After getting the acceptance letter from your dream school and submitting the statement of intent to register, you have officially achieved one of the most important milestones in your life. While you are busy finishing up high school, registering for orientation, and learning about new classes, one big question to consider is, “Should I Move Out For College?”
Some students have no choice since their future school is either out-of-state or way too far, which makes commuting impossible. But for those of you who are going to attend a college that allows for a reasonable commute, should you still move out for college? Sometimes the answer is not so straight-forward. I’m going to share my personal story of how I made the decision. Everyone’s situation is different, but I hope my story can at least give you some ideas on how to make your own decision on whether to move out for college or not.
I applied to a total of 8 colleges and got into 4 of them. I was lucky that 1 of the 4 schools that accepted me was my dream school. So, it didn’t take me more than a second to decide which one I would choose. I knew all along that I wanted to move out for college, but the dilemma was that this dream school was only 30 minutes drive from my parents’ place. To make things even worse, when my mom found out I got accepted, she was so excited because she assumed that I would be staying home for the next four years.
Pros and Cons:
Before I made the decision, I first wrote down a list of Pros and Cons about moving out for college. A Pros and Cons list is like the first chapter of “How To Make A Decision 101.” Here was what I wrote:
– I will have more personal space (Freedom!)
– I won’t need to commute and waste time in traffic
– I will have more time to study
– I can be more involved in school activities (aka socializing)
– I can set my own schedule
– I can learn how to be independent
– I will need to pay for rent and other bills
– I will need to do cooking, laundry, house-cleaning all by myself
– I will need to buy my own stuff (furniture, food, necessities etc.)
– I won’t have anyone waking me up when I’m late
– I might need to share room with someone else
When I went through the list of cons, I knew the only problem I had was financial. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any financial help from my parents and my entire tuition depended on a minimal amount of scholarships, some grants, and a huge amount of student loans. But I thought to myself, if I could figure out the financial situation and somehow persuade my mom, I should be able to move out with no problem, even if it meant getting some extra student loans.
Can I Afford To Move Out For College?
I looked at my financial aid package carefully. The total amount of my financial aid award was just enough to cover my tuition and housing, assuming my rent would be $600 per month. So I had two questions to answer: 1) Should I take the student loan to pay for housing? 2) How should I pay for bills, food, and other necessities of life?
At that time, I had never had a loan in my entire life so I had no idea what life would be like with a student loan. Since taking the loan was the only way for me to move out, I decided to go for it. To answer the second question, I did a rough calculation of how much monthly expenses I would need to spend and came up with around $400 a month.
After doing some research, I realized that with only $600 a month, I had to find a roommate. I would also need to find a part-time job to help out with some of my living expenses. When I submitted my FAFSA application, I indicated my interest for the work-study program. In the end, I figured that with a student loan and a part-time job, I could make it work.
How Should I Tell My Parents?
After figuring out how to make it work financially, I had to tackle the most difficult part of the process – my mom. I told her on a day when she was in a good mood. At the beginning, she just ignored me because she thought I was joking. But after telling her my plan in details, she knew I was serious. All I could say was that I went through some really tough times over the next few weeks, but it really didn’t stop me from making my plan happen.
I went onto the school website, looked at the classes, and created a tentative time table. The classes I wanted to take would start at 9:00am from Monday to Thursday. With the heavy traffic in the morning, it meant I would probably need to spend an hour driving and looking for a parking space. On the other hand, most of the school activities happened during early evening.
So if I was going to join the school clubs, there would be days when I would have to come home late. I also emphasized the other benefits of moving out such as not needing a car, saving some gas money, and spending more time in school. In the end, she (unwillingly) accepted the fact that I was moving out because I was so determined to do so.
Before the day of my orientation, I started the apartment hunting process online. I wrote down a few listings so I could look at the apartments in-person on the day of my orientation. Since the apartments close to the school were all pretty expensive, many people had to look for roommates. I found an awesome roommate and a decent room that cost me $650 a month.
After signing the lease, I immediately started looking for a part-time job. I got my login to the school’s career website and searched for the work-study opportunities. I was lucky to find a job with flexible hours at the school library and the pay was enough to cover my living expenses. It was not easy to balance school and the part-time job, but I felt like I did get the best out of my college experience.
1) Do your calculations carefully – If you choose to take out a student loan just like I did, make sure you also look at the interest rate. The interest rate was not so crazy back then and if my interest rate was as high as today’s rate, I might have had to think twice about moving out.
2) Know your preferences – I felt so strongly about moving out because of various reasons, but some of my friends would rather stay home so they could pay off their student loans earlier. One way or the other, there is always a trade-off.
3) If your parents are completely against the idea of you moving out, be patient. Give them some time to absorb the idea while showing them all the research you have done. Tell them how much you respect them and how you would like them to support you. Communication is the key. But at the end of the day, you are the one who will make the decision for your own life and are responsible for whatever path you choose.
4) If you are thinking about work-study, start early! Students usually start looking in the first two weeks of school. And since most of these jobs are entry-level with no work experience needed, they get filled pretty quickly. I would recommend students to get the resume ready and start the process BEFORE school starts.
Would I Still Move Out For College If I Could Do It Again?
If I could do it all over again, I would still choose to move out for college with no doubt. I had a truly amazing experience for four years. Some of the people I met at the school activities are now my lifetime friends. We developed our friendships by pulling all-nighters at the library together, spending three days straight in the lab to work on a project, and having an hour bus-ride to get groceries, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I didn’t move out for college.
I just wish that I had known how valuable networking would be so I could have taken more advantage of my time on campus and participated in a different variety of organizations (e.g. cultural club, major-related club, community service club etc.). But overall, I am really happy with the decision I made.
Photo Courtesy By Prayitno Via License