Ask a College Advisor: Should I Go to a College That’s Close to Home or Far Away?
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Question: Should I Go to a College That's Close to Home or Far Away?
When choosing a college, the number of factors to include in your decision-making process can be overwhelming. If you need a way to narrow down your choices, it can be helpful to take time to decide whether you want to go to college close to home or far away.
There are multiple benefits and drawbacks for each option. Let's break these down in detail to help you reflect on the best choice for you.
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Benefits of a College Close to Home
Attending a college close to home appeals to many students, not to mention their families! Having a safety net close by and knowing that you can visit home on the weekends can ease the adjustment to college life. It can also reduce homesickness.
During the stress of midterms or finals, something as simple as a home-cooked meal and a break from your roommates might be just what you need to de-stress and get ready for a new week. You may even decide to live at home to save money on food and living expenses, which make up a large part of the cost of college.
If you have a strong community in your hometown (e.g., through a religious or volunteer organization) or enjoy regular family traditions, attending a college close to home can help maintain continuity in your life. This familiarity with your environment and resources can be a source of comfort when challenges arise.
Challenges of a College Close to Home
While being close to home can provide great benefits, these same elements may be drawbacks in the long run. The ease of visiting home, while enjoyable, might lead to an overuse of this safety blanket and create limitations on your personal development and growth. Would the ease of seeing friends at home prevent you from forming new relationships in college?
When stressors such as a roommate conflict or loneliness arise, using home as an escape may exacerbate the problem. Instead of confronting issues head-on and learning how to rely on yourself, leaning too heavily on your family can distance you further from your campus community. It can also limit opportunities to challenge yourself in your new environment.
So much of your development in college happens outside of the classroom. Consider whether being close to home would prevent you from trying new clubs or activities on campus and getting outside your comfort zone.
Benefits of a College Far Away
Attending a college far from home may seem exciting or intimidating, depending on your readiness for adventure or a new environment. Your feelings might also depend on just how far away the school is. Would getting to school require driving for a few hours or boarding a cross-country flight?
In general, being far away has the benefit of pushing you to make new friends and find a new community on campus. If you become homesick or start struggling with coursework, you'll learn to become more self-reliant. You can utilize your newly formed friends and mentors for support.
In an environment that's different from what you're accustomed to, you're more likely to be exposed to new cultures, traditions, food, and activities. These new experiences are beneficial in helping you learn more about yourself and grow in new ways.
You can also find communities similar to the ones you had back home, like a religious organization or a club to meet others with shared interests. This can help balance the new with the familiar.
Challenges of a College Far Away
Despite the benefits, being far from home also involves some challenges. Differences in time zones may make it harder to stay connected with loved ones, and living farther away likely means less frequent visits from family.
If you're attending an out-of-state public college, tuition may also be much higher than in-state costs. There can be a high cost to visit home for the holidays or other breaks between terms, which might mean staying on campus while other students return home.
When challenges arise, such as loneliness or personal conflict, it may also be difficult to seek out the support and comfort you might easily find at home. While these obstacles can be great opportunities for growth, they can still be difficult experiences in an unfamiliar environment.
Finding a Good Balance
If you're worried about being too far from home but still want to stretch yourself, you might consider finding a spot in the middle that feels like a good balance.
Maybe a college you can get to in a few hours will provide you with the security of knowing family is nearby for an emergency or a semi-regular visit while still allowing you to find independence and build a new community.
If you'd prefer to study close to home but want some of the benefits of being farther away, challenge yourself to get involved in organizations that are outside your comfort zone. You could also consider a study abroad experience.
Set boundaries and clear expectations with friends and family around how frequently you plan to visit home. The first few weeks are the most important to immerse yourself in your new environment and make new friends. Do your best to stay on campus as much as possible during that time.
Reflect on what you want out of your college experience and what might be the best fit for you. Balance your need for comfort with opportunities for growth and make the most of your decision.
DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.
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