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In Marissa Gibilisco’s family, there wasn’t a big philosophy that you had to leave home for college. So she didn’t. Neither did anyone else in the family.
“We didn’t have any issues that would make me want to leave home,” said Gibilisco, who got her bachelor’s and doctorate from the University of Hartford and is now a physical therapist nearby. “My parents are pretty easy going. It was a very supportive atmosphere.”
A growing number of students are following in Gibilisco’s footsteps. According to a study by Sallie Mae, about half of college students lived at home during the last academic year, up 9% from the previous year. But is this a better decision than going away for school?
The debate spans decades: Should students stay home for college or go away?
Staying home for college
One of the top reasons students stay home for college is to save money. According to the Sallie Mae report, one of the reasons families spent 5% less on college in 2012 (now an average of $20,902) is due to students staying home.
Not having to pay a lot of money to live on campus in a new city was one of the reasons Gibilisco stayed home for college. But also, she had already made local connections in her field and wanted to grow that network, since she knew she wanted to stick around her hometown after college.
“I had a lot of good references,” Gibilisco said. “I found a job before I graduated. If I lived somewhere else and had to build my connections and network here, it would have taken me longer to find a job after school.”
While Gibilisco realizes she missed some of the college experience, such as the dorms and impromptu parties, she doesn’t regret her decision to stay home. She said she grew in a different way than those who went away for college.
“I learned it just through having different jobs in different environments,” said Gibilisco, who did her clinical work in New Jersey for four months. “In my degree program, we had a lot of different internships and clinical experiences. So just adapting to those was a challenge. I was still within an environment I was comfortable in so I think that helps. I think if you go away, you’re forced to adapt a little quicker than if you live at home.”
Gibilisco felt she had fewer distractions by staying home for school and removing herself from the college experience. She doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to go away for school, but she knows many 18-year-olds aren’t ready for it.
Going away to college
Some students like to go as far away from home as possible, switching coasts or even countries. Movie after movie, it seems like that’s just what college students do: Go away, live in the dorms, study and party.
Others, like Liz Golden, tried going far away (from San Jose to Illinois) and didn’t like the environment there. So she decided to go away to college but not too far away. She graduated from Sonoma State University, two hours from home, and thinks going away to college within a reasonable drive home is the best kind of college experience.
“It gave me the ability to be far enough from home to have some separation but also if I really had to deal with something at home, I could,” Golden said.
Golden said moving away forced her to be more outgoing and more self-reliant, something students can gain no matter how far away from home they go to college.
“Going away teaches you so much and gives you a wider perspective on your life and what you can do on your own,” Golden said. “I used to hate living in San Jose but when I moved away, I realized the good things about where I lived and what it’s like to be somewhere else. I feel like when you stay at home, you kind of limit yourself from being what you can truly be and what you can truly do.”
Whether you stay home or go away for college, carefully assess your finances.
Out-of-state tuition almost always costs more money, as do private schools. And look into things like Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), scholarships or other ways to cut down tuition and avoid the average debt-load, which right now is at $26,600, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.
Students find success in both paths. Only you can decide which is better.
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