I have spent my week trying to convince many parents of high school seniors accepted to four year colleges to let their children live in college dorms. They all have reasons why they want their children to commute. Surprisingly, for all social-economic levels, finances are not the major obstacle as the parents can either afford to pay for housing or financial aid will cover the majority of the costs.
As June 1 is the housing deadline for many colleges, I ask that you join me in advocating for a full college experience for students. I am grateful to Sherlyn Galarza, a first generation junior at Yale, and Jazmin Robles, a first generation graduate of UC Santa Barbara, for this help in writing this piece. Both have brave parents who let them live in college dorms, yet both have family members and friends whose parents sadly did not support this unique experience.
The following are some of our reasons why:
1. Academic Success. Students who live on campus can fully dedicate themselves to their academics. They can choose classes irrespective of the time they are offered, participate in study groups, visit and form relationships with professors, study in the library whose resources can come in handy at any point while preparing for exams or writing papers, and participate in campus-based academic projects and support communities. Living in campus housing, students can set their own study schedules, focus on their studies, and not lose time commuting.
2. Community Engagement. College is much more than academics. It is a time for students to immerse themselves in clubs and organizations, to attend university and student events, and to meet students from all around the world with similar and varied interests. Living on campus, students can explore all different kinds of campus activities and get engaged in internships and outreach projects. Ultimately, this allows students to discover and pursue their passions, giving them insight into their strengths and prospective career choices. Jazmin, for example, joined a multi-cultural sorority, got a job at the community teen center, and did a lot of community service in the local community because she was immersed in her college experience by living in the dorms. Sherlyn has joined a campus religious group and worked on public health projects.
3. Personal Development. College is a time for personal development. Living in the dorms, students get to meet all different kinds of people and socialize with them through the week and weekends by attending campus sporting and artistic events. During breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dorms, they can have amazing conversations with diverse peers. This allows students to build meaningful relationships with individuals who will challenge, shape, or strengthen their worldview as students develop into independent adults. The learning that happens outside the classroom is often just as valuable or an extension of what they learn in their classes.
4. Safety. Students are much safer living on college campuses than they are commuting to college campuses. The majority of campuses have resident assistants who help monitor the very secure dorms and advise students. They also have 24-hour campus security officers who can escort them to different locations on campus. Parents can still check in on their children via Skype, email, text, phone calls, and visits.
5. Lifelong Friends and Networks. Living on campus, students meet people that become their lifelong friends and join a community that helps them develop lifelong networks. Jazmin says she and her college friends from the dorms "were able to form a support group amongst ourselves. We helped each other with our homework and motivated ourselves to graduate with our BAs. Having that support group that understands what you are going through was really helpful. It gave me hope that I was not the only one going through the same experiences. I also now have friends who are lawyers, veterinarians, teachers, and community activists. I have a network that I can access because I met so many different people."
If you know anyone who may want to speak with parents who let their kids live in dorms, let us know, and we can connect you with these brave adults who realize that living in the dorms is an experience that will benefit their children for a lifetime. We can also connect them with current students who are experiencing the benefits of dorm life.
Also, remind parents, that they won't have to do their child's laundry (unless he or she brings dirty clothes home for vacation), and there are so many interesting things they can do with the empty bedrooms while their children are away.