Close to Home Jan07

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Close to Home

Is your college kid “away” at college but close enough to come home for a family meal? If so, maintaining a balance between home and school life may be challenging. Do you expect your college kid to come home every weekend, or attend family events like a younger sibling’s piano recital or soccer game? Do you expect that you and your college kid will meet up for coffee or lunch every week? Or are you concerned that your college kid wants to come home every weekend instead of staying on campus?

According to a recent survey, 38% of college students “away” at school are within 50 miles of their home. Being close to home while going to college is extremely important to some kids. Perhaps they want the experience of being “away”—living in the dorms and being on their own—but want to be close enough to come home for a meal, for the weekend, or to fulfill family obligations. Or maybe their dream school just happens to be in their hometown.  Whatever the reason, it is important to discuss and establish boundaries early.

College is a time of growth and independence for our kids. If they are far from home, they necessarily must learn to do their own laundry, purchase groceries, navigate around town on their own, and strike a balance between academics and their new social life, without parents nearby.  If they are close to home, it may be tempting for them to delay learning to do things on their own, or to run home every time they have a problem, and it may be harder for parents to really let go knowing they are just down the street and can run to school to “help” with whatever their kid needs.

It may also be very confusing for college kids. The frequent back and forth –  being on their own at school and still being a “kid” at home – can cause students to avoid putting down roots at college. While some may feel they do not belong either place, others have no problems with the dual lifestyle. In addition, expectations, boundaries and house rules need to be addressed. Are they expected to follow house rules when they come home every weekend? When they are home, are they expected to join in with housework, errands, and meals? Or do they just want to drop off their laundry? What about overnight guests? These are some of the same issues most college parents and students face when kids come home on breaks, but are typically more constant for families with kids going to college near home. (See Living At Home • Away At School and College Breaks (Part I) and (Part II).)

If you find that your college kid is using home as an excuse to avoid getting immersed in campus life and take advantage of all the college offers, you may want to encourage them to stay on campus more often. Talk about your concerns openly with your student. One parent told us that she decided to be “unavailable” when her student asked to be picked up for yet another weekend at home. Not surprisingly, her kid made the best of it and ended up having a great weekend on campus! She found out there were weekend concerts and other events on campus that were tons of fun and met some new people she may not have met otherwise.

Some parents and students feel that going to college close to home is the perfect situation. Students are more available to be involved in family activities, and parents are available to attend their kids’ concerts, games, theatrical productions and other events. And just think—kids close to home don’t need a whole new wardrobe for a new climate!

Want to Know More?

When College is Close to Home, What are the Boundaries? by Jennifer Conlin

Should You Go to College Close to Home or Far Away? by Sarah Wainschel

College, Close to Home by Suzanne Monyak


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