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Which Experience Yields the Best Grades: College Away or Commuting?

PlainsmanPlainsman Registered User Posts: 1,503 Senior Member
edited July 2010 in Parents Forum
For me, I always did my worst academically when I lived at home. I excelled when away from home, living in a dorm, having independence. I've never been able to figure out why some students see their academic performance go in the wrong direction when they get away from home and hearth and the old neighborhood. For me it was just the opposite. And I had a fairly good sample size: Two undergraduate colleges, two graduate schools, one professional school. When I was away, I did great; when I lived at home around a familiar environment and commuted I didn't do as well. And it wasn't because I hung around with buddies at home or partied. As strange as it sounds, I never partied, home or away, and the only time I drank alcohol was away. I played golf away and never played golf at home. One would think being away would be more not less difficult. It seems most people on CC are the opposite.

Anyone have an experience similar to mine?
Post edited by Plainsman on

Replies to: Which Experience Yields the Best Grades: College Away or Commuting?

  • mommusicmommusic Registered User Posts: 8,301 Senior Member
    Totally depends on the kid. I have a nephew who is commuting and doing great. He is very level-headed and just didn't want to live away from home.

    At my son's orientation last week, one of the speakers stressed that even if you are a commuter, you should stay on campus as much as possible. Don't think of your classes as isolated incidents a couple of times a day for whatever days you have them. Go to class and stay on to participate in activities, esp. ones related to your major and especially STUDY GROUPS.
  • MomofWildChildMomofWildChild Registered User Posts: 21,814 Senior Member
    Plainsman- your sample size is 1. You.
  • college_querycollege_query Registered User Posts: 3,991 Senior Member
    I work at a university that did a study and found that students who lived in the dorms had higher GPAs than those who lived at home. Our school used to be more of a commuter campus that has evolved to have more of a residential presence.
  • glidoglido Registered User Posts: 5,710 Senior Member
    It depends on the kid. Everyone is different. Will the high school buddies be a distraction? What are the study habits of peers? What is the personal discipline of the particular child?
  • saxsax Registered User Posts: 5,428 Senior Member
    H and I both commuted to save money. We also worked part time jobs to pay bills. One semester he had to have two part time jobs. It killed his GPA. I got great grades. I lived at grad school (no job) and didn't do quite as well but I think it was because it was more difficult. Who knows.
  • 3togo3togo Registered User Posts: 5,233 Senior Member
    edited July 2010
    I work at a university that did a study and found that students who lived in the dorms had higher GPAs than those who lived at home. Our school used to be more of a commuter campus that has evolved to have more of a residential presence.
    I wouldn't draw a conclusion about causation from that stat ... I'm not too surprised by the stat ... but it does not say that if a student living in a dorm switched to commuting their grades would go down. My guess, and it is a guess, is that this stat has a ton of self-selection in the groups of students ... the students commuting from home are much more likely to have less money (and likely working more), or to have major family obligations (working for the family or taking care of a family member), or come from a less stable home situation ... all things that would tend to lower GPAs ... and have nothing to do with an independent choice of living at home or in a dorm.
  • momma-threemomma-three Registered User Posts: 2,762 Senior Member
    I don't think there is a one size fits all in the case of going away to college vs living at home and commuting. There are so many varibles at work in this situation that one can not assume there is a better way. There are kids that for whatever reason just can't live on a campus. There are also kids who are living on campus where the financial burden is causing them to work many hours to help out with the cost. For those students it may have been easier if they were living at home and commuting. Of course living at home does not usually offer the option of commuting to most students.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 14,530 Super Moderator
    I see horrible gpa's from both commuter & residential students. The flip side is, I see great gps's from both commuter & residential students. It depends on the kid - and sometimes on the home situation (bad home environment = environment not conducive to studying).
  • shillyshallyshillyshally Registered User Posts: 1,171 Senior Member
    For me it was motivation and determination. I was never a committed student - high apptitude, low commitment and went to college when I was 16. I took a year off between sophomore and junior year to have my oldest daughter and transferred to a local university. I finished with a 4.0 because I had something to prove to myself and what I felt the world around me as a teen mom and I knew I wanted to get that degree. I honestly don't think it mattered whether I was on campus or commuting but for me it was that life had changed and I focused and worked hard. It also helped that the last 2 years were classes focused on what I was passionate about and not general requirements I had the first 2 years at the LAC.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,020 Senior Member
    I think you would have to look at any comparison along these lines to make certain it had taken other variables into account. For example, I would guess that commuting students, on average, are facing more economic challenges than those living in the dorms, and that those challenges and what they have to do to deal with them affect their grades.

    My sister-in-law teaches at a large urban public university with lots of commuting students, but has also taught as a visitor at places like Swarthmore and MIT. She says that the big difference between her regular students and those at fancier schools is that the ones at fancier schools either don't have jobs at all, or work 8-10 hours/week, and are much more focused on their schoolwork as a result. Where she teaches regularly, many/most of the students have to work real jobs to afford their public-university tuition and pay their living expenses, so they are always juggling responsibilities.
  • PlainsmanPlainsman Registered User Posts: 1,503 Senior Member
    JHS, I think you are correct. When I commuted, most of the time I was working, usually 40 hours per week on a midnight shift in factories with a full course load 15 - 18 credits in the day time. I had no social life, because there was literally no time. My grades did drop. But there were occasional semesters between jobs when I didn't work (I also made enough from when I did to take a semester off here and there). My grades were no better than when I wasn't getting any sleep. It's not like I had a bad home life with my parents or anything because I didn't. But stick me in a dorm and I was a near 4.0 student.

    I'm beginning to think in my case the problem was less communting vs. dorm. The problem was going to school in New York City or close to NYC vs. going to school in the boondocks, far away from NYC or any large city. Even though I grew up in the NYC metro area, I fell in love with the boondocks. Perhaps I knew it even as a college/grad student long ago. I needed the boondocks or I couldn't study. I think this is why I've pushed my own kids to go to college in the boonies. I assumed they were like me, and so far, they are proving me correct. My commuter D1 is not doing nearly as well as D2 who goes to college in the middle of nowhere, so she lives in a dorm. Chips off the old block I guess.
This discussion has been closed.