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This week's question from Jordan T., Brooklyn, NY asks:

Aside from the difference in tuition, what are the benefits & drawbacks of going to a school in-state vs. out-of-state?

Adventure Awaits You Out-of-State

Marilyn Emerson | Founder
Response: Attending college away from home can be exciting. There won't be many people who know you, so you can start with a clean slate. You will have a new place to explore, new people to meet and an opportunity to experience different cultures. When you graduate you will be much more interesting than those who stayed within their comfort zone. J.S. Lehman, former President of Cornell, said it well, "May you frequently travel beyond the places that are comfortable and familiar, the better to appreciate the miraculous diversity of life."

Affordable, honors programs and cheap laundry

Hamilton Gregg | Educational Consultant
Attending school close to home has many benefits. First off, it is cheaper than going out of state or going private. The savvy student could negotiate the offset tuition costs for a down payment on a car. Secondly, bright students might find consolation in honors programs offered at State schools to pique their intellectual curiosity. Many honors programs offer significant challenges and unique programs equivalent to private school programs. Third and finally, being close to home means some home-cooked meals and coin-less laundry machines. Don’t expect mom to clean up after you, but you never know.

An Opportunity to Try Something New

Kiersten Murphy | Director
I am a firm believer that spending four years away from home can be of great benefit. When in your life can you easily pick up, move to a new state, explore the local culture and then move back home at the end? Your time at college should be about new beginnings and spreading your wings. If you are further from home, you are forced to engage in the college community and can’t run home as a safety net. Students spend too much time worrying about their ability to get home – oftentimes it will take just as long to drive home as it will to fly.

Closer is Safer, but Further is Independence

Jolyn Brand | Founder & Director
The benefits to attending an in-state school are the reduced costs, not only in tuition but in trips home, and storage or moving your things. Another benefit is being close to home, which will be convenient for weekend trips home, if you get sick, or if there is an emergency. The benefits to going out of state are more independence and being able to meet more diverse people, and not just rely on the same kids you went to elementary school with. Some disadvantages with a school far away include a tougher transition to college life, being homesick, being lonely while you adjust and make new friends.

College Location Has Potential Pitfalls and Benefits

Kristen Tabun | Director of College Guidance
In a given year, about half of the students I work with choose to attend college out of state. One drawback of attending college close to home is that some students take advantage of their proximity to go home frequently, especially during their first semester of college. As a result, they may take a longer time acclimating to their new life at college. Students who go further away from home often develop a greater sense of independence sooner. It's important to reflect on how much independence you're ready for before you make that final decision.

Either way, going to college is an adventure

Alison Almasian | Director of Admissions
College is a great adventure, whether you stay close or venture far from home. College life is, itself, a big change. You’re expected to be much more independent and responsible for your own success. Attending a closer-to-home college could help ease the transition, since you won’t be learning to cope with a completely new environment. (What’s that white stuff falling from the sky—you mean I can’t wear flip-flops all year round?) However, it’s that opportunity to experience a whole new environment that makes going out-of-state so exciting. Since many students will return to their home areas after college to work, going out-of-state can open up so many new horizons--a chance to experience new weather patterns, sports/activities, and even different cultures (yes, there are cultural differences in various states and regions of the country!) Whatever you decide, enjoy the adventure!

Find the best fit. Consider a location where you will be successful

Kathryn Favaro | Independent College Admissions Counselor
The best college experience comes from finding your best fit school. There are many factors to consider and location is definitely one of them. Some students feel the need to leave their state and explore a new part of the country while others feel more comfortable staying closer to home. An out of state experience can expose you to new people, geography, and don't forget - weather. Remember to think about additional criteria like the learning style, size, majors, culture, and research/internship opportunities at each school you are considering. Try to find schools offering all your college "must haves" and stay open minded to location.

Going Out-Of-State is a Challenge and an Opportunity

Lora Lewis | Founder & Educational Consultant
Taking on a new college, city and state all at once can be an opportunity to venture outside your comfort zone and find out who you really are and who you really want to be. Without family and friends nearby, you’ll quickly become more self-reliant and empowered to manage your own life. Homesickness is inevitable, but distance can deepen connections with family and friends and enable you to appreciate these relationships in new ways. While not for everyone, an out-of-state education can be a great way to begin discovering yourself and exploring what the world has to offer.

Going to an out of state school can be an enriching experience

Sandy Furth | College Advisor
From academics to culture to recreational pursuits, an out of state move provides enriching opportunities for students. It can mean an entirely new environment from weather to friendships to a deeper cultural understanding of our country. These moves may entail a bit of gutsiness, independence and some wanderlust. What might they offer? Academics aside: A landlocked state to Florida: Learning a new sport; fishing or scuba diving. Florida to Colorado: Learning a variety of snow sports. Culturally: A student who left the Midwest to University of New Mexico, she learned as much from the cultural aspect of the Southwest as she did from her academic pursuits.

Grow in confidence and independence by going out of state

Jacqueline Murphy | Director of Admissions
College is seen as preparation for a career, but it is also a transition from adolescence to young adulthood. The greatest benefit of going to school far from home is the growth in confidence from being away from home while in the supportive community of a college or university. Being pushed out of one’s comfort zone, learning how to negotiate through a new location and doing so together with new classmates can build confidence and independence. You won’t earn credits in self-sufficiency but you will come home a more mature, self confident young adult. An example A young woman who suffered separation anxiety was concerned about leaving home but saw the benefit of pushing her limits. Choosing a school four hours from home was a challenge and was not without rocky moments the first year. By junior year, she had the confidence to spend a semester in Vienna Austria, traveling around Europe independently nearly every weekend. Upon graduation she moved from her rural home town to a large eastern city with no problems at all. She attributes her success to that first difficult choice to go to selecting an out of state college.

In a bad economy, public in-state schools grow in popularity

Craig Meister | President
Increasingly, public in-state colleges seem to have an edge with applicants because the nasty economy has put downward pressure on what students and parents are willing to shell out for tuition and travel costs. Other benefits of staying close to home include the ease of getting home in an emergency and the likelihood that nearby colleges will have relatively high placement rates with local employers. The latter is attractive to students who want to live and work close to home after graduating. In a difficult economy, the risks associated with going to college far away seem to add up fast.

Is the best school for you in your backyard?

Donnamarie Hehn | Director of College Guidance
Too often, students define the college experience as an escape from the familiar and overlook the potentially best school for them because it is located in their home state. There is merit in moving away from home: independence, different cultural experiences, new friends, full immersion in college life. However, all of these can be achieved while still living in-state: live on campus, join campus activities, attend cultural events on campus. No matter where you attend college, you will need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and be open to new experiences to maximize your university experience.

Leaving Home: Sunshine and reputation versus networking and familiarity

Joan Casey | President
An out-of-state option may offer benefits such as a stronger academic reputation, a location with year-round moderate temperatures, access to a vibrant college town or outdoor activity such as skiing. Alternatively, as an out-of-state student, one needs to evaluate how it will feel to be one of the few non-natives on campus. Will a Red Sox fan be happy in Yankee territory? Students traveling far from home may find few on campus who share their religion or culture. If the student plans to return home, he may lose career-networking opportunities with home state alumni. Either option can be the right choice depending on the student’s goals and priorities.

Look before you leap….to a different state!

Shelley Krause | Co-Director of College Counseling
While it seems exciting to meet new people and discover a new part of the country, consider all factors when making that decision. For example, the tuition and fees for out- of-state students may mirror the cost of attendance at a private college, the majority of the students might be from area high schools, the classes might be very large, and post graduate employment opportunities may not be in your area. If cost is a consideration, you will be best served at your own public universities. If cost is not a consideration, consider attending a private college!

Look with different eyes!

Roby Blust | Dean of Admissions & Enrollment Planning
Many students don’t consider a college in their hometown or home state because they believe they know it too well – because they pass by it frequently. I would advise you to visit this school like you would an out of state institution. Make an appointment with the admissions office, take a full tour, eat in the cafeteria, stay overnight if available – in other words, look at this school like you would if it was located may miles from home. This will allow you to see it with different eyes, and you might like what you see!

Make new friends in a familiar place

Pamela Ellis | Founder
The obvious perks of staying close to home for college are the familiarity you already have with a place and an established support network. On the other hand, these benefits can be drawbacks when students limit their college experience by an over-reliance on familiarity and the same networks. College is a time of amazing development that local, in-state students should still take advantage of by joining clubs, residing on campus, and creating new networks/communities.

Managing costs and comfort levels to find the right fit

Nicole Oringer | Partner
The “in-state vs. out-of state” question is usually seen as “affordability vs. adventure.” In the end, it’s less about proximity to home and more about what feels right. If students are ready for the college experience and comfortable enough to get involved academically and engage in campus life, they will love whatever college they choose. Also, comfort levels can change! A local student might love the first couple of semesters of being close, but then want to spread his wings, and an out-of-state student might feel very challenged in the beginning, but make a home out of new location.

Pros and cons of attending college in state and close to home

Susan Marrs | Director of College Counseling
Pluses: You'll probably know more people right away than if you went far away; you can get home fast if there's an emergency (or a party); and if you end up living and working in the same state, you'll graduate with lots of contacts. Minuses: You may never stretch yourself socially if you rely primarily on your high school friendships; you may, by default rather than by choice, limit your professional options to employers that recruit locally; you may regret trading familiarity for adventure.

Should I stay or should I go now…If I go…

Rebecca Joseph | Executive Director & Founder
Geographic, financial, and familial boundaries often determine where students attend college. In-state costs of public universities are often ½ to ¾ of out-of-state public or private colleges. However, many public universities have hiked costs in this economy, so some out-of-state and private colleges are powerful choices. Did you know many states participate in consortiums of colleges that reduce out-of-state costs (e.g. the Western Undergraduate Exchange)? Yet choosing a college should center on fit--academic, social, size, spirit, extracurricular. And sometimes out-of-state private and public colleges offer merit scholarships that make them financially possible. So discuss these possibilities early and often.

Small steps or big steps toward independence?

Joanna Schultz | Director of College Counseling
Students attending school in-state may have easier access to their families, which can have advantages and disadvantages! They may also pay less, especially if they choose to attend one of their state’s public institutions. Students choosing to attend school out-of-state, especially when they’re too far from home to have easy access, make a cleaner separation to start their adult lives life since they cannot rely as easily on family. They may also experience a greater diversity of peers, an important part of learning how to be an adult in a global, changing world, and expand their horizons well beyond home.

Sometimes, it's all about whom you know!

John Carpenter | Founder
Staying in-state is a great option, and it means you will have many opportunities to create or strengthen a local network of support both while you're in school (for internships and volunteer gigs) as well as when you finish school (for jobs, co-ops, graduate school contacts, and so on.) Don't underestimate the power of being known and knowing others; your contacts during your undergraduate years can become what propels you forward for the rest of your life. Staying close to home also allows you to give back to your own state, using what you learn and whom you meet to make things better; by staying home, you're fighting the "brain drain" that so many communities worry about by being part of a real solution. You can still spend a year abroad, travel to different cities, explore the world and have your own state as your home base.

Staying close to home isn't so bad!

Maureen Lawler | College Counselor
There are several benefits to attending an in state institution. Those benefits include being close to home, reduced transportation costs since sharing rides is possible. You can go home for the holidays, you can take your laundry home, and you can enjoy mom's good home cooking. You will have friends around so you will be in a comfortable surrounding. With benefits there are drawbacks. An in state institution may not provide much diversity since most are from your state. It may also be a continuation of high school because you are surrounded by your friends. Always weigh your options.

Studying out-of-state provides few drawbacks beyond distance—something that in this virtual world is now easily overcome

Bridget Herrera | College Counselor
Living and studying out-of-state is a chance for incredible growth in ways you can’t imagine. While studying in your home state allows you to see family more often and stay connected with your old friends and community, it also impedes the opportunities that living away provides. Your ‘family’ will be the community of learners with whom you live. Together you will learn to become independent and self-sufficient. This is something you will take great pride in, and I can tell you that there is a distinct difference between my students who ‘stay home’ to study and who move away. You may never get this opportunity again, and you will find that all kinds of new possibilities will open up to you when you choose to broaden your horizons.

The Truth About In-State Colleges

Jeannie Borin | Founder & President
It’s hard to ignore the financial benefits of attending a state university. Other advantages include the numerous activities outside class such as clubs and social events as well as increased academic options. Generally in state colleges have a more diverse student body than smaller privates. Some private colleges don’t have the multitude of resources available at larger publics. Large classes can be a drawback for some but many prefer it. Some state budgets have mandated increased tuition, faculty and course cutbacks, which make many private colleges more attractive.

Think adventurously! Explore colleges outside your home state

Stephanie Meade | Owner
Most students (probably 70-80%) attend college in their home states, but here are some reasons to join the adventurous group that goes further: If you think of education as more than just classes and books, attending college out of state is an easy way to deepen your learning. Simply living in a different area of the country and having classmates from different places will automatically expand your knowledge and understanding of the world. Secondly, a college far from your home may offer you a merit scholarship, as you will make the student body more geographically diverse, which many colleges want.

To close can be a real disadvantage to your college experience

Marie Bullock | Independent Counselor
Going to a state school can have some professional advantages. While at a state school you will be able to do volunteer work and internships with locals who can help you build contacts for the future. You will be able to make connections across your state in the friends that you meet and in the campus organizations that you connect with. These contacts can offer opportunities for your future career choice. Some state schools are located far away from your hometown, but most likely not as far away as compared to going out-of-state. You will have to make sure that your state school (or any school you chose) is not a “commuter campus”. You want to find out if the campus is one that has a full range of choices for weekend activities and cultural offerings. These are things that will help you grow and develop into the independent adult you want to become.

Where You Learn Impacts What You Learn

Bill Pruden | Head of Upper School, College Counselor
A huge part of a student’s college education is a product of the people with whom one goes to school. Whether it comes from the impact they have on class discussion or is simply a result of the countless informal interactions that take place on the quad, in the dorm, or in the dining room, one’s peers are often the most influential teachers a student will have. Going to school out of state broadens the field from which those “teachers” come, thus expanding the perspectives and experiences to which a student is exposed, thus potentially enriching the educational experience for all.

Wherever You Decide to Attend, Become Involved

Janet Rosier | Independent College Admissions Consultant
Whether you attend college in your home state or away is less important than what you do when you are there. If you stay fairly close to home, the good news is that it is easy to get home. That can also be the bad news. Students who come home many weekends (some every weekend!) do not transition well into college. They are still tied to friends and events at home and are not getting involved at college. Studies show that students who engage in activities on campus--especially early on-- report being happier and are more likely to graduate.


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