Flip Flopping Daughter
June 15, 2005 6:09 AM   Subscribe

My daughter has announced she doesn't want to live on campus next year (freshman). We agreed months ago she would live at school (an hour commute). Any personal experience with changing your mind? I'm concerned about her driving daily on congested highway (NJ) and about her not facing her fears.
posted by Mutha to Education (44 answers total)
Is there a particular reason or incidence that changed her mind? Perhaps she feels she could study better at home rather than on campus.
posted by Constant Reader at 6:27 AM on June 15, 2005

I think the dorm experience is a very character building experience that she will be missing out on if she lives at home. You can't really get the true college experience (imho) without living in the dorms for at least a year.
posted by jduckles at 6:29 AM on June 15, 2005

I lived in a dorm my freshman year, and was pretty unhappy -- I think I was just too young to move away from home at that point; some kids are ready sooner than others. I felt very overwhelmed by the people around me; there was a great deal of encouragement to drink, which I had never done, and also a great deal of, hmmm, I dunno, subtle pressure to live in ways I wasn't interested in. I wasn't the type of kid who liked going out to clubs or dancing or that kind of social scene. I did make friends, however, with other shy geek intellectual types, and that helped, but I was MUCH happier the next year when I transferred, lived at home, and drove up a congested highway every day. Living in a dorm without a car pretty much made the campus my whole world, and it wasn't a world I liked, or at least a world I wasn't ready for yet.

But that was just me; your daughter's personality and motivations may be very different. I should note, though, that this was all over 20 years ago, so I hope I'm telling it from some kind of age-induced wisdom perspective. :)
posted by JanetLand at 6:29 AM on June 15, 2005

Well, after college I faced a one-hour commute daily to go to work. Two hours round trip. Traffic sucked. 600 miles a week on the car. Oil changes once a month. Wore that car out damn quick. Always angry and tense after the drive. Exactly the thing you do not want when you have an exam at one end of the trip. If that helps at all, if it's her car, you might be able to convince her that it is not in any way fun. In winter especially, it's dark when you leave home in the morning and it's dark when you get home. No time to do anything really, no time to hang out with friends or even just relax. Just do the homework and go to bed.

The dorms aren't that much fun at first. After a week or so, when you meet a few people, they're fine. The people I met there that first week are the people I still talk to on a regular basis. High school friends? Never hear from them. 90% of the growing up you do in college is figuirng out how to be the grown up you are turning into, and that happens away from home. Until you're on your own, trying to cover your own bills and all, it won't happen.

If the horror story of the commute, or the feel-good story of the dorms don't work, you can always try the "excessively strict rules for home" thing, couched under the heading of "this school costs too damn much money for you to take it lightly". Basically, you want to run your own life and go where you want when you want, you do that in school, not here at home.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:35 AM on June 15, 2005

It was my experience that the people I knew in college who still lived at home seemed disconnected from the community there and less mature. If there was a causal relationship there, I'm not sure which direction it went in.
posted by grouse at 6:38 AM on June 15, 2005

She needs to live on campus her freshman year. I moved off after my first semester (I wasn't really living in my dorm that first semester either, I was living at my boyfriend's) and it's been much harder making friends (I'm a senior now and I'm just starting to really meet people). Sharing a room with another kid sucks and being under the jurisdiction of an RA can also bite if you get a bad one, but you'll meet people so much faster and you'll be in touch with campus life period. Plus, having an abundance of new freedoms slightly restricted won't seem like too much of an imposition. After that first year, she'll probably have met friends that she can get a house/apartment with and that's the time to move off campus. She'd be missing out on her best opportunity to become connected to the campus and, more importantly, other students if she moved off. That's why the drop-out rate is so much higher for kids who don't live on campus.

May I ask, does she have a boyfriend back home?

Also, driving an hour each way every day is unnecessarily wasteful. This should not even be an option.
posted by Crushinator at 6:39 AM on June 15, 2005

I think she should live on campus her freshman year. Sure, it'll be an adjustment, but I met my best friends in college during my freshman year and I'm still friends with them 2 years out of school. Plus, it'll get her more comfortable with where things are on campus. IMHO, if she stays at home, she'll be missing out on a large part of the college experience.

If she has a real reason to stay at home, I wouldn't force it, but an hour commute seems pretty ridiculous just to avoid the fear of moving out. Everyone else will be moving out for the first time too, so it's not like she'll be alone in her insecurities. But that's part of the fun of college!
posted by geeky at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2005

Tell her to come home on weekends all she wants. She'll probably change her mind and stay on campus when the workload gets heavy, anyway.

It might be a good way to be both supportive and help her face her fears.
posted by jon_kill at 6:49 AM on June 15, 2005

I think living on campus is important. My undergraduate school required it Freshman year and perhaps beyond. By college it is time to pull away from the security of mom and dad and gain some independence. A dorm is a great transition as the big stuff, room and board, are taken care of. It is also the best place to make a lot of friends. Almost everyone shows up not really knowing anyone else and friendships form quickly, and often last the rest of your life. This would be especially true if she is not one to participate in a lot of extra-curricular activities. There are pressure and stresses to be sure but I think she may be giving up a once in a lifetime opportunity. I second jon_kill's recommendation.
posted by caddis at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2005

I think the thing to do is determine if she's just a little scared of the unknown or genuinely unprepared to leave home. Back in my college days, the kids who didn't get nudged out of the nest always seemed to be the ones who didn't make any new friends and didn't really get The College Experience; the rest of us usually regarded them as sad creatures to be pitied (god knows they weren't around enough for us to get to know them). On the other hand, the kids who really weren't ready to leave home and were forced to were usually the ones who dropped out altogether mid-year, which I doubt is what you have in mind for your kid.
I don't think there's a real one-size-fits-all solution but I think that, except in fairly rare circumstances, college students should spend at least their first two years living on campus.
posted by willpie at 7:06 AM on June 15, 2005

Freshman year is 17-18, right (excuse my ignorance; I'm a Brit)? If so, I think you should simply tell her that if she wants to go to college, she's moving out. I really feel it's that important. Obviously I'm not saying wade straight in with that ultimatum, but if it comes to it, I would. I'd say "You're not living here and going to college. If you want to go to college, you go to college."

But obviously before that I'd explain that living on campus is a great experience for most people. It's maturing and it's fun. It's a step towards taking full responsibilty for yourself and that's something that's good for a kid. I'd try to get her to explain what her issues are with it. If she's just nervous about leaving home, explain that that's perfectly normal and understandable, but that the feeling will pass really quickly once she finds her feet and that she'll be so happy that she did. She'll feel proud of herself. And she'll feel more confident. And she'll be that much closer to being a grown-up because of it.

I admit that I struggle to understand kids like this because, my God, I couldn't wait to leave home when I went to university. I thought, "Freedom! I can stay out as late as I like! I can get drunk and take drugs without worrying about hiding it from my parents! I'll have my own room to shag in! I can play my music loud, even the really offensive stuff I can't play at home! I can slob around! I can leave the washing-up for days...WEEKS! Until it starts to grow things! FANTASTIC!"

I guess she needs you to sensitively let her know that she's reaching adulthood now; she's that age, and it's time for her to start taking adult responsibilities (I know, I know.... like taking drugs and not doing the washing up...). Also: you have a right to more of your life back. You raised, her, you clothed and fed her, you helped her through education and into college. Now it's payback time, at least a little bit. Kids need to fly the nest for their own good and the trip to college is a great opportunity for the first trip. It's a damned shame to squander it.

I suspect she's just nervous about the change so I'd definitely stress that pretty much every kid who faces down that nervousness very quickly ends up being extremely happy that they did.
posted by Decani at 7:26 AM on June 15, 2005

I never have lived on campus and don't really mind the commute. I have to say that college seems more like a job I do during the day instead of the "experience" I keep hearing about. Living with your parents puts a crimp on your sex life, but at least I do not have a problem living at home. I think I've become more indepedent, being forced to make friends at art openings, cool bars and nice restauarants. Most college kids can't get past the fact that I do have fun commuting (no pre-drinking? wha-?) but there's definitely a whole lot of sex I probably missed.

Then again, it's nice keeping social and "work" life separate.
posted by geoff. at 7:29 AM on June 15, 2005

Personally, I lived in the dorms but found that the commuters were better students, more serious.

There are pluses and minuses to the socialization of dorms. I got much better friendships from being involved in the college radio station, the environmental group, the newspaper and eventually a college TV station.

By the way I also went to NJ school (Stockton College) But I can't say the highways were that congetsted down there..
posted by brucec at 7:30 AM on June 15, 2005

By the way, what school will she be attending? It might make some difference.
posted by caddis at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2005

I didn't want to live in the dorms, but I had no choice since school was three hours from home. I ended up drinking a *lot* to get over the nerves and upset from being *that* far away from home, surrounded by and living with strangers- not even close enough to go home on weekends, and ultimately dropped out after the first semester because it was that or hang myself in the shower, literally. I had the rope and the note ready, and an unexpected visit home is the only thing that stopped me.

So, I reckon unless you're absolutely confident you can check in on your kid the first year and know with certainty that she hasn't had too much and she's not on the verge of very permanently solving a very temporary problem, I'd say make a deal with her: freshman year at home, sophomore year in the dorms or her own, off-campus apartment. Give her a year to get used to being in college before forcing her to also get used to being completely on her own.
posted by headspace at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2005

My parents opted for a compromise position: during freshman year, I lived in the dorms during the week, but came home on weekends. (My commute was about 30 min., but this should still be doable with an hour.) That took care of both their anxieties about me and my own potential homesickness.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2005

Is she the kinda kid who likes to be involved? When I moved to school (an 8 hour commute....by plane), it sucked for about three days. Soon I became really involved in various clubs, plays and commitees. There is no way at ALL that I could've been that involved while living at home. No way. Plus, that level of involvement really helped me make loads of friends, and kept me from moping about being far from home.

Just my experience, but if she plans to be involved on campus, living at home probably won't work.
posted by stray at 7:55 AM on June 15, 2005

Is she the only one there on the weekends? Sometimes everyone goes home and it's pretty lonely in the dorms when that happens.
posted by agregoli at 7:56 AM on June 15, 2005

I should mention that a big reason I did not want to live in dorms were all the rules (mainly dry dorms, no girls after a certain hour), not to mention the shitty food and cramped space. For the love of God let her make a Long Island iced tea if she's not doing anything on a Friday night.
posted by geoff. at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2005

It depends a lot on what the dorms in that particular school are like. Some universities (MIT and Caltech are the best examples of this that I know of) have almost all students living on campus. Students get to choose their dorm, and the dorms have over the years developed very different cultures, so it's a matter of choosing the dorm whose culture appeals to you. Most friends are made within the dorm, and upperclassmen give a lot of emotional and academic support to frosh. Schools that have randomized housing [or something close to that] tend to have dorms that are much more... anonymous, I guess. People know they might not be in the place for more than a year, so they don't treat it particularly well and more friendships are formed outside of the dorms. Schools that have freshman-only dorms - well, if I'd been in that situation as an incoming frosh, I would've avoided dorm-life as much as possible. Without the example of upperclassmen who've learned how to balance academics, social life, activities, etc., I've heard a lot of bad things happen there. Particularly with regards to drinking. Try to find out which sort of dorm she'll be in, and make decisions accordingly.

It depends on the school's policies as well. Are there a lot of strict rules like those that geoff. mentions? Is it a school attended mostly by nearby students [who may go home on weekends]? Will she have to have a roommate? Try to get her a single, if that's possible - if she's shy and might not want to be forcibly exposed to drinking/a sexually active roommate/etc it'd be a very good way to address those concerns.

For me, living in a dorm was the only choice - but I would've made it even if I had an option. People who don't live on or near campus tend to be rather separate from the social scene; if your daughter does that her freshman year, when it's easiest to meet people, she may find it hard to make many friends [which will probably make the rest of college a little harder for her.] Also, your daughter's going to have to move out some time. Dorms provide a nice in-between space for young adults to get used to independence - things like rent, and utility bills, and cleaning the bathroom aren't issues yet, but students have a chance to start organizing their own time and [if they have a job] finances.

In addition, the commute would make things more difficult. I had an hour's drive on congested highways to high school. I was very aware of the fact that living so far away made it pretty much impossible for me to socialize with other kids [which, combined with the fact that I was a loner, meant I talked to almost no one.] For everyone else at college, life'll be focused around the campus. When she does meet people, she won't be able to casually get dinner or see a movie with them - 2 hours of travel time tends to make that kind of thing inconvenient. Getting up for tests and classes might not be great either - nothing like being late for a test because you were stuck in a traffic jam. There'll be a _lot_ of money going towards gas. And I always found myself tense, tired, and unhappy after my long drive to & from high school...

thomas j wise's suggestion sounds best to me - encourage her to live at the dorm but come home on weekends if she wants to. Homesickness shouldn't be too big a problem, but she'll still get the chance to become a little more independent.
posted by ubersturm at 8:40 AM on June 15, 2005

Thanks for all the advice. She's a quiet kid, somewhat involved at school with a boyfriend. She's going to Montclair State from Central Jersey. We told her she could come home every weekend for as long as she wants, stressed the great friendships she'd make etc. Had a meltdown that she's not ready, please don't force me. I don't have the heart to force her and my gut says don't, was just wondering how others fared in similar situations. If they regretted not living on campus. I would sum up from your answers that the majority of you advocate living away.
posted by Mutha at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2005

We offer a live-in orientation (three nights) that helps a lot of the new students make friends, find their way around campus safely and feel more comfortable about the transition. If the school doesn't offer something like that, maybe she and some friends who are planning to go to the same school could visit for a couple of days and stay in a nearby hotel or even vacant dorm rooms? I did a campus visit this way and stayed in a dorm room for ten bucks a night.

The trip could be organized under the guise of registering, visiting an advisor, getting her ID made, and all the other attendant bureaucracy that comes with freshman year. The fringe benefit is that she might actually enjoy herself and embrace the new responsibility.

I was like Decani, couldn't wait to have my freedom. But since I started working at a university, I've met a number of students with a great deal of anxiety. It's completely understandable. Consider any ambivalence you might have about the situation as well--she may be picking up on that. Or maybe she thinks you are trying to get rid of her?

On preview: she is more likely to finish if she spends her first year on campus. Some colleges require freshmen to live on campus for this very reason. Remind her that probably half of the students don't "feel ready" to go. It is a community and the staff, faculty and many of the other students will be very supportive.
posted by whatnot at 8:53 AM on June 15, 2005

Please live in the dorms...not only will it socialize her, but the stress (and waste) inherent in an hour commute is pointless.
I lived in the dorms for the first year, most of the people that i keep in touch with from college are the people i met in the dorms.
posted by schyler523 at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2005

Going to U of T in downtown Toronto I met a lot of people in my class (specialty program, so we all had several classes together) on the subway. It was great! Also, I think living at home for first year helped me a fair bit academically.

Commuting in a car is a totally different thing. Get rid of the car. Cars are evil!
posted by Chuckles at 9:03 AM on June 15, 2005

Mutha, you and your daughter have probably already looked at this, right? Just checking.
posted by whatnot at 9:07 AM on June 15, 2005

I graduated from college in 2002, for reference. I lived on campus, four hours away from my home, for four years. I cannot say how much impact that the friendships I made simply through proximity in those four years have had on my life.

Plenty of people I knew were homesick. Plenty of people went home a lot. But the school made it mandatory for freshmen to live on campus, and literally 98% of the student body lived on campus for their entire tenure at the school. The other 2% nearly all lived within walking distance of campus.

I cannot stress enough that I understand feeling disconnected and freaked out at being away from home and living with weird people that you don't know, but I also can't stress enough that I think it's an experience that you need to have. One thing that seemed to help some people I knew then and have known since was to spend time shopping for cool stuff to make their dorm seem more homey -- new sheets, comforter, posters. Depending on room, you may want to go to Goodwill and get an armchair (I had a small one in my room). If the school provides roommate information in advance, she should call her new roommate and have a talk or two -- it may help her to get a little more excited.

Care packages are also very cool. Brownies in the mail are awesome, even if you live within commuting distance. My mom shipped me fudge pecan pies. People loved me more than they did anyway when I brought those back from the post office.

I would also say that keeping in touch using email as opposed to ninety gabillion phone calls is better, but YMMV obviously. Some people schedule a once-a-week call. That's a good thing. It provides routine in a largely "what the fuck am I doing" time of a kid's life.

Regarding rules -- I happened to be in a very "liberal" housing environment where the only rule was basically don't break the law and don't piss off your roommate. Really, these are the two best rules of thumb anyway, but if she's concerned about being restricted, she should understand that there are ways to break rules and ways to not break rules. Don't be stupid, in other words, but have fun and be safe.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:09 AM on June 15, 2005

The boyfriend worries me. Honestly, having a significant other back home and not living on campus are the top two factors that increase the chances of a student dropping out after the first year (I just went to my little bro's college orientation).

I would guess (as I did before you mentioned that she has a boyfriend) that he is the main reason she's reluctant to live on campus. My little bro has a wonderful girlfriend from high school who will not graduate for another year and he is starting to worry about what will happen to their relationship once he gets to college. My stepdad is determined not to let the relationship stand in my bro's way and is not letting him have a car at college in part, at least, so it will be more difficult for him to run back home to see his girlfriend when things inevitably get a little tough and he gets lonely. I think this is a bit harsh, but I do think that you need to strike a compromise between supporting the relationship and looking out for your daughter's future happiness in college. I think that allowing her to come home on the weekends may be just right.

I say, if she's having a breakdown when the subject of living on campus is raised, then she's not ready for college. College is a big commitment, and she doesn't sound ready to commit to me. If she won't live on campus, maybe you should suggest that she take a year off.
posted by Crushinator at 9:13 AM on June 15, 2005

Ummm I completely disagree with Crushinator's advice that she might need to take a year off. You aren't ever going to grow up unless you are put in situations where mommy and daddy aren't there to bail you out.

If you aren't ready to have a kid and you have one anyway, you kinda gotta suck it up and try and do the best you can. Thats called growing up. The people who's parents try to shelter them from that are the ones who don't wind up growing up and live at home when they are thirty.
posted by jduckles at 9:44 AM on June 15, 2005

My friend used to communte an hour to school every morning. 1) You have to wake up very very very early to make your morning classes on time. If she starts missing them, then she will probably fail them. 2) She will probably have to stay on campus pretty late at night, especially around finals and such, since it is nearly impossible to get help from professors/study-buddies/etc when you're an hour away from campus. 3) She will miss out on a lot socialization with the other students, although I know many people who do have meaningful social lifes while living off campus for four years, it's very difficult. 4) She will have to eat crappy on-campus food all the time instead of going back to her room and eating delicious nutritious EZ-Mac.
posted by muddgirl at 9:45 AM on June 15, 2005

It sounds like she's just as scared as I was. (I went to R.U.) I thought that college was going to be just like high school, and I was dreading that nightmare - the thought that I wouldn't even be able to come home to escape it - ACK! Then I thought it was going to be like the Revenge of the Nerds movies - being made fun of and persecuted - UGH! I was terrified to go away.

By the end of the first night in the dorms, I knew it was going to be OK. Actually, better than OK, I knew I was going to have FUN. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. (Oh, and I didn't call home to check in with my parents for over 2 months! I was having that good a time.)

Reassure her that almost everyone feels like she does, and that everything will work out for the best. Staying home shouldn't be an option, especially since I know the roads she'll have to travel, and traffic is going to be hellish. Besides the fact that living at school is one of the most valuable and treasured experiences in my life (see what other people have already said) - I can't imagine anyone not wanting to do it.

Question: Is she really shy and introverted? Is she very clingy? Has she not done things before that she was "not ready for"? Maybe she just needs a little push so that she'll find her own self-confidence.
posted by MsVader at 9:47 AM on June 15, 2005

how long before you let her decide what she wants to do with her life?

as far as i read things, this isn't that you particularly want her out of your house (which to me seems a much more valid reason), but because you think you know better than your daughter what she should do. to the point where you're happier letting a bunch of strangers on teh internet decide, rather than her.

so when does that stop? if you don't agree with what she does at colllege are you going to make her come home again? when do you stop interfering and let her do what she wants?

it just blows my mind that people here thing that you make someone "grow up" by forcing them to do stuff. i thought people grew up when you let them take charge of their own life.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:19 AM on June 15, 2005

Good point andrew.
posted by caddis at 10:28 AM on June 15, 2005

andrew, yeah, but living at home can't be her unilateral decision. After all, it's Mutha's house.

Why not have her get an apartment off-campus? That way she can avoid the pitfalls of dorm life and still be able to socialize. For me, the worst part about the freshman dorm was having to share a room and losing privacy and independence as a result. Perhaps this is her situation as well.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:51 AM on June 15, 2005

andrew, i think that largely depends on the personality of the person growing up.

when i was younger i was very shy and not at all a risk taker. i was so introverted i wouldn't even ask a waitress in a restaurant for a straw! luckily, my parents would force me to do things outside of my comfort zone. now i'm much less introverted and able to handle my own social situations. i will actually push myself on my own to overcome fears or reservations and do things outside of my comfort zone. this past april, i went on a cruise in the virgin islands, even though i had never flown before and never been on a boat before. i am SO GLAD i forced myself to go on that trip because it was awesome. and if my parents hadn't taught me that i could overcome my fears when i was younger, i never would have done it.

this girl's parents don't have to force her to overcome her fears about moving out, but she may miss out on a lot and come to regret it later.
posted by geeky at 10:52 AM on June 15, 2005

jduckles wrote: If you aren't ready to have a kid and you have one anyway, you kinda gotta suck it up and try and do the best you can. Thats called growing up.

Who said anything about having kids? Besides, I think Mutha is looking for suggestions as to how to hopefully prevent her daughter from making a mistake, not how to force her to take responsibility for a mistake she hasn't...made...yet.

I also think that andrew's point is a good one: it just blows my mind that people here thing that you make someone "grow up" by forcing them to do stuff. i thought people grew up when you let them take charge of their own life.

The only thing I would add is that college is a big financial investment and unless her daughter will be paying for her own education, I think that Mutha should be concerned about how serious her daughter is about college and how happy she'll be there (if she is paying her own I way then she can clearly do whatever the hell she likes). People learn by making mistakes, but a mistake that costs thousands of dollars of someone else's money is selfish.
posted by Crushinator at 11:04 AM on June 15, 2005

Part of the problem, andrew cooke, is that sometimes someone who's been through an experience has a better idea of what it entails than the person facing it. It seems to me that Mutha's afraid that s/he might be enabling the girl to avoid facing her fears. Growing up isn't easy, and sometimes yes, it does take prompting on the part of others to go through with it. It doesn't seem to me that it would be "taking charge of the daughter's life" to say that most people face those same kind of fears going into college, and most of them end up loving it anyways. Forcing the girl to live in a dorm against her will isn't right, of course. But I, at least, certainly didn't intend to suggest that Mutha do that. Rather, I think it'd be reasonable for Mutha to talk with the daughter, perhaps relate some of the experiences and arguments people here have shared, and say "Listen, trying the dorm for at least the first term and coming home on weekends. You can always move out if you need to, of course, but it's worth trying." Seems like that would be a fine way to help the daughter grow up.

And Saucy Intruder - if the daughter's afraid to live in a dorm, would she really be able to handle dealing with landlords, rent, utility, laundromats, and whatnot? She'd still be on her own, and in addition to that she'd face a bunch of additional problems that wouldn't be there in a dorm. Also, unless she has friends heading to the same university, she'd still be living with strangers. It doesn't seem to me that living off campus as a first-term freshman is a great idea, especially when the freshman in question is so afraid of leaving home...
posted by ubersturm at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2005

...not to imply in any way that Mutha is concerned about money rather than her daughter's well-being.
posted by Crushinator at 11:09 AM on June 15, 2005

Mutha - I understand your daughter's reluctance to leave home.

But at the same time, you can let her know that this is also an opportunity. I could not afford to live on campus, and even though I went to a school with primarily commuter students, I still feel like I missed out on a lot, and had more trouble because of my commute. I did very well scholastically, considering I had no social life to distract me, but I also have no lasting friendships from my undergraduate university. The commute itself was a great deal of trouble (sometimes as much as 1hr 1/2, esp in rush hour traffic on the way home), though I was lucky in being able to use public transit - I could at least do my readings on the bus. I was already used to a commute of that length from high school, but I would never wish it on anyone who had a choice.

About the long distance relationship - they can work, especially if she is close enough to be home on the weekend. My fiance has lived on the other side of the Atlantic for the last three years. The important thing is communictation - lots of phone calls, internet chat, etc. Broadband internet is excellent for both of these.

Of course, it is your daughter's decision. But this is something that she may well regret, if she doesn't try it.
posted by jb at 11:15 AM on June 15, 2005

because you think you know better than your daughter what she should do

You say that as if it can't be correct.

But a normal part of being 17 or 18 is that *lots* of people, including strangers on the internet, know better than you about what's good for you, because they've been there, done that, and received the t-shirt while you have no relevant experience whatsoever. People think they know better because they do know better.

I would stress to your daughter:

(1) I understand -- everyone is nervous about moving out into a dorm. It's entirely normal to be concerned or worried. But I've been through it, and your mom has, and so have hundreds of millions of other people, and it's almost always been one of the best years of their lives.

(2) You're worried about your relationship with boyfriend. But you're always free to come home on weekends, and he's free to visit you in Montclair, even to make a trip for dinner. You living in Montclair shouldn't harm your relationship, and it should help to make your time together even more special.

(3) Going to college is a lot of fun, and it'll expand your horizons in more ways than you know now -- you'll come back for your first summer and look back and be amazed at what you learned in class, and even more amazed at what you've learned outside of class. But going to college is also a job -- a very hard job, one that takes well over 40 hours a week. If you want to do well at this job, you really need to be resident. If you're not resident, you're going to miss sleep and show up for exams groggy, you're going to get stuck in traffic and miss exams and lectures, you're going to miss study sessions, and you're going to miss lots of other interactions that really are important to doing well in college.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:29 AM on June 15, 2005

I lived on-campus my first year of college and wound up moving home for the rest of college (my commute was around 60-90 minutes by bus).

There's a lot of different reasons for not wanting to live in dorms. For me, it was really expensive and I found it to be a environment that didn't really encourage a lot of what I thought I should be getting out of college. It's social and convenient, yes, but it was a lot easier to take school seriously and have a much healthier lifestyle when I lived at home.

One of my classmates lived at home for her first 2 years, then moved into a house with someone closer to campus. She was really serious about school (I think she wound up summa cum laude) and, for her, it was more about finding the right people she wanted to live with and being more comfortable with who was she was around.

The other thing was a job. When I moved home, part of the deal was that I had to get a job (I used the proceeds to pay for tuition - wound up with almost zero debt). Having a job forced me to go to bed and wake up a decent hour, which made a huge difference in how often I attended class.
posted by milkrate at 12:02 PM on June 15, 2005

When I went off to college, money was tight, and I flew out all by myself. I was a little jealous of people who lived within driving distance and whose parents loaded up the family station wagon with stuff from home. I didn't have the money to fly home at Thanksgiving, and that was hard. That being said, living on-campus was a fabulous experience, and will help her feel more connected to the school. Basically, everything ROU_Xenophobe said. When you talk with your daughter, point out that she should think about the people who can't go home on the weekends, and feel lucky, rather than thinking about being forced to live in a dorm.
posted by ambrosia at 12:03 PM on June 15, 2005

Just want to add that I am 35, and my best friends *today* are the folks I met in the dorms my first year of college. I wouldn't trade knowing them for 5.2 million dollars US.
posted by tristeza at 1:01 PM on June 15, 2005

I really hated living in the dorms at first. I was homesick and missed my at-home boyfriend. I lived an hour and a half away from school and would go home every weekend to see my parents and my boyfriend.

Until one weekend when I stayed at school because some friends talked me into going to a Halloween party. I had so much fun, I never went home for a non-special occasion again. (I also broke up with the boyfriend shortly thereafter but maybe don't say that to your daughter since that could be part of what worries her.)

Can you tell her to try it for one semester then let her move back home if she really honestly hates it after giving it a shot?

(And ditto tristeza on early 30s, best friends met during dorm life, 5.2 mil USD part.)
posted by jennyb at 2:03 PM on June 15, 2005

According to Montclair's website, she's got Orientation in July. I would call them and ask if there's a tour of the residences or a possibility of getting one made for you and a chance to meet a residence director/advisor if possible. Orientation staff are there to make this type of decision easier and less intimidating.

Also, since she is flip-flopping on this, maybe get her registered for residence now, and offer to cancel it if she's still hating the idea by mid-August. Residence can be a great experience and get you acquainted with people who you never would have met otherwise since they're in vastly different programs. My hour commute is bearable only because it's on public transit and I can read/sleep/crochet/not get road rage, and I've managed to meet people at school only through working on campus and therefore getting involved socially with other work-study students.

Another idea might be to give her the task of joining X number of clubs/getting a job on campus/something that gets her involved with something other than just classwork and meeting new friends, otherwise she moves into residence in January. Make sure she doesn't just go to class and otherwise keep her high school life, it would be a shame.
posted by heatherann at 5:44 PM on June 15, 2005

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