Junior Hayley Jensen is a Tommie Ambassador, a member of the St. Thomas Actuarial Science club and a Wells Fargo employee. She also goes home every weekend.
Jensen, who lives on campus but visits Stillwater, Minn. every week, is one of many students who come to St. Thomas from hometowns near the Twin Cities. The university’s top-10 feeder high schools—high schools that produce the greatest number of St. Thomas students—are all within 30 miles of campus.
In addition to nearby feeder schools, Marla Friederichs, associate vice president for Admissions and Financial Aid, said 63 percent of students have a home address within 30 miles of St. Thomas and 37 percent have a home address within 15 miles. That means 4,029 students out of the total 6,359 undergraduates live within 30 miles of St. Thomas.
Students’ close proximity makes access to their families and homes easier. But Toni Bock, associate professor of psychology, said it’s important for students to create communities on campus and gain independence instead of depending on their parents for emotional support.
“I think students are in … the developmental stage that they’re relying more and more on peers as a source of support and information,” Bock said.
Jensen, who goes home frequently because she works in her hometown, said although she sees her mom every weekend, she still feels independent.
“If I was a freshman, I think that going home all the time makes it difficult to really immerse yourself in college, but I’m older now,” Jensen said. “I don’t think that my independence is really an issue with being at home on weekends.”
Sophomore Nyasia Arradondo, who lives with her parents, said she originally planned to go to a music school in Chicago, but decided to go to St. Thomas to stay close to home.
“Honestly, I was really scared to leave home and go off on my own,” Arradondo, who is looking for an apartment near campus, said. “I love my home and family.”
Arradondo said she doesn’t assert her independence; it is earned.
“I never really fought with my parents or got into trouble, so my parents give me my freedom,” she said. “I can go out on the weekends and stay out late. As long as they know where I am, I can go.”
Bock said commuter students who live with their parents can become more self-sufficient by getting involved in on-campus activities.
“It would be a very good thing if those commuter students could find a way to be involved on campus in other ways than just their classes,” Bock said. “That gets them involved in the community and creates a sense of those commitments outside of the home.”
Sophomore Jack Teal goes home twice a month to get a break from school and see his family. He said depending on his parents once in a while doesn’t harm his sense of autonomy.
“I’m here enough, so when I go home it’s nice to have my dad and mom doing certain things (for me),” Teal said. “I get more time to myself.”
Bock said students who consistently depend on their parents can end up being close-minded or dependent in relationships, but college students are at an age when it is normal to depend on parents for certain things, especially financial support.
“Financial independence, even for college students, doesn’t happen a lot of times until after college,” Bock said. “I think a lot of (dependence) is more financially related rather than psychologically orientated.”
Jensen said she thinks every student has a different way of adjusting to being away from home.
“I think that every student is different, every person is different,” Jensen said. “I would say just do what you feel is good for you.”
Grace Pastoor can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.