How often should I go home from college?

Moving to college is a big step in a teen’s life. (and a parent’s life!) Starting in college or university is not just about classes and learning. It’s also about becoming an independent adult.

You should only go home from college once or twice per semester. Visits home should be limited to prevent homesickness and allow for college adjustment.

How often should you go home is a question that definitely will come up for discussion. Probably before you even leave for school. Here are a few points to consider.

  1. How far away is school?
  2. Making new friends in college
  3. Obligations to go home
  4. Keep in touch
  5. Enjoy your freedom

College is going to be fantastic. So much to learn and experience. So many firsts. You don’t want to miss out on any of the important things because you have gone home.

How Far Away is School?

This first question will probably determine how often you will return home from college. If you are in state but still living on campus, chances are you can travel home quite regularly. It probably will depend on public transport or maybe you have your own transport.

You may only be a couple of hours from home. But you need to factor in the cost of going home. The gas, the time spent traveling. If you are attending school out of state then the cost of going home is going to be much greater. There may be an airline involved or a train fare. If it’s going to take the whole or half a day to return home then you need to decide when you really want to travel. Be it thanksgiving or the holiday.

Going to and attending college is an expensive business, so travel costs on top of all that may not be in the budget. But don’t despair as most of your dorm will be in the same boat. A girl in our daughter’s dorm is from China and she only goes home in the summer.

If you are going to go to college out of state well this may not be a question that even arises.

Making new Friends in College

College is not just about learning. Of course, it is important but so is the social aspect. We live quite rurally and so my daughter loved that when she moved to the city she could mix with new people. This in itself is not always easy for everyone. Not everyone is a social butterfly. But guaranteed there will be some in your dorms. Try and gravitate towards them if you are a little shy.

If on the other hand, you were quite popular in high school you may be missing your group quite a lot. And that may be the motivation to return home regularly.

My friend’s son had a close group of friends in high school and was finding it difficult to be away from them. He felt he already had a group of friends, why did he need new ones? And because of this, he was traveling home or to one of their campuses each weekend, instead of settling into his own dorms and making new friends there.

It’s important to make new friends in college as this will be your home for the next four years or more. You want to have a support network around you and also want to have fun. College is about exploring new boundaries and experiencing new hobbies and activities.

If your mind is constantly in the ‘Home Zone’ or reminiscing about High School you’re not going to fulfil your college experience. There is literally every club and society available on campus, if there isn’t the one you’re looking for, then start it!

Getting involved in an activity will allow you to meet new people. You will have similar interests and so should mix well. You may or may not get on with those in your dorm but there’s sure to be one that you’ll click with.

The more you put yourself out there the quicker you will settle into college life. It’s hard to be away from friends and family but this is a new chapter in your life and you will only get out of it what you put in.

Obligation to Go Home

There may be an obligation to return home. But we must carefully consider who is benefitting from the obligation. If it is not you as a student then you need to look more closely at this.

Part-time job

If this is a reason for you returning home then you need to quit. Of course, money and earning it is important but there’s always a chance to get a part-time job near the college.

Pressure from Family

This could be another reason for going home. When our daughter left for college, I really missed her. I worried about her all the time. Was she going to class? Was she eating properly? Was she safe? I wanted her to be back home as much as possible. But this was a purely selfish motive. I was thinking of me and not her. She did come home quite often initially but the more she mixed and made new friends, the less we saw of her.

This is obviously the correct outcome for being away at school. You want your child to become independent and an adult. It’s hard as a mom not to be needed as much as before. But they know they can call you no matter what, well that’s what counts.

As a student away at college, you should not be going home because your mom and dad miss you.

In relation to parents and college, I also wrote; Why is my mom upset at me leaving for college


As I mentioned before you should also not be traveling home regularly to meet with high school friends. Thanksgiving or the holidays is a great meet up time but not more regularly than that. Of course, it’s good to stay in touch, but more often than not it was just high school that was keeping you all together.

In college you are surrounded by like minded people. People with goals, ambition, an interest to succeed in a particular field. If you friends from high school are also driven like you they will be finding their feet on a different campus. If you are going home to visit friends that opted not to go to college you’ll quickly find that you have drifted apart. You have little in common anymore. They are usually still in high school mode as they haven’t quite found their path yet.

If you are interested, I also wrote a post on not going to college. You can find it here; What if I don’t want to go to college? Exploring alternative paths

Keep in Touch

You’re probably thinking ‘Keep in Touch’, you just told me to cut loose and run! Well there is a difference. Keeping in touch is so easy these days, with social media and texts.

The most important person (I know from experience!) to keep in touch with is your mum (or dad)(or the significant adult in your life). This is both for your benefit and theirs. If they text you, try and text them back as soon as you can. This is not always practical I know. You could be in class or study group but the longer you leave it the more anxious they get. This will ease with time.

It’s easier if they know your timetable, then they won’t interrupt you, or try and have a set time each day, or every second day for a quick catch up.

They’re not checking up on you (not really!) they just want to make sure you’re ok.

You are possibly their first child to leave home and yes, they are definitely worried about you.
It’s also important to keep in touch with your old high school friends. There’s a difference between going home to visit these friends and the odd catch-up text.

I noticed that my daughter doesn’t really meet up with friends from high school anymore but they do still text each other.

They can be of comfort if you’re feeling a bit homesick.

It’s like being at home but not. The more time you spend thinking about going home, the less you are fully experiencing college life, and the more homesick you will be. Every time you return home, and then return to college will be tougher. The dropout rate in freshman year is 30%, which is a huge figure.
You have worked really hard to get there. Don’t let others at home crush your dream.

Some parent tips about a teen not returning to college can be found here; Teen won’t return to University

Enjoy your freedom

College is about more than classes and study. It’s about expressing who you are. Dressing the way you want. When you move to college you can become whomever you choose to be. Chances are you won’t know anyone, so lose your inhibitions and become your best you.

This doesn’t mean going out and doing stuff you’ll regret in the morning. Of course, be safe but lots of teens find out who exactly they are in college. Your views and opinions are tested by all kinds of different people. You may have been in the shadow of others in high school or even more so at home with siblings. This is your time to shine. Go join that salsa group, the photographic club, or whatever it is you never felt confident enough to do before.

But you won’t fully enjoy college if you are returning home on a regular basis. Your focus should be on your new friends, your new societies and clubs, and maturing as an independent adult.

Our daughter told us only last night that a girl in her dorm had shaved her head! At least she has until the holidays to grow it back, if she doesn’t like it, or if she thinks it’s not going to go down well at home.

But it’s about pushing the boundaries. Finding yourself. Which of course sounds cliched but this is more than likely the first time you have lived away from home, to have to fend for yourself.

If you are running home with laundry every weekend and returning to college with homemade food for the week then you may as well still be at home.

Decide that you are going to go home maybe twice/three times in the year and stick to it. Your college experience and you as a person will benefit greatly because of your decision.

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

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