College life when your roommates are your parents

While living at home during college, Nicola gives some advice on how to make the most of it.

Written by Nicola Duffy


So it’s the summer before you begin college and you’re excited at the prospect of starting a new college year, with new friends, new hobbies and even new romances. For many young people, this is a time when they get to experience leaving the nest for the first time, but for others, the prospect of beginning college while also staying at home with their parents is daunting to say the least. I was terrified that I was missing out because I was forced to stay at home. While for many this isn’t the ideal scenario, there are so many things you can do to ensure that you don’t miss out on many of the things that your friends will get to experience while they live away from home. If you’re stressed about the prospect of living with your parents for the next few years then here are my top five tips to make the most of it. 

Recognising that you’re not on your own.

As the end of August rolls around, you may see your friends moving away to go to college in bigger cities and it may seem like you’re now facing the world alone, with just your parents for company! I know I felt like this when it happened to me. Living at home with your parents is not a unique situation and many other students have to go through the same thing for many reasons. For example it saves money, they may not be ready to move out of home, or maybe they’re just scared to leave their hometown in the pursuit of something new. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is to recognise that you’re absolutely not alone and plenty of other students are also in your situation so don’t stress.

Make the most of new opportunities.

If you’ve been left at home while all your friends have moved away for college, it can be an extremely lonely experience but there’s never a better opportunity to take advantage of opportunities in your local area and making a bunch of new friends that you would never have thought of before. Events such as local festivals, clean ups or volunteering can lead to making a whole bunch of new friends while also adding some amazing things to your CV. Join a GAA club, a book club or a dance class. Whatever you’re into, this will help you feel less like you’re missing out on the college experience.

Make use of your spare time

Although I lived at home for all of my undergraduate degree, I still had to spend a huge amount of time travelling because rural Irish public transport is not the best. During my bus journeys I was able to save time by downloading lecture notes and podcasts that I’d need to read for class, and if you’re even more prepared, print them out so you can highlight to your heart’s content while on your journey. Doing this keeps the material fresh in your mind before your lectures so you have more time for Netflix when you get home. Utilizing the college library is also really important if you have long breaks between classes because not only do you have no distractions that you’d have in your bedroom at home, but you can also get a large chunk of work done that you won’t have to do at weekends, leaving more time to hang out with your friends.

Remember college doesn’t have to be boring

Don’t get me wrong, living with your parents is not exactly the party going college lifestyle that people expect and also has far less nights out but that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re missing out. As cliché as it sounds, make sure you join clubs and societies on campus. In smaller colleges the society meetings are often between classes and not in the evenings as other students are also living close to the college so you’ll be able to meet people who are often in the same position as you and have as much of a laugh as people who have moved out. If you love a good night out, it’s highly likely that others in your class do too, and more parties happen than you think. Where there’s a will there’s a way and I can assure you there will be plenty of opportunity for the sesh.

Think of the benefits

While I know that having to live with your parents is less than ideal during what many consider the best years of your life, it’s important to think of the benefits. Firstly, saving money. If you live at home, no matter how much your parents ask you to contribute, it’s definitely not going to be anywhere near the rents that you see in the likes of Dublin city centre. Be grateful for this because your parents don’t really have to, but they’re helping you out a lot by reducing financial pressure considerably which gives you a chance to save for things like a J1 or a car. Secondly, you can look for a job locally that you can do at evenings and weekends. You don’t have to motivate yourself to travel long hours to get home for and it gives you a chance to save up. Finally, you get to stay in your room. While it can be hard to think of yourself as a grown up in your childhood bedroom, take the opportunity to redecorate. You’d be surprised what a fresh coat of paint and some new bedsheets can do for your mood. You also don’t have to adjust to moving home and stressing your parents out in May because they’re giving out about how much you’re going out as you’re used to living with them so nothing really changes.

My final piece of advice if you’re going to live with your parents during college is to chat to them about how you’re feeling, discuss how going to college changes your household dynamic and that in some cases they may have to treat you like more of a grown up and less of a child. This can be the hardest but most important conversation to have, and while your family may stress you out, be mindful of their feelings too as it’s also a big change for them. And for God sake don’t wake your siblings if you roll in drunk at 3am because mammy will not be pleased!

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