As more and more young US adults attend college it has become an increasingly important filter in the process of becoming an independent household. Now for a large number of young adults living in the USA, living away at college is a first step in the process of gaining residential and economic independence. We analyze leaving home to go to college, the choice between returning home and becoming independent after living away at college, and the influence of experience with living away at college on becoming an independent household. We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and multilevel event-history and logistic-regression models to show that the likelihood of leaving home for college is positively affected by the father's education and the parental income. Unlike in previous research, we find evidence for the 'feathered-nest' hypothesis, in that the likelihood of returning home increases with parental income.