For most students, their first year of college represents a newfound sense of independence by moving out of their parents’ home and into their dorm room. But for University of Georgia students who live in Athens-Clarke County and neighboring counties, some choose to forego the traditional dorm room experience and stay at home with their family for their first year of college.
The estimated cost of attendance at UGA for the 2018-2019 academic year for in-state students is $26,688. When viewing a breakdown of the cost, the estimated cost for tuition and fees is $11,830.
The other $14,858 comes from the estimated cost of books, supplies and living expenses, $4,820; a seven-day meal plan, $3,996; and the average cost of living in a residence hall, $6,042.
According to UGA Housing Services, a student must either live with their parent/guardian in the county of Clarke, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Oconee or Oglethorpe; have reached the age of 21 by the first day of classes; or have compelling, individual circumstances in order to exempt the first year live-on requirement.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, 89 freshmen exempted the first-year live-on policy, said Stan Jackson, director of student affairs communications and marketing initiatives, in an email. This is out of a total of 5,463 freshmen, according to the UGA Fact Book.
Easier on the budget
Students who grew up in ACC or a neighboring county may choose to live at home with their parents as a way to save money for the future and reduce the financial burden of attending college.
Chase Dudley, a sophomore biology major from Colbert, grew up in Madison County, north of ACC, and primarily chose to live at home for financial reasons.
“I have a twin brother who is also attending college, so any money that I can save to help out my family with their expenses is worth the commute itself,” Dudley said. “Beyond that, my situation is unique in that I have a basement apartment in my family's home with its own entrance and exit. In terms of isolation, it’s tantamount to living alone.”
Dudley said between the privacy he enjoyed and the money he saved, even if he could go back and change his decision, he would still choose to stay at home.
Aaron Cronon, a sophomore theatre major from Arnoldsville, also chose to live at home to ease the cost of attending college.
“It’s a lot cheaper commuting than paying for housing,” Cronon said.
Kendall Shook, a junior advertising major from Carlton, in Oglethorpe County, said she chose to live at home as a way to save money for the future.
“I could save money, so when I graduate, I can live wherever and have more money for that,” Shook said.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, UGA faced a housing crisis and did not have the amount of rooms needed to accommodate such a large number of students. Because of this, UGA offered a $1,000 incentive for students who live in ACC or neighboring counties to live at home.
Amelia DeLamater, a sophomore early childhood education major from Athens, chose to live at home because of the housing incentive offered.
“Because I live so close, I decided to live at home because it financially made sense. It gave another student a home who didn’t have one,” DeLamater said.
Attending college while under your parents’ roof
For some students, the idea of moving out college means more freedom, less rules and a new sense of responsibility. For other students, however, being able to stay close to their family is appealing.
Shook commutes approximately 35 minutes to campus, but she said living at home is enjoyable because she is able to spend more time with her family.
“They’ve always let me be independent, even in high school, so it was fine,” Shook said. “I didn’t ever feel like they were infringing on me or anything.”
DeLamater shares the same sentiments and said her parents were understanding while she lived at home.
“I never had a curfew or anything, but they just asked that I would let them know if I was home for dinner and when I was going to come home,” DeLamater said. “It was so fun, though, because we got closer, so it’s definitely something I wouldn’t trade for the world.”
For students who choose to live at home, they sometimes enjoy more privacy than those who live in dorms and receive the benefit of staying close to their family.
But for other students, their parents still enforce curfews and keep the same rules from when they were in high school.
“There’s definitely a lot less freedom because it’s not like I’m going downtown on the weekends,” Cronon said. “I still have a curfew, and my parents are wondering where I’m at.”
Cronon said if he had had the choice to live in off-campus housing instead of the dorms or with his parents, he would have chosen to do so.
Making memories and creating friendships
After leaving the dorms and moving off campus, students have their dorm life experiences to carry with them forever. For those who choose to forego dorm life their freshman year, they may feel as if they did not receive the same experience as other freshmen.
Cronon said because of the distance from his house to campus, he missed out on events that others were able to attend.
“I feel like it’s a lot easier to be part of the college culture if you’re living on campus,” Cronon said.
Because commuting every day may hinder building relationships and participating on campus, some students from ACC and neighboring counties chose to live on campus instead of at home with their parents.
Lindsay Upton, a junior early childhood education major from Lexington, said while she had the opportunity to exempt the first year live-on requirement, she chose to live in a dorm for the traditional college experience instead of commuting to campus.
Upton said by living on campus, it allowed her to participate in more activities than if she had lived at home with her family. She said some of her friends from high school who also attend UGA had a harder time getting involved on campus.
“They would have to worry about parking or commute 30 minutes to come to a one-hour event, whereas I could have just walked to the event and walked back to my dorm,” Upton said.
While Upton preferred living in a dorm instead of commuting from Oglethorpe County, some off-campus students, especially those who live close to campus, feel they had the same experience as those who lived on campus their freshman year.
“I [went to] the dining halls, had late nights studying and spontaneous adventures, which I feel are part of the freshman experience,” DeLamater said. “I spent the night at the dorms and am glad I got out of community bathrooms and fire alarms.”
DeLatamer grew up in Five Points, so her commute time to campus was minimal compared to some students. She said she feels as if she had the same opportunities to make friends as students who lived in dorms.
“I got plugged in with my sorority, clubs and Freshley/Wesley, which was super fun and never made me feel like I was left out,” DeLatamer said. “Honestly, it may have helped because people would always come to my house to have a home-cooked meal or see people who aren’t 18 to 24 years old.”
Although UGA has a reputation as a party school, it offers a different experience for everyone. Some students, especially those not interested in the party scene, may enjoy the solitude of going home after a long day of classes.
Shook said she is not into UGA’s party scene and did not feel like she missed out on the “freshman experience.”
“I don’t think I missed out on anything, but I could see why people would think that, if they wanted to experience that stuff,” Shook said.
And for some students, being able to live at home and not be surrounded by distractions allowed them to form good study skills and focus on being a better student.
“When I came into UGA, I did so with the intent of becoming the best student that I could become, as well as to develop independence,” Dudley said.
Many attribute the “freshman experience” to living in a dorm with other students, but Dudley said other opportunities allowed him to feel fulfilled during his freshman year.
“It’s essentially as if I had a small apartment off campus. I never got to experience ‘dorm life,’ and in that sense, I missed out on the prototypical ‘freshman experience,’” Dudley said. “But in all honesty, I'm not too worried about missing out on that particular facet of my education.”