How Often Do College Freshman Really Go Home?

Walking around my resident area on the Western Washington University campus late on a Saturday I noticed how quiet it was. Earlier that week on Thursday the Beta-Gamma resident area was abuzz with students shouting, laughing, and talking as they went about their day. Some were also blasting music from their dorms, doors open wide so anyone could pop in and say hello. I soon began to notice a pattern with weekends being much quieter than their weekday counterparts. Of course, there was the occasional Saturday night that was loud and unruly, but for the most part, weekends were relaxing and peaceful. My resident area was not the only one with this occurring however, many of my friends found their resident halls to be quieter on the weekends than they anticipated. We wondered if many of the students were going home rather than spending their weekends on campus.

Highland Hall Resident Area

I posted a survey on the “You’re in! WWU new students 2016” Facebook page which consists of the entire freshman class at Western, the ones with Facebook anyway, my survey asked students how often they went home with the answer choices being, every week, every other week, every 2 weeks, once a month, once every couple of months, only on breaks, and not at all. I was very surprised with my results which revealed only 3% go home every week, while, 43.75% of students said they go home or plan to go home only on breaks. However, as I thought about it more that answer seemed to make sense. Most freshmen do not have their own cars on campus and have to rely on family or friends to get a ride back home. Also, if a student lives really far away they probably have to fly, which is expensive and time-consuming. The responses to this question led me to ask another one, “Why do students go home?” I posted another survey to Facebook with responses being family/pets, food, friends, own space/privacy, significant other, work, and other. The results were what I expected, with the top responses being family/pets and own space/privacy. This response also seemed to go along with the top answer to my previous question, since most breaks occur around holidays and typically students want to spend holidays with their families so they go home. But if the students were only going home during the breaks, then why were the weekends so quiet? 
 I turned to how most students respond when my teacher or another student asks them what they did over the weekend. The most common response seemed to be, “Nothing much” or “Just hung out”. Both of these statements can translate to staying in the dorm and watching shows, playing video games, or doing homework. This makes sense to me because after a long week of classes most students want to relax. When students aren’t in their dorms they may also be off campus exploring what, the surrounding area has to offer. For Western students, Bellingham and Fairhaven offer a variety of shops, restaurants, hikes, and other outdoor activities to enjoy. Students probably want to explore the area they are now living in and enjoy their growing independence.

Aerial View of Bellingham Washington

Many articles I read on the internet talk about how the modern freshman goes home practically every weekend and is hardly ever on campus. An article by the New York times stated “The empty nest isn’t what it used to be or what many parents expected it would be when they left their children at college…many college students — or those within several hours or their old bedrooms — seem to be home almost as much as they’re away” (Gardner). The data I collected contradicts this article since most students are basically only going home when school is out for an extended period of time. It seems Western students really want to experience living on their own and becoming independent from their parents. This may be the main reason why most students plan to only go home over the breaks.
 For many freshmen going home is their main source of comfort and gives them a break from the challenges that come with living on your own for the first time. Western freshmen seem to return home only on breaks with plans to see their family and friends and enjoy the comfort of their own space. For Western freshman independence seems to be important and a key factor in their college experience. If someone expanded this research to other universities, it could lead to knowing more information about how often the average freshman returns home and the growth freshman go through their first year of college.

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