Living at Home in College
Living at Home in College
Alix Kreil /

If you decide to live at home during school, you don’t need to pack up your things or worry about a moving truck, but you still have other prep work to do. You aren’t returning to high school, so it’s time to gear up for your transition into college. How are you going to get to and from class each day? Where will you eat lunch? Where will you study? How will you make friends? These questions aren’t of much concern to students who live on campus, but they become important when you commute from home.

How do I set up a study space?

Build a workspace to keep yourself productive when you’re at home. Set it up in a room that’s well lit and far enough away from the kitchen and family room to avoid distractions. Whether you decide to work in your bedroom or a corner in the basement, dedicate the space entirely to school. Decorate with a plant or a clock, but skip the book of brain teasers and the gaming console. You may want to get a bigger desk than the one you had in high school or color-coordinate notebooks and drawers. However you decide to organize your desk, the space should be clean and organized to ward off distractions. Consistency is key. Devote this space to your college studies. Don’t sit at the desk when you’re clicking through social media posts or watching television.

Should I buy a meal plan?

Even though you live at home with family, you probably spend an extraordinary amount of time on campus. You may want to pack a lunch or buy a meal plan. Most colleges offer supplementary meal plans to students who live off campus or at home. These plans allow you to check into the dining hall a certain number of times per week or preload your card with a certain number of dining dollars. Check with your school. If you aren’t sure you want to purchase a meal plan upfront, you can play it by ear. Most schools allow you to purchase meal plans at any time during the semester. Learn more here.

How should I plan for my commute?

Once you receive your class schedule, it’s a good idea to practice your route to campus. Drive, bike, or walk to school to calculate the amount of time your commute will take at different times of day. Rush-hour traffic may affect your commuting time, especially if you’re driving yourself. Depending on when you plan to arrive on campus, you may also need to factor in extra time for parking. While parking in the campus lots probably requires an expensive parking permit, it may be worth it if it means you’re guaranteed a parking spot.

Once you get into the swing of things, you still might want to actively think about your commute. Check traffic reports. If you have a smartphone, use an app. Both Google Maps and Waze (available for both iOS and Android) use current traffic and roadwork information to calculate how long it will take you to get from Point A to Point B. Waze in particular relies on a community-based map system, so users can report traffic, accidents, and highway patrol cars. By connecting to Facebook or reaching out to classmates, you can also see if you have friends who drive in the same area and at the same time as you and easily create carpools with them.

What are some ways I can get involved on campus?

  • Join a club. When you get involved in a club, you meet students with similar goals and interests. Build connections that relate to a hobby or your future career and keep yourself occupied during the in-between hours that you’re stuck on campus.
  • Start a club. Bolster your résumé with leadership skills. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for on campus, create it. College students around the country have started gaming clubs, anime clubs, ski clubs, and language clubs at their schools to attract students who share their interests. You can do the same if you find your school’s extracurricular offerings to be lacking.
  • Create a study group. Whether or not you need help in class, study groups let you learn from your classmates. Meeting just once a week will diversify your routine and make learning into a group activity. Plus, you’ll get your homework out of the way when you’re on campus, leaving your evenings free to pursue other hobbies or spend time with your family.
  • Play a sportYou might not have been recruited to join a varsity team, but you can join intramural teams regardless of your skill level. You’ll get in a work out while you bond with teammates during scrimmages and matches.
  • Eat on campus. Consider investing in a small meal plan or loading some dining dollars onto your account. The dining hall is buzzing with students and professors. Aside from killing time, eating in the dining hall can help you socialize with other students and find out what’s new on campus.
  • Contribute to class discussions. The more you raise your hand in class, the more approachable you seem to others and the more you’ll impress your professor. Consider attending office hours if you’re struggling in class or need help with an assignment.
  • Get to class early. Not only will your professor be thankful that you’re on time, but classmates always wind up talking about the assignments while they wait for class to start. Spark conversation with your neighbors; they could become your study buddies or friends.

How do I balance old friendships with new ones?

Some students who live at home feel like they lead double lives. They spend half of their time on campus and the other half in the hearts of their hometowns. If you are a college student who lives with family, you probably have many kinds of relationships to maintain: high school friends that moved away for college, high school friends who stuck around town, and new college friends.

Your priority is your education, and the friends who understand and support that—no matter how you met them or how long you’ve known them—will stick around. Spend time on campus having meals and participating in group activities with your new friends. Set aside time on weekends or during the evening for high school friends who are still in town. Make time for your other high school friends when they’re home over breaks. You’ll find that there’s plenty of time for everyone.

How do I maintain healthy relationships with my family while living at home?

Even though you’ve always lived at home with family, college adds a new stressor into the mix. When you’re tired or overwhelmed with classes and work-study jobs, your relationships at home can become strained. Luckily, there are many healthy ways to cope with pressure and maintain healthy relationships while you pursue a college education.

  • See a counselor on campus. If you are struggling with family issues, stress, or relationships, you might benefit from a session with a professional. Campus health centers offer free or affordable mental health consultations. These sessions are always confidential. For more information on mental health in college and accessing your college’s resources, click here.
  • Keep traditions. If you and your family have pizza night every Friday or follow any other traditions, stick to them. Your family will appreciate that you want to keep them included in your life, and it might help you solidify a routine.
  • Appreciate the sacrifices your family makes. While college may be stressful for you, your studies could be putting a financial burden on your family too. If you live at home, show your family that you’re grateful. You can do this in small ways. Surprise your family by making dinner once midterms pass or offer to babysit your siblings on the weekends.
  • Always look for time to yourself. Everyone needs alone time to recharge, reflect, and rest. If you’re having trouble finding alone time when your siblings keep running into your room, call a family meeting. Emphasize that while you’re happy to be around family, you do need to focus on and prioritize your studies each day.

Page last updated: 02/2019