More students are now living at home and travelling in to uni for lectures, says a report. It might make financial sense, but aren’t those students losing out on the overall university experience?
Latest figures from Hesa suggest that at some universities over half of undergraduates are ‘commuter students’. In other words, they are living at home and travelling in for lectures.
Unsurprisingly, the main motivation to stay at home is financial, with the price of halls eating up students’ budgets (especially since maintenance grants were scrapped a few years ago).
What do students gain from living at uni?
Personally, moving away from home and living with a bunch of people from completely different backgrounds was the most rewarding part of university. Sure, I enjoyed my course and got my degree, which set me on the way in my career; but it was the life experience of living in halls (and later a house share) that I cherish most.
When someone asks me about my uni days, I don’t really think about a particular author I studied, or the lectures I attended. Instead, I think about microwave fires, ‘ketchup wars’ and in-depth conversations (over a lot of vodka), which rolled into the small hours – all of which I would probably have missed out on if I’d stayed at home.
To this day, some of my closest friends are those I met and bonded with while living in halls. While I remember being anxious to live with strangers before moving (Only Child Syndrome, guilty), it was probably the best thing that could have happened to help me make friends.
We were thrown together and left to it. It was interesting how relationships developed, with some of the closest friendships in halls taking a couple of months to bloom. These were discovered, not as a result of a mutual taste in bands, but after initial differences, resolutions and deeper conversations.
Do commuter students get the full experience?
I know I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to live and study away from home. I’m sure I would have made commuting to classes work if I didn’t have the choice, but I feel like I would have had one foot still in my old life at home had I done that.
Would it have even felt like university, or simply an extension of college (only without my friends, who would have gone off to university anyway)?
Granted, a lot of these benefits have nothing to do with my course and what I achieved academically. They haven’t necessarily shaped my career prospects either (although I would argue that my social skills transformed at uni as a result of living in halls with strangers, which has contributed towards my confidence and ability to work with others).
The benefits of living at home…
It would be nice to think that those days in bed watching The Office with my flatmates could have been used more productively (ie. internships, work experience, volunteering) if I’d lived at home.
But then, I would have still had to travel to and from classes multiple times a week, which would have been another stress. I’m doing that now anyway as a young professional (and will likely be doing so for the foreseeable future); so why bear the agony of cancelled trains and armrest politics earlier than I needed to?
Perhaps, with no one around, I would have spent more time on my uni work? But then, I would have still had distractions like Sky TV (which, ironically, I didn’t have at uni).
Do you think living away from home is a key part of ‘The University Experience’? If you went away to university, what are your memories of halls – did you meet your best friends, or even your partner, there? Perhaps you were a commuter student – if so, do you think you missed out at all?