When I was applying to colleges, I saw each application as a one-way ticket to freedom. By senior year, I felt sick of my hometown and was itching for independence. Unsurprisingly, I joined the mass of students who wanted to go to college far from home. For me, this meant an out-of-state college.
Many students I know go to schools thousands of miles away from home, but I chose a school about 300 miles away from home. I myself went from a Minneapolis suburb to a small city in central Wisconsin — from a high school of more than 2,000 students to a college with only 800 students total.
I was well aware of how different life was going to be at an out-of-state college, and I prepared to experience a slight culture shock, but there were also a lot of things I was not able to prepare for. Here are five things nobody tells you about attending an out-of-state college.
1. Your tuition isn’t the only thing that will cost more.
One of the major things people tell you about attending a college outside of your home state is that the tuition will cost more. This is true for state schools because part of their funding comes from the state’s tax dollars. However, there is little mention of the additional fees beyond tuition.
For out-of-state students, this price can come from the airfare and gas needed to make it home for several breaks throughout the year. If you’re within driving distance, but you’re not close enough for someone to pick you up during breaks, you might end up deciding it’s necessary to buy a car.
There are also additional shipping costs if you have to move across the country. Finally, the new state might have higher taxes and taxes on items your home state doesn’t. If money’s tight, as it will be in college, you should consider these things when choosing a school.
2. If you date, you’re likely to get into a long-distance relationship.
I wasn’t thinking about dating when I was applying to college, so the idea that I’d probably end up in a long-distance relationship, or at least a partial one, never occurred to me. The farther from home you go to school, the less likely it is that you’ll date someone who is close to you during winter break and summer break. Of course, a vast majority of the year your relationship will be entirely normal, but it is odd to cycle in and out of long distance.
During breaks, my partner and I are 350 miles apart, and we have it lucky. I know many students on campus who spend their breaks on opposite sides of the country from their significant other. Sometimes these breaks can put your relationship to the test, but a lot of times they make it stronger. At this point, I don’t think anything of our partially long-distance relationship, but it was an unexpected consequence of moving to and out-of-state college.
3. Your friendships at home are not at risk.
One of the reasons I was reluctant to study at an out-of-state college was the idea that I’d lose my close connections with friends at home. This is a pretty common belief. The changes people undergo in college often cause friends, even at the same school, to drift apart, so it’s easy to imagine that distance would exacerbate this.
On the contrary, being long distance strengthened my friendships. Distance made my friendships stronger because it made me remember what I was missing out on. I was forced to appreciate how every individual friend fits into my life and how they make it better. In addition to this, I cherish my time with them when I am home from school. I don’t know if I would have such a special relationship with them if I hadn’t chosen to study far away.
4. Family emergencies will be even more difficult.
This is one of the consequences I wish I didn’t have to learn from experience. Family emergencies don’t cross your mind until they happen, so they definitely didn’t cross my mind when I choose an out-of-state college. It is a luxury to live close to your family, because you can be there when they need you and they can do the same for you.
When you are separated by distance, and time is of the essence, it is excruciating. Hearing that a loved one is dying, unsafe or in pain through the phone is tough, and it’s just as tough knowing that you cannot be there with them and your other loved ones no matter how fast you drive.
In the aftermath of these events, your distance can also be an obstacle course. Unlike students who study closer to their home, out-of-state students often have to spend more than a weekend at home because of the cost and time it takes to simply get there. Obviously, this gets in the way of school and jobs and only adds additional stress to the student. It’s grim, but this is one of the truths of going to an out-of-state college that no one likes to talk about.
5. You’ll learn to love your home in a new way.
Many students who choose to go far for college are motivated by an I-have-to-get-out-of-here attitude. I was one of these students. However, living just 300 miles away showed me all of the things I should appreciate about home. Studying in a rural area made me recognize the infinite places and services you have access to when you live close to a big city — I would have never guessed that I’d miss Target.
Many students come to value the geography and weather from home, especially when college introduces you to snow. Stepping outside of your microculture also exposes you to it; for example, I learned that “Minnesota nice” is a real thing and that I was the odd one out because I call soda “pop.” All of these things helped me gain a better grasp of who I was, which wouldn’t have been possible without going far from home.
If you’re thinking about going to college out-of-state, consider these things, but don’t be discouraged. Some aspects of out-of-state college may seem daunting, but many people, including me, would tell you that it’s worth it. Ultimately, if you do choose to study out-of-state, it will be an invaluable life experience that will help you better understand yourself, who matters to you and where you came from.