College: Are We Really That Independent?

While struggling to come up with an article topic for my weekly Her Campus article, my first instinct was to text my mom. Somehow just by sending that text, it was as if my topic of discussion had found me. My train of thought quickly turned to: I’m nearly 22 years old and am still looking to my parents for advice, am I really as independent as I think I am?

It is safe to say that most seniors in high school crave the “independence” that comes with being a college student after years of living under their parents’ roof and the rules that come with it. I certainly was one of those high school students who genuinely embraced the idea of living on my own and exploring things that maybe weren’t so common for some people in high school, such as doing all your laundry (even those tricky items), making sure my homework was done (ugh, responsibility), making meals for myself (I burned way too many meals), taking care of myself when I became ill, and countless other things. But the rather ironic part is that very often throughout my college years whenever one of these situations happened, I really didn’t know what to do, and I often ran to my main source of information and guidance: my family.

Don’t get me wrong, I will always, always, always go to my family whenever I need it, and I am grateful for the constant support and love that they give me, but the thought still sits with me: Are college students really “independent adults” or are we living in a facade of “adulthood” that is really just a stepping stone into full real world maturity? Take for example, eating in college… college dining halls and meal plan system for freshmen and sophomores may appear at first glance as a step of independence for students, but it is pretty similar to many students home situation from high school in the sense that they arrive, have the meal prepared for them, eat it, and go on their way. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this at all, and certainly it is a small step to achieving greater independence in later years when one has an apartment suite with a kitchen. However it is hard to believe that during these early years of college that full “independence” is achieved.

Despite the fact that college students move away from home and are “living on their own”, their independence does not often closely resemble someone who is fully immersed in adulthood after graduating college. Many (but certainly not all!) college students have their college financially funded (at least in part) for them by their parents, consult with their parents about which courses they will register for, and often call home frequently looking for life and love advice particularly in the earliest years of college. Many of us experience this type of social and financial support from our families during our college years and yet claim that we are “independent” and “on our own”.

Our parents are a support net, a combination of encouragement, love, and guidance, and a last connection to the dependence that has defined our previous 18 years of life. But during our four years of college, we are also slowly loosening the ties that have so tightly wound us to our childhood and to our family. We are becoming more “adult-like” in our appearance, in our mannerisms, in our life choices, and perhaps most importantly, in our independence. The great thing about constant support is exactly what the name says, it is constant, and therefore no matter how old we are or where we are in our lives, we will always have our family’s support even when we claim to be fully “independent”. Three years of college have taught me that it’s okay to try things on your own, to be independent, to explore, to experiment, to try, to fail, to make a mistake or two… but it has also taught me that when I need it, there is always and will always be support, love and guidance from my family. So maybe we are not as “independent” as we think during our college years and maybe the “real world” may be a bit of a rude awakening, but I always know that I will have my family cheerleaders rooting for me from the sidelines in the game of life.


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