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Going to College While Living at Home?

Four tips on how to make this dorm alternative work for your family

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Going to college, living at home

Going to college, living at home

Courtesy Steve Woods, Stock.Xchng Photos
Everyone associates the college experience with dorm life but the truth is, not everyone lives on campus. If your child is going to a community college or a commuter university close to home, chances are he's going to be rooming with Mom and Dad - and there's going to be an adjustment period for both of you. There are other options, of course, but the majority of community college kids live at home or in an apartment.

Starting college is a major rite of passage, one that is both exciting and anxiety-producing. So on the upside, your child gets to go through that process from the comfort of home, where the food is vastly better than the dining commons, and the bathroom is shared by just a few people, not 50. There are definite benefits for parents too. Your food bill may stay high, but you'll still save $10,000 or more a year on room and board bills. You'll have the company of a bright, interesting student living in your home. And you won't have to worry about the empty nest blues. Yet.

But it can be difficult for commuter students to make new friends and settle into college life without a dormitory's sense of instant community and the ice-breaking help of an R.A.. So here are four tips to help smooth that transition for both of you:

  1. College students enjoy considerably more freedom than high schoolers when they live in the dorms, of course. But when college kids live at home, friction can arise over the hours and company they keep. Alleviate potential friction by sitting down and talking through the major issues - privacy, telephone and computer time, use of the car, alcohol and other substances, and curfews.

  2. It's tough to feel grown-up in a bedroom with Power Ranger decor. Encourage your child to redecorate his room (or at least replace the posters) or set aside a lounge area so he has somewhere to hang with new friends.

  3. That said, your child's bedroom may be a quiet place, but encourage him to study on campus, at the library, in the quad or campus coffeehouse or wherever other students congregate.

  4. Urge your child to attend his college's orientation session. If there is a parent session, plan to go. Your presence sends your child a critical message: that his college education is important to you.

  5. And encourage him to get involved in extra-curricular activities on campus by joining clubs or intramural sports teams.
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