Do you want to know what it’s like to be a live at home student? Hopefully this post will help!
Studying at university costs money. There is no getting away from that. Student expenditure on tuition fees, accommodation, study materials and food and drink can add up to several thousands of pounds each year and most young people leave university in debt.
There is little that you can do about tuition fees as these are set by the university but you can cut down expenditure on food and drink by living as frugally as you can. However, the one area where students can make significant savings is in their choice of accommodation.
One option for students who are worried about being able to afford student life is to live at home with their parents whilst they are studying. According to statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency for the academic year 2015/2016, there were 328,675 students living at home with a parent or guardian. Since 1996, the numbers of UK undergraduates opting to live at home has doubled from 12 per cent to 24 per cent http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/09/24/living-at-home-neednt-mean-missing-out-on-student-life/. Becoming a live at home student is no longer an unusual choice and some universities such as The University of Sheffield have specific policies in place to support live at home students. I wanted to explore the implications (good and bad) for the student and for their family.
Why do so many students choose to live at home?
Research carried out more than a decade ago and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicated that students from lower socio-economic groups tended to study closer to home due to fears about debt https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/socio-economic-disadvantage-and-experience-higher-education. Therefore, it would be reasonable to hypothesise that increased fears relating to student debt are behind the popularity of staying at home whilst gaining a degree. The study also indicated that a lack of confidence in both academic ability and ability to integrate into some of the more prestigious academic institutions compounded this effect so it seems that psychological factors also play a role here.
A further study completed in 2008 found that a fear of debt was an important factor in a low-income family student’s decision about where to study but not what to study. They favoured universities with low living costs. However, one of the cheapest choices remains staying at home so, to put it bluntly, have we entered an age where the rich kids move out to university and the poor kids stay at home with their parents?
This is a situation that is not unique to the UK. In the USA in 2014, 54% of college students chose to live at home which represented a 43% rise in just four years. Nevertheless, the whole concept of moving far away from your parents in order to study is not a world-wide phenomenon. If you look at data from Europe, the picture is very different. In Portugal, 55% of students live at home with even higher rates in Spain (64%) and Italy (73%) and these rates apply across the socio-economic groups indicating that it is not a financial decision. It is more influenced by cultural ties and tradition.
The decision to become a live at home student is not an easy one. Obviously, it is primarily the student’s decision but, as their parent, you need to have an input too. Is this what you want for the next three or four years? How will your parenting style have to change? What will be the impact on your relationship with your young adult and with other siblings who are still living at home?
My own daughter chose to study in the same city as we live. In many ways, we are extremely fortunate to have a prestigious conservatoire, a Russell Group university and two other universities within a 5 mile radius of our house. She was offered a place to study music at both the conservatoire and the Russell Group university and chose the former. She also chose not to be a live at home student and moved into halls of residence.
The advantages of being a live at home student
Assuming that the student comes from a supportive family that is happy to provide accommodation whilst they are studying, there are many perks to being a live at home student. My own daughter did not do this so I cannot share my own experiences but I’ve had a search and come up with the following:
1. Support with the practical aspects of life. The student can focus on their studies and on having a good time whilst Mum and Dad do the cooking and cleaning. I have read many statements from students who see this as a fantastic situation but I’m not so sure how their parents feel about it.
2. A quiet environment to work. A family home is likely to be quieter than a halls of residence or a shared house so if the student likes total silence when they are studying I can see that staying at home would be preferable.
3. Continued family relationships. Living at home gives the student an opportunity to play a full role in family life, if they want to. They have the opportunity to see more of their parents, siblings, grandparents and nieces and nephews.
4. Money! If Mum and Dad allow them to live rent free and provide meals (perhaps even the use of the family car) then the live at home student will lead a more comfortable existence and will graduate with less debt. A recent survey of 2,095 students in the UK between 13th – 26th March 2017 by Save the Student reported that live at home students paid around £46 per week which is a lot cheaper than any other sort of accommodation. (Source: The National Student Accommodation Survey 2017 / www.savethestudent.org)
5. Someone is keeping a close eye on the student’s physical and mental health. Parents are tuned in to their offspring’s well-being, after all they have been doing it for over 18 years. The food will probably be better, the kitchen and bathroom will probably be cleaner and multi-vitamins will be administered as soon as they sneeze.
All of these seem reasonable to me but I can also see that some young people (and parents) would not view all of them as advantages.
The disadvantages of being a live at home student
Despite the huge costs of living outside the family home, thousands of young people choose to do it. Some have their heart set on a particular course that is only available miles away from their home town and so they have no choice. Others, like my own daughter, chose an academic institution that is close to home but still elect to move out. This, I am assured, was not because she wanted to get away from us! She and many other students feel that the disadvantages, which I have listed below, outweigh the advantages:
1. Difficulty fitting in. Living in halls of residence can be very challenging, especially for introverted or shy students. However, if you can do it, it is the best way of meeting people. You are thrown together for 24 hours a day and see the best and worst of each other. This is how friendships are forged. The first few weeks can be very confusing and disorientating but you soon start to gravitate towards people that you ‘click’ with. If you live at home, the peer group will form in your absence and there is a danger that you may feel like an outsider.
2. Difficulty attending social events. It can be quite daunting to walk into an event during freshers’ week on your own. If you are sharing a flat in halls of residence then you will probably all attend as a group. You can even have a few drinks together in the flat before you leave.
3. Getting home after social events. When it comes to getting home after social events during freshers’ week (or at any time during the year for that matter) it is true to say that there is safety in numbers. If you can stagger home at 3 am with your mates you will be safer than trying to get back to your family home on your own. Also, many universities lay on ‘safe buses’ that transport freshers from entertainment venues to their accommodation at all hours of the day and night. Mum and Dad may not be so accommodating.
4. Worried parents. Parents will worry and that does not suddenly stop when offspring turn 18 years of age. I am guilty of being a perpetual worrier and my poor kids know that. When they are living under my roof, I have plenty of information to fuel my anxiety. If they don’t come home until 4 am I know about it and I WILL WORRY! Therefore they feel that they have to reassure me that they are okay. However, once my daughter moved into halls of residence, I was forced to let go. She would not be returning to MY house at 4 am and so I just switched off and let her get on with it. I have absolutely no idea where she is or what time she returns home and that is a better situation for both of us. She can relax and have a good time knowing that I am fast asleep and am not pacing the hallway waiting for the sound of her key in the lock.
5. Freedom to lead the life they choose. Let’s face it, we all did things in our late teens and early twenties that we would not necessarily want our parents to witness. Moving out of the family home makes this a lot easier!
6. Growing up. I am not that good at making my kids grow up. I know that if they lived at home I would continue to cook and clean for them and get involved in organising their lives. This is not good for them and not good for me. Once my daughter moved out, she had to act as an adult. I still give advice on food preparation via Facebook messenger on a weekly basis but I don’t have a problem with that! I still ask my Mum for cooking advice sometimes and I’m nearly 50! However, she has had to learn by her own mistakes and that is what becoming an adult is all about.
7. You get a smaller loan. Parents may choose to charge rent but students who live at home cannot borrow so much money. There may be increased travel costs to lectures and taxis home after nights out.
8. You never get the ‘halls’ experience. Living in halls of residence is a unique experience and one that you may never get to do again. Even if it is not entirely positive, as least you can say that you did it. You probably won’t ever get another chance.
It doesn’t always work out the way you wanted it to
I do have some concerns about the way in which educational expectations may be impacting the happiness of young people. There are truly alarming statistics about dropout rates from university as a result of mental health issues. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency relating to academic year 2014-15 (the most recent data available) recorded that a worrying 1,180 students who experienced mental health problems left university. This is a 210% increase from 380 in 2009-10. When these figures were reported in the press, charities, counsellors and health experts quite rightly urged higher education institutions to ensure the right support is in place.
Would it be true to say that had these young people lived closer to home their families could have also provided more immediate support? Are families a help or a hindrance in this situation? Are there any figures to show that students who live far away from their families are more likely to drop out? Are they dropping out from living away from home or are they dropping out from university? These are all important questions and I’m afraid that I do not have the answers.
Advice for a live at home student
The decision to become a live at home student is entirely personal and what works for one student and their family will not work for another.
I found the arguments for and against were summed up perfectly in this article from the student room https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=2405506.
My daughter is not a live at home student so I do not have any personal observations to share with you but I have collated the following advice that you may find useful:
1. Work hard at your social life. You will probably have to be more proactive in making friends and ironically this is why it may actually be better for an introvert or shy student to live in halls. If you leave your door open in halls, someone is very likely to pop in and say ‘hello’. If you live at home, you’re going to have to go to every social event and go up and introduce yourself to people. Joining societies and clubs may also help.
2. Find other students who live at home. You will instantly have something in common and may even be able to share a taxi home if you live near each other.
3. Hang around the common rooms. This presents opportunigives a chance to get into conversations with fellow students.
4. Don’t act like a kid. Don’t expect Mum and Dad to do all your cooking and cleaning. Ask for your own food budget and make your own meals sometimes. Do your own laundry and take a turn at cleaning the house. Nothing builds independence like cleaning a toilet!
5. Get a job. This is especially useful if you get a job in the university or on campus. It gives an added opportunity for meeting people.
6. Get help from university. Many universities provide special support for students who are living at home.
I wrote this post primarily because it was exactly what I wanted to read a few years ago when my daughter was trying to choose whether to live at home or move into halls. She chose to live in halls and never regretted it. I hope it helps you to make the right decision too.
I’d love to hear about your experiences as a parent or a student if you chose the live at home option. Please do add them to the comments below.
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