Make the Right Choice: Local Colleges vs. Relocation
Depending on where you live, you probably have a lot of choices for where you might pursue your higher educational goals. You could study at a local community college or vocational school, commute to a state school, or go to college in a neighboring state. If you’re really eager to get away from home, you could travel across the country or even obtain your degree abroad.
The reality is that you have a lot of choices. Location is an important part of your college experience, and the right location will depend on a number of factors. Before we go on, consider a few things: Do you consider yourself to be independent? Is your intended field of study lucrative or is it a choice that will earn you a living, but not necessarily break the bank? How will you finance your education? Do you want to study something very specialized or is it a major offered at most schools? If you reflect on these questions you’ll be more prepared to decide where you want to go to school.
The Local Option
Let’s first take a look at what it means to go to school locally. Perhaps you’re commuting to a community college or a state school in your city or county. Local colleges have a few advantages:
- In-state tuition and no need to pay for housing or a meal plan
- Increased chance that you’ll keep friends from high school who either aren’t going to college or are going to school locally as well
- Closer to family and loved ones
- Maintain connections with your community
- Easier to work a part-time job that pays more than student employment
- Community colleges and other two year colleges have a very strong focus on job placement, and are less likely to have extra academic requirements that might feel like a waste of time and money
- This is most likely to be the most cost-effective choice, especially if you are from a low-income family
Though these are certainly beneficial, let’s look at some of their downsides as well:
- Fewer student life experiences – dorms and residence life systems provide students a lot of support (academically, socially, and sometimes professionally) and you might be missing out on growth experiences by not living on campus.
- Are you really happy with your friends from high school? While your high school friends might be very supportive and fun, a lot of students find that they make much better friends in college, and they break away from their high school groups. They sometimes find that they’re moving on from their adolescence, but their old friends are taking more time to do the same.
- Wear and tear on your vehicle – commuting can be hard on a vehicle, especially if it’s the cheap ride your parents bought you while in high school. This can add more stress when the semester gets tough.
This option is better for students who are already independent, or know they’ll be comfortable moving away after they graduate. If you know that you’re still very dependent on your parents for life skills: food, laundry, buying basic essentials, and the prospect of doing that on your own scares you, it is better for you to move away so that you can develop those skills in a safe environment.
The In-State, Residential Option
A majority of college students tend to stay in-state, since tuition is lower for residents at public institutions. This typically puts you at a distance that can be comfortably driven in part or all of one day, depending on the size of your state. Let’s take a look at the benefits to this option:
- Ability to take part in student life activities, all events and organizations
- Develop a sense of independence and self-reliance without being cut off from friends and family
- Some of your friends and acquaintances from high school will most likely attend as well
- In-state tuition
And the downsides:
- Homesickness could be an issue (your college will most likely offer help with this problem)
- Frequent trips home on weekends and holidays could wear out older vehicles
Long-Distance Relocation for College
Let’s say you’re from New Jersey, and you’ve always had a hankering to live in the Rockies. You might pick a school in Colorado and relocate there to pursue your degree, despite being able to choose from among a number of New Jersey colleges. There are some interesting pros and cons to this type of choice!
- You will become more independent
- See new parts of the country, meet many more new types of people from very different backgrounds
- You will rely on student life, at least at first, to get your social, emotional and academic footing. Your parents can only care for you so much over Skype
- You’ll be opening new career opportunities by networking in a new area
- Coming home for the holidays will be expensive – flights aren’t cheap
- If your degree involves licensure, you might have difficulties working back in your home state
- Personal or family health crises could be magnified by distance
- Homesickness could be a more serious concern — especially if you don’t like your new town
- Depending on aid available, this could be the most expensive option