In-state or far away? Students share what they wish they had known before they chose an out-of-state college.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, two-thirds of college students stayed in their home state to attend school, according to a recent study. There are advantages to staying in your home state—in-state tuition at local public schools is usually less expensive than going out of state, plus you’re in familiar territory.

But don’t discount the benefits to going farther away—including potential access to more generous grants and financial aid packages.

Here, students who graduated within the last few years share the pros, cons, and considerations they wish they had known before they went out of state for college.

Pro: A Chance to Broaden Your Horizons

“My two older brothers had gone across the country for college, so the idea was always in my head,” says Sid G., who went to school in Massachusetts while his family lived in California. “I liked the puzzle of learning a new place. Even grocery stores were different.” Sid adds that he also liked being away from high school friends. “I knew a lot of people who went to school closer to home who were still hanging out with the same people from high school. I liked that I was out of my comfort zone and had to try new things.”

Con: Harder to Connect With Family in an Emergency

“When COVID became a reality, I realized just how far away I was,” says Jenna S., who went to school in Pennsylvania while her family lived in Georgia. “It was so hard to figure out whether it was safer to stay on campus or go home. And then, when they made the decision to close our campus, it was really nerve-wracking to figure out how to get home. Ultimately, my dad actually drove up to get me, which made me realize just how far I was. If I was giving advice, I would remind people that emergencies can happen, and just imagine how you would feel if you were a long way away.”

Pro: A Different Lifestyle

“I always hated the winter, so I decided to head to Florida for school,” says Laura B., who is originally from New York. “Honestly, it made a huge difference to my mood. I never fully realized just how much good weather impacted the way I felt. I think a lot of people think that choosing a school for the location is dumb, but it makes a big difference. Of course, choose a school you like, and one that has a good program, but also factor in how the school will make you feel.”

It may not just be weather or climate. While you’re able to find big city and small town options across the country, college can be a chance to live in a new region. But remember: New surroundings aren’t an automatic total-life reset. You may still feel a lot of the same feelings you had back home, just in a different outfit.

Con: You May Feel Homesick

“My parents and I budgeted that I could fly home two times during the school year. I thought I would be fine, but I was really homesick, especially when my school had a fall break in October,” says Janelle D., who went to school in Maine while her family lived in Kansas. “I stayed on campus, and everyone in my hall left. I was really lonely. I eventually made friends with some international students and older students who didn’t head home, but it was disorienting and made me realize, ‘Wow, I’m really by myself.’”

Pro: Another State May Have the Best Program For You

“I knew I wanted to do theater, so for me, going to New York was a no-brainer,” says Ian S., whose family lives in Texas. “It wasn’t just the program that made me decide, it was also being surrounded by the artistic community in New York. I don’t regret it at all, I’d always wanted to live in New York City and going to college there felt like it gave me a bit of a head start to my life.”

If you have schools all over the map on your potential list, it may be a good idea to seek out alumni from your high school who have gone to a similar out of state college and learn about their experiences. Attending a summer program at a far-flung school can also be a way to test the waters. It also might make sense to talk with your parents about how often you’ll be able to travel back home, as well as what you might do in an emergency.

Bottom line: The best option is the one that makes sense for you, and considering all factors, the pros and cons, and the what-ifs can help you make your decision on whether to attend an out-of-state college

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