Choosing How Far Away to Go to College
Some kids have dreamed of getting as far away from their hometown as they can from elementary school. Maybe you’ve been landlocked your whole life and have visions of a dorm overlooking the beach. Maybe you can’t wait to trade your rural upbringing for the hustle and bustle of the big city. Others have had their sights set on staying close and getting to drop in on their family for weekend dinners (and laundry sessions) when they graduate high school and head to college.
Whatever your dreams have been, you may find the reality more complicated. Now that the choices are opening up before you and it’s time to really decide what the next four (or more) years of your life might look like, you might surprise yourself by wanting something different than you’d planned.
But how do you know whether heading far from home or staying close is right for you?
Let’s look at what’s at stake in the decision.
Staying Close to Home for College
Staying close to home has its obvious benefits. By sticking close to home, you may have easier access to your support network, and you might even be able to save some money. Here are some of the top reasons to choose a school that’s nearby:
• Receive Local Tuition Rates- Many schools offer discounts for students who live in state or even in the district (common for community colleges). Choosing a school close to home may save you serious tuition dollars!
• Have More Living Arrangement Opportunities- Many students who attend a school close to home continue to live with their parents or guardians and are able to both save money on living expenses and have access to a full house rather than just a dorm room.
• Continue Existing Support Networks- From friends to family, staying close to home can keep you connected to the relationships you’ve already built. It’s great to be able to grab dinner with friends to vent about your hard classes or stop in to visit your family frequently.
Going Far Away for College
At the same time, packing up and heading to a distant locale for your education has its own set of benefits.
• Get Outside Your “Bubble”- College is about learning new things, and that doesn’t happen exclusively in the classroom. As Inside Higher Ed reports, heading to a more distant college gives you the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and gain experience you wouldn’t otherwise gain.
• Embrace Independence- Living further away from home means that you’re more likely to have to problem solve on your own when your parents/guardians aren’t just a quick drive away. This can help you gain independence and feel more confident in handling challenges.
• Reinvent Your Sense of Self- Many students who go far away for college report a feeling of freedom to shed the parts of their identity that no longer fit them and fully embrace who they are becoming as a young adult.
The truth is there’s no easy answer about whether you should stay close to home or head to the great beyond. Both have their benefits, and the flipside of every benefit is a potential drawback.
One thing to keep in mind is that no decision is permanent. If you make a choice that’s no longer working for you, you can explore transfer options or find other ways to make it work better (such as living in a dorm even if you stay close to home to gain more freedom).
This is a time of change and growth, and experimenting with the possible paths toward your next stage in life is part of the process.