Should I Stay In State or Move Out of State for College?
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
In our last blog post, we discussed the relative advantages and disadvantages of public and private schools. This time, we’re shifting our focus to another commonly encountered quandary students face: whether to stay close to home or go out of state for college. Like public or private, west coast or east coast, small or large, or any number of decisions students need to make regarding which college they’ll attend, the issue of staying in state or going out of state for college is a complex and nuanced one. We’ve broken down the major benefits and drawbacks of each in order to help you make the best decision possible.
One major factor that informs the decision of whether to stay in or go out of state for college is cost. In general, staying in state is significantly less costly, for multiple reasons. If the school in question is a public school, one advantage to staying in state is in-state tuition – lower tuition fees that apply to students who reside in the state in which the school is located. The difference between in-state and out of state tuition at public universities can be tens of thousands of dollars, meaning that if your top choice is a public school and cost will be a factor in your ultimate decision, you may consider staying in state.
Even if your school is a private school, prices are often still reduced by staying in state. Many scholarships are offered through state governments, universities, or other entities to high-achieving students that stay within their state of residence for college. Furthermore, travel costs are largely reduced if your school is only a car, bus, or train away, and not a 5-hour plane ride. In cases of emergency, or even just for occasional visits, attending school close to home can be enormously convenient.
Therein lies another significant advantage of being close to home. Staying in your home state, even if you’re a few hours away from your hometown, still allows for relatively frequent visits, especially during breaks. Knowing family and friends are nearby affords comfort to many students who experiences pangs of homesickness or loneliness at college (read: nearly everyone!). For students who chose to move across the country, the prospect of going back home for 3 day weekends or brief holidays is a wonderful but oft-unattainable dream.
Additionally, the familiarity that comes with staying in the same state sometimes helps students to feel more at home or comfortable, especially when thrust into a totally novel and at times overwhelming environment. Even when hours away, staying in state usually means generally similar climate, similar culture, similar laws and customs. When so many other aspects of life are altered in a move to college, reliance on the familiar aspects of one’s home state can keep students grounded.
That being said, staying in state for college has some drawbacks as well. For students seeking a totally new and immersive experience in college, staying close to home doesn’t offer the same independence and excitement that moving cross-country or even to a nearby state may. The major advantage of moving out of state is the independence and adventure it offers. Attending college out of state allows students to visit cities and states they’ve never encountered before and forge their lifestyle essentially any way they choose to.
For students who seek independence and don’t shy away from the accompanying responsibility, out of state colleges are clearly a great option. However, as Uncle Ben of Spiderman fame once said, “with great power comes great responsibility”: while it may be nice to revel in the freedom of living in a totally new place with people your age and no parents imposing rules or restrictions upon you, moving far from home can require a more active effort on your part to stay focused on school. Because of the distance and because you are pretty much allowed to spend your time however you want, it may be more difficult to stay disciplined than if you remain relatively close. Freedom is awesome, but it’s easy to let it stand in the way of productivity if you’re not careful.
Despite the additional responsibility, however, going out of state for college can be an incredibly valuable experience. The differences in culture or lifestyle between one state or another, especially when said states are on opposite coasts, is occasionally jarring but almost always enlightening. Living in a new state with a culture that differs from what you’re accustomed to can pave the way for new experiences, new perspectives, and new patterns of thought that you may have never considered otherwise. The learning one experiences living in a new place can augment classroom learning in a variety of ways, and many students who have made the decision to attend an out of state college cite this as the biggest advantage.
Not only can traveling out of state provide learning experiences in a cultural sense, it can also allow you to make the most of your education. If you’re looking to attend a top school, that may require moving to the coasts if you’re inland or moving across coasts. For those seeking a career in technology or engineering, moving to Northern California, the tech capital of the country, may be the most advantageous choice; for those looking to get into finance, school in New York or New England might be your best bet. Furthermore, if you’re looking to attend a school with a highly ranked program in your specific field of interest, you might have to go out of state to find what you’re looking for.
The decision to stay in state or go out of state for college depends on a multitude of factors: personal finances, preference, career goals, and more. While it may seem like you can have only one or the other, many schools offer programs where you can study at different universities or satellite campuses, similar to study abroad programs but without students actually leaving the country. If you’re still having trouble deciding, look into whether the schools you’re considering offer such programs – you may just be able to have the best of both worlds. At the end of the day, attending college will be a transformative and exciting experience regardless of where you end up living.