Friday, January 18, 2013

To live or not to live … in the dorms

It's at least one of the college questions

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM

This is a question that crosses the mind of every college freshman. For students who have grown up in the Rochester area and have decided to attend RIT, the answer is slightly more complicated. Local students can easily decide to stay home and “save money,” or venture off into the unknown world that is dorm life.

RIT is the only college I applied to. My mother works at the school and it’s always been my fate. But I knew before being accepted that I wasn’t going to live in the dorms. Looking back, money and being a tad bit introverted kept me from choosing otherwise.

My little sister on the other hand, who is currently at freshman at RIT, couldn’t get out of our house fast enough.

“I wanted to have some independence and get away from my parents,” said my sister, Jessica Clark.

Although they didn’t have to pay for our tuition, paying for the dorms out-of-pocket wasn’t an option for my parents. So my sister took out a loan. And since she doesn’t have a hidden trust fund, my sister will eventually have to pay back every cent she is borrowing.

“It doesn’t seem real that I have to pay for it until I actually graduate,” she explained.

The idea of graduating debt free was very appealing to me. Why would I bother taking out a loan for housing when I could just live at home? Although I’ve never been particularly good with money, I knew I didn’t have much. The thought of spending over six thousand dollars to move 10 minutes down the road, didn’t add up. I considered this a mature decision - because hello! - that’s really expensive.

Elliott Schulz, a 2011 RIT graduate from Canandaigua, agreed with me. Since he had to pay for school on his own, being able to live at home during college was a significant way for him to save money.

“I was trying to cut costs wherever I could,” said Schulz, whose house is located about 30 miles from campus.

“It was cheaper, believe it or not, to buy gas to drive to campus than it was to pay for housing,” he said.

Chris Cahill, a fellow Rush-Henrietta resident, took sides with my sister. Although his house is located less than five miles from campus, he couldn’t have imagined living anywhere other than the seventh floor of the Gleason dorm his freshman year. Why? He also wanted some independence.

“I got to talk and see my parents when I wanted to,” said Cahill. Once in the dorms, Cahill said he didn’t feel like he needed to contact his family everyday.

However after graduating in May, Cahill will face about a $12,000 student loan. Knowing this information, I asked him if he’d change his mind if he could. His answer was immediate.

“No,” said Cahill. “Because the friends I’ve made are life-long and you can’t put a price on life-long friends.”

So did I miss out? Am I a 21-year-old friendless loser because I didn’t live in the dorms my first year of college? I’m in my third year now … have I survived?

My answer is yes. I think I made out just fine by living at home. I still made friends that I know will stay in my life forever and I’ve never had to experience what it’s like to wear flip-flops in the shower. I get to eat home-cooked meals everyday and sleep in my own bed.

Oh, and the best part? When I graduate, no student loans for housing will be knocking on my door. My advice is to take advantage of where you live if it’s close to your chosen college. It will pay off, or pay itself off, whatever works for you.

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