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Going to College Out of State: What You Should Know

Updated on July 5, 2013
Travel expenses must be considered when going out of state for college.
Travel expenses must be considered when going out of state for college. | Source

Deciding where to go to college can be one of the most stressful things a teenager deals with--even more stressful than the overall experience of going to college can be! Picking a college that fits your needs is more important than picking the most prestigious school your parents can find or than going to their alma mater.

Most students feel confined to the state they currently live in and don't consider community colleges and universities outside their states. Many students don't even know they can go out of state!

Out-of-state community colleges and universities are great opportunities and broaden the horizons of many students. I currently attend a university over 2,000 miles away from my family, and while it is hard at times to be so far away from them, going to an out of state college was one of the best decisions of my life.

Your Options in a Nutshell

  • Community College
  • Technical College
  • Liberal Arts College
  • Four Year College
  • University

Community College vs. University

Before you decide anything about where you want to go for college, you'll need to know what type of education you're looking for. You have a couple of different options:

  • Community Colleges: Also called Junior Colleges, community colleges offer a two year Associate's degree at very low tuition costs. Many students choose community colleges because they can stay close to home while figuring out what career paths they want to choose. It is fairly common for students at community colleges to transfer their credits after two years to a four-year institution to earn their Bachelor's degree.
  • Vocational and Technical Colleges: Students who already have a chosen career path in mind (chef, mechanic, etc) do best at vocational schools, where they receive the specific instruction and skills they need for their chosen vocation.

Community colleges and technical colleges offer great programs to students who either want to test the waters and get their basic classes out of the way inexpensively, or who know what they want to do and just require specific job training before beginning. But what if you're not sure yet, or you want a more expansive education?

  • Liberal Arts Colleges: Contrary to what I believed as a kid, liberal arts colleges are not where Democrats go to paint pictures. Liberal Arts colleges provide four years of general education focusing on the sciences and humanities. Students graduate with a degree in Liberal Arts, instead of majoring or minoring in a subject like other types of colleges.
  • Four Year Colleges: Four Year colleges are generally public colleges that offer majors and minors, and present you with a Bachelor's degree in that subject at the end of your period there. The only difference is that four year colleges do not have graduate programs.
  • Public and Private Universities: Public Universities are generally less expensive than private universities (although this is not always the case- my tuition at a private university is less than 2,500 dollars a semester), but both offer the same fundamental programs: A four year bachelor's degree, and the ability to attend graduate school. A university basically encompasses all the different types of college experiences.

How to go to College Out of State

Going to college out of state is surprisingly easy to do. Almost all of the time, all you will have to do is apply, while being aware of the following things:

  • How much more expensive is tuition for out-of-state students?
  • How far away is the college from home?
  • How often will I be able to go home?
  • How long will I be attending this school-- is it long enough to consider declaring residency?
  • What will this out of state school offer me that an in state one can't?
  • Why do I want to go to an out of state school?

Benefits of Going to School out of State

Going to school out of state can be an awesome experience. Some of the benefits include learning to live on your own, away from mom and dad. This can be liberating to many students and can allow them the time they need to grow up a little and learn to be independent. It can also give an originally distant, overly-independent child a little more room to realize how much they need their families (as was my case).

Going to community college out of state can allow students the opportunity to travel a little bit, and do so inexpensively. Moving out of state for school allowed me to see a whole new state and get to know and love it.

Leaving your home state to go to college also allows students to branch out and meet new people. You don't have to chance running into those girls you couldn't stand, or the guys who were always rude to you. You can branch out and meet new people. Plus, you'll be somewhat unique, since you're not an in state student. Other students will be interested in hearing about where you come and what you're life was like.

Cons of Going to School out of State

Going to school out of state does have its downsides, and you should be aware of them before you make your college plans. Out of state colleges are generally more expensive. This larger cost can keep students from looking out of state for their higher education, but this is where declaring residency becomes a good idea. By declaring residency in your new state you effectively become an in-state student and can pay the lower tuition for in-state students.

Going to an out of state community college or university can also be a bit lonely. I only get to see my family during winter break, since I attend school year-round. It can be hard, knowing that I only get to see them for two weeks every year. I miss my old friends and I miss my family terribly as well. You should consider how well you cope with homesickness before you choose an out of state school. It can be the best school ever, but if you're miserable and struggling to cope with being away from home, it's going to suck no matter what.

You should also be aware that an out of state school can be harder to get into. Some universities even have quotas specifying how many out of state students to admit. They want their money to go towards their students in state. Consider how many students an out of school state admits and what the criteria may be before applying.

Obama's Scorecard

Another useful tool in deciding what college to attend is the College Scorecard, produced by the Obama administration and put to use in early 2013. This scorecard combines multiple factors that prospective college students may be looking for and narrows possible college choices for easier selection and smaller amounts of money spent on application fees.

The College Scorecard can be found here. It's not a perfect tool, but it's arguably one of the best out there. This article demystifies how the scorecard works and discusses it's strong and weak points to help you utilize it to the best of its ability. For example, the article discusses how the scorecard does not compare employment potential for each college, but does consider cost to a large degree. Using both together can help you decide whether going to college out of state is a more viable option for you.

Did you go to college out of state?

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    • Besarien profile image


      5 years ago from South Florida

      You can also go to college out of the country- yet another option to consider. A friend from high school ended up studying archaeology in Paris at the Sorbonne. One from college did his masters at the London School of Economics.

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Utah

      Yes, I mentioned them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      There are also vocational and technical schools out there.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like to know how easy it's to transfer to an out-of-state four year college after earning an associate degree in one of state community college.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      this helped so much... junior living in ohio right now, really love north carolina and can see it being my future home and place to go to school. thanks for the help

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Also, if you want to find scholarships for universities either at home or abroad you can use, they have amazing opportunities for students (and graduates)!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      One thing to consider is whether or not you need scholarship money. Many universities only give their scholarships to in-state students and they don't always tell you that.

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Utah

      I think it's a great idea! It will be scary at first and you WILL probably doubt yourself, panic and try to back out in the last few minutes, but if you're okay with making new friends, it will probably be one of the best experiences of your life. IF you don't like it, you can always transfer closer to home. If you have family there, get into a good school and love the area, why not? You'll only ever experience college once, so make sure it's the absolute best experience it can be.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm a junior in high school and I've always wanted to move to Chicago for college as soon as I graduated. I'm living in Texas right now, and I would have to leave my parents but I've never really been close to them anyway. I also have a lot of family in Chicago so I won't be that lonely. Now that graduation is almost here this thought of moving out of state has been constant, and it's also getting kind of scary because it's becoming surreal. If I do move, I will be 18 when I do. I have family that said they will take me in as long as I go to school. I think it's a good idea, I just need a push.. I love Chicago so much. All the time I go over there I fall in love with the city. Yes or no?! Please help.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I live in a rural town in NC, just graduated and want to go to out of state college in NYC. I'm originally from London and was forced to leave my family there & the rest of my family is in Finland, haven't seen them in 5 years. I feel like I would have way more opportunities in NYC then living in the middle of nowhere, as you can say. Also NYC would remind me so much of London and is closer to London.

    • Drstabile profile image


      7 years ago

      This is great advice. During my post-college adjustment period, I often wished I had gone to school out of state and gotten that sense of independence and self-reliance earlier on. I went to community college my first two years, and it saved me about $15,000; so it's a great idea, especially for the undecided. Voted up!

    • Joelipoo profile image


      7 years ago from Ohio

      I went to school in state, but was two hours away from home. It was good to be away but still close enough at the same time. I was happy with my decision. However, you bring up some excellent points about what someone needs to consider when looking into choices for colleges.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      You've given an excellent overview of things to consider when planning a college career. I like the way you included community colleges as well as vocational schools in the decision process. I wasn't sure how to answer your instate or out-of-state poll, because I moved away from where I grew up anyway! I guess that means I attended out of state? Either way, I'm an advocate for leaving the nest and developing self-reliance.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and SHARED with followers.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I went to school in state not only for financial reasons but because my state happens to have a lot of great schools that catered to my interests. I liked interacting with people from different states especially those who weren't from the south. I always got interested in how they adjusted to the culture. But I definitely think your points are very insightful. Great advice and great hub!


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