Going to College Out of State: What You Should Know
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
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.
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.