If you’re thinking about making your college list—or starting to think about thinking about it—one of the factors you’re probably considering is location.

Should you stay local or move far away for college? There are benefits and challenges to each option. Here, students and recent grads share their experiences and identify the key issues that may help you make your location decision.


Harry McLane decided to go to school at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, about an hour from home. He made the choice because he’s close with his family and wanted to remain that way. He loves being able to see the animals on his family’s farm on a regular basis and reports that living near family “doesn’t cut into dorm life. You have the best of both worlds because if you don’t want to see family, you don’t have to, and if you do want to, you can.”

He does caution that his proximity has one potential drawback: “Surprise [family] visits from time to time.”

Katie McLane, Harry’s sister, made a different choice, deciding to get out of Utah and head to Seattle University in Washington. She reports that the decision worked out well for her. Katie loves the freedom and says she’s more independent now because she wasn’t able to rely on her mother to help her figure out day-to-day basics. “I feel like I have a greater sense of how things work—health care, getting prescriptions, and finding good doctors who take my insurance.”

However, she says she misses her family “at a whole new level” now that she’s away. So, the freedom does come with some homesickness.

Fresh Start

Matthew Erikson went to school at DePaul University in Chicago, a four-hour train ride away from his hometown, because he was seeking a fresh start socially. He cautions that a fresh start can be a positive or a negative, depending on your personality. “I’m comfortable meeting new people,” he says. A fresh start may not be as compelling to someone less comfortable meeting strangers. Harry McLane, for example, reports that he really enjoys going to school near home because he likes being familiar with the town and appreciates not having to acclimate to somewhere new.

Virginia Peay attends Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, only an hour’s drive from home. Several people from her high school go to college with her now. “While it’s nice to see a familiar face every now and then, I wanted college to be a clean slate. I wanted the chance to show everyone the real me and not the person everyone thought I was in high school.” Sometimes, she says, it’s like she never left high school.


Despite her desire to reinvent herself at college, Peay stayed close to home for financial reasons. “The big thing was money,” she says. There are definitely costs and savings to consider when determining your distance from home. Beyond in-state tuition, there are also transportation costs for you—and potentially your family—as well as living expenses if your school is in a pricier location.

Erikson says, “The closer you go to home, the less expensive.” However, he really wanted to experience a city school. He was looking for a completely different culture than his hometown of East Lansing, Michigan. He wound up at school in Chicago because he “was able to use scholarships to make it comparable” to a local state school. He says it was still slightly more expensive to go away for school, but worth it to him.

Consider your goals for the next four years and prioritize what you want out of your college experience. After taking your time to weigh the pros and cons, you’ll be able to figure out what distance from home is right for you.

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