furnished by left-over pieces from your and your roommates’ homes and pieces bought on discount or found for free.  Unless you happen to have a housemate who has unlimited funds, your college home is bound to be somewhat uncomfortable, not mentioning that student ghettos are notoriously badly maintained by the owners (older windows that leak cold air in winter, no AC in summer, energy-guzzling fridge and dirty ovens, etc.).

I know that many students find the appeal of living on their own irresistible, but financially, it’s a bust – it is very costly.  So before you look at options away from home, consider living at home, even if your parents charge you rent for your room and board (food, heat, etc.), it is bound to be less than if you lived away from home; do the math!

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