In high school, I dreamed of living on-campus during college. I couldn’t wait to meet my roommate who would become my best friend, participate in on-campus traditions and experience what would be considered the best years of my life. Being a first-generation college student probably increased this desire. My parents never had the opportunity to get higher education, so I wanted the chance to make the most of my experience. But thanks to the staggering costs of living on campus, I ultimately determined that the most logical option was to commute from home to URI.
This is a fairly unusual, though not unheard of, situation among URI freshmen. According to College Board, although more than half of upperclassmen live off-campus, 91 percent of freshman opt to live in on-campus housing. So when other freshmen learn that I’m living off-campus, and with my parents no less, they will often say that I’m making a mistake.
“College is the best years of your life!” they’ll say. “Don’t you want the full college experience?” Well of course I would have preferred to have that experience, but at the end of the day, I think sacrificing a year living in a dorm is worth it.
The main reason I commute is obviously for financial reasons. One semester of on-campus housing for a freshman at URI costs $3,887 per semester. This rises to $4,501 if you live in Hillside Hall. Double those numbers by two and you’re spending nearly $9,000 a year alone on housing. Add your required resident meal plan to the equation, which costs around $2,250 per semester, and you’re paying around $13,500, give or take. This is almost as much as the $13,792 cost of tuition and fees!
Personally, I don’t think it’s worth that much money to live in a dorm the size of a closet with two other people. I know that getting roommates often means getting an immediate opportunity to make a friend, but that isn’t always the case. And even if you love your roommates, three people in such a tiny room is sure to get claustrophobic. I know some students see this as a rite of passage, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Also, my house is fifteen minutes away from campus. Is it really worth spending all that money to stay in a dorm when you could simply drive to your state’s flagship university instead? For me, that seemed pretty impractical.
Some people have warned me that living at home would stunt my maturity, and I’d depend on my parents too much. But if anything, being responsible for my own space has helped me grow more than being supervised by RAs would. Going to school is akin to going to a job, and I must schedule outside activities accordingly. I’m lucky enough to have parents who understand that I am an adult and treat me as such.
Am I missing out on the full traditional “college experience?” Probably. Sometimes I feel a bit disconnected from campus culture as a whole, and I won’t deny that I’ve gotten jealous of my friends’ experiences living on-campus. But I’m making progress. One reason I joined the Cigar was to force myself to explore campus and meet new people. And for the most part, that has worked! In addition, I meet people in my classes and keep up with old high school friends too.
But the end of the day, I am here for a degree. Most people don’t get the opportunity to attend college at all and each day I am thankful for having the opportunity my parents never had. I understand that commuting from home isn’t the right choice for every freshman, but for me this was the better decision, at least for now, since I plan to move out to my own place soon. Ultimately, the money I save from living off-campus, and the skills I learn from it, could be put to use in an unpaid internship, study abroad or my student loans.