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Choosing a college: The pros & cons of staying local

The College of St. Scholastica By  The College of St. Scholastica  |  @StScholastica  | 

Choosing-a-College

For most prospective college students, determining which institution to attend starts with one seemingly simple question: Do I want to stay close to home or would I rather travel out of state for school?

But, as often happens, the more you think about it, the more difficult the decision becomes. The fact of the matter is, there are pros and cons to both options — it all comes down to which elements are most important to the college experience you hope to have.  

In an effort to make your choice easier, we canvassed a handful of professionals from all walks of life to learn the pros and cons of their experiences either attending a local college or moving to a new state to attend school. As you read their insight and determine which factors are most important in your college search, you'll be closer to deciding which option is right for you.  

3 advantages of attending college close to home

1. It's a huge money-saver

If you are able to live at home with your parents while attending college, there's no question that this can drastically minimize the overall price tag. Skipping the room and board costs alone can save you anywhere from $8,000 to $13,000 each year, according to Wendy Nelson, founder of mykidscollegechoice.com.  

Some students who choose to attend local colleges will opt to live on campus in hopes of still immersing themselves in the collegiate environment. Even in this case there are some money-saving perks to staying close to home. Some universities boast reduced in-state tuition opportunities for local students, and there is also the potential to receive local scholarships to aid in covering college costs.  

"Many students are graduating drowning in student loan debt nowadays," explains Luis Rosa, financial advisor with Haydel Biel & Associates. "Staying home and going to a local school can make a huge difference in how much the student or the parent will owe at the end of the four years."  

2. You may encounter more internship & networking prospects

"Students who plan to stay near where they grew up will have networking opportunities in the local area thanks to part-time jobs, internships and other contacts made before or during college," Nelson explains. These opportunities can help you make connections with professionals in your area, laying a solid foundation for the job search you'll launch after graduating.  

Marcia Noyes, director of communications at Catalyze, is a mother of three, and the college experiences of her children help illustrate this point perfectly. Her two oldest kids attended college 21 hours from home. In doing so, Noyes found that the lack of direct connection with family throughout the school year led both kids to spend their summers relaxing at home with their family.  

"[They] didn't use their summers for internships that might have helped them get further along in their careers," she explains.  

Her youngest child, on the other hand, made a pointed effort to do just that, landing three internships and working part-time when she could. Noyes predicts that this dedicated time spent pursuing practical avenues will likely help further her daughter's career placements and advancement opportunities.  

3. It's easier in case of emergencies

Emergencies are unpredictable. Whether you or a loved one is suddenly struck with a health complication, you get in a car accident or your credit card information is stolen, it will almost certainly be less complicated if you're close to home.  

You can quickly be near the loved ones who may need you or be near the doctors you've been seeing for years. You can call a family member or friend to pick you up in the event of car troubles and then use your family's trusted auto shop to fix the problem. You're also closer to the local bank resources you may need to overcome any hurdles if you encounter troubles with your accounts. No matter the situation, we all tend to weather emergencies more soundly with loved ones near.  

Emergencies like these may seem too far-fetched to take into account, but they can happen to anyone. Sarah Tippett, editor of Homeschool Base, can attest to this. "All of my children have had some type of emergency while being at college," she says. "It was always much easier and more convenient if they lived close."  

3 disadvantages of attending college close to home

1. You may miss out on the quintessential college experience

For most, the phrase 'the college experience' conjures scenes of meeting new roommates, the ups and downs of dorm life, attending homecoming football games, pulling all-nighters with study groups, joining campus organizations, eating on cafeteria meal plans and living on a tight budget. Many students even maintain that they meet some of their best friends while living in the dorms, Tippett says.  

These on-campus experiences are, many would argue, among the greatest drawbacks to attending a local college. Staying near home means you, at least to an extent, must forfeit many aspects of the classic college experience.  

That is not to say that students who attend local colleges and/or live off campus can't put the effort in to make many of these things still happen. It's all dependent on the perspective you have and the amount of effort you're willing to put into it.  

2. There are fewer opportunities to step outside your comfort zone

It's not very often that young adults get the opportunity to enter a new location without a lot of pre-existing familiarity and relationships, says John Turner, founder and CEO of QuietKit. "[This] allows for new discoveries on both a personal and academic level, as well as a greater sense of autonomy," he explains.  

This complete departure from one's comfort zone allows for some very practical exercises in independence. Whether it be attending brand new social events in which you're inevitably pushed to forge new relationships, managing your own budget for the first time or staying on top of your own time management as it relates to completing your college coursework, many important life skills are formed in this new, autonomous environment.  

According to Nelson, students who remain close to home are more likely to "use the ability to go home as a 'crutch' to avoid making new friends and experiencing new opportunities on campus."  

3. It can be harder to re-invent yourself

After years spent living under their parents' roof, college is often considered a young adult's first opportunity to truly explore their interests, aspirations and personal values. In other words, it's an opportunity to discover the type of person you want to become. In going to college far from home, you're thrust into an entirely different environment filled with new people and foreign opportunities.  

"There is no other time in your life when you'll be able to try so many things in so short a time," says Katie Fang, founder and CEO of SchoolLinks. You can experiment with your personal style, you can try new activities you've always been curious about, you can get involved in community politics and — if you come across something you don't like — you can swiftly change directions and start afresh.  

One prominent detriment to attending a local college and living off campus, according to Dr. Steve Robertson of PrizeWriting.com, is the lack of opportunity to expand your social network and get to know people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives — people you may otherwise never have the opportunity to meet. "You cannot re-invent yourself if you surround yourself with the past," he says.  

Local vs. out of state: Which option is right for you?

Now that you've reviewed our professionals' take on the pros and cons of attending college close to home, your first step in narrowing down your institution of choice may be much clearer. But there are still several items to check off your list.  

If you're considering The College of St. Scholastica, you can learn more about life on the shores of Lake Superior by visiting our article, "The savvy Saint's 'Best Of' guide to Duluth campus living."  

But if our pros have already helped you solidify where you'd like to attend college, you might be ready to tackle the next tough hurdle in your collegiate journey: choosing a major. For more on that, check out our article, "Is it important to choose a major before starting college? The answer you might not expect."

The College of St. Scholastica


The College of St. Scholastica is an independent private Catholic Benedictine college with locations across Minnesota, in addition to many high-quality programs available online and through convenient evening and weekend formats. Since 1912, St. Scholastica has been preparing students for a life of purpose and economic gain by engaging students in the love of learning and active citizenship in the world. Our mission is to provide intellectual and moral preparation for responsible living and meaningful work. 

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