The decision to move away from home for college is a topic that consumes many youth and their families each year.
I've encountered countless families and students facing this critical decision, and I just went through it myself with my eldest child. It’s a difficult decision to make that involves numerous considerations. For some students, anxiety or finances prevent them from leaving home. For others, they may prefer to stay home or close to home to be near their community and family. Yet, moving away seems to be glamorized, and there can sometimes be a feeling of failure if students decide to stay home or attend college locally. Where does that come from?
In this blog, I delve into why kids move away from home, the pros and cons of moving away for school, and the impact of moving away for college on families and students.
In today's society, there’s often a glamorization of dorm life in movies and media. Young adults are frequently exposed to the idea that leaving home and experiencing the freedom of living on their own is the ultimate college experience and a required initiation into adulthood.
While this portrayal can be enticing, it's essential to remember that the decision to move away should be based on individual circumstances and goals rather than succumbing to societal pressures.
There are certainly advantages to moving away for college. One of the most compelling reasons is the opportunity to pursue a specific program or university known for its merit and expertise in a particular field. For some students, this is an essential factor in their educational journey.
Additionally, moving away can foster independence, personal growth, and a broader worldview. It can be a chance to explore new cultures and experiences, which can be invaluable in personal development. For some students, this time away from the nucleus family allows them to discover themselves more deeply and build greater resiliency.
Some research has shown that students who move away for college and live on campus graduate at higher rates. However, it is not clear how factors such as scholarships, full-time vs. part-time studies, and financial freedom influence that statistic. First-generation college students have a greater chance of completing a degree if they also study further away from home. This could be due to reducing non-school responsibilities/distractions and being more immersed in the lifestyle surrounding their studies.
It would appear this may have less to do with how far away the university is from their home and more to do with living on the campus itself. It makes sense that the more a student needs to work at a job outside of school or the more responsibilities they have outside of school, the less likely the graduation rates become.
On the other hand, moving away to attend college comes with its share of challenges, many often not addressed by college counselors. Personal circumstances can play a significant role in this decision. Factors such as finances, emotional support from family and friends, and connections with parents, siblings, and community all need to be considered. It can also place added responsibilities on other family members left behind, potentially straining their resources and relationships. In a time where loneliness is a major health epidemic, especially among youth, building and expanding roots in one’s community is more important than ever. Surveyed students in Canada also agree that one of the most important relationships in their lives is with a parent. It can be difficult to move away from this source of support and comfort.
(Trigger warning) Campuses are not always the safest places for students either due to the increased drinking and parties that can take place, especially in the early school year from September -November. This is when campuses see an increase in sexual assault and refer to this period as the Red Zone.
In addition, the trend of rising tuition and living expenses means that many students come out of university with extreme student debt, creating long-term financial stress. By staying at home, students reduce the financial burden of university on themselves and the families involved in paying. Considering these factors carefully and weighing them against the benefits before deciding to move away for college is crucial.
On a personal note, my son, Joesh, has moved to dorms for University, which is within driving distance of home. When Joesh decided to move for his studies, I couldn't help but feel a mix of emotions. While I understood the importance of his independence and growth, there was undoubtedly a sense of apprehension. The dynamic within the family changed, and we miss him greatly. As a mother, I wondered whether he was ready to fully take care of himself amidst these changes and new responsibilities.
It’s essential to remember that this decision is deeply personal and should not be driven by external pressures. Each family's circumstances are unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Communication and support are key during this transition to ensure students and families successfully navigate it.
In recent years, we've witnessed a trend of increased loneliness, disconnection & anxiety among youth, decreased enrollment numbers in universities, and the concurrent rise in tuition costs. These changes raise questions about the glamorization of moving away to college. The truth is that it's a personal decision that should be based on various factors, including individual goals, financial circumstances, and family dynamics.
Ultimately, no one-size-fits-all answer exists. Schools need to do a better job of exploring all options, including distance learning, gap years, work experience, and helping students make informed decisions. Whether a student decides to move away or stay close to home, what matters most is choosing a path that aligns with their aspirations, values, life skills, and abilities to cope. If your child is struggling with the stress of deciding what to do after grade school, get in touch. Our team has worked with numerous families and teens to help them navigate their unique situations and comfort levels with these big life transitions and decisions.