Last Updated: Jul 2, 2020
College should be your home away from home. But what do you do when it’s home really, really far away from home? Creating your college list of reach, match, and safety schools is hard enough as is. But when it comes to distant and/or out-of-state colleges, you also need to decide how far you’re willing to go. This is especially tricky when you’re considering public schools as an out-of-state student, because those tuition rates can be just as high—or higher—than fancy private colleges. Is it worth it to go to an already pricey dream school that’s also far from home? Well, maybe. Scholarships and financial aid could reduce the demanding costs, and the experience may be well worth the extra travel. Above all, creating parameters for schools you’re interested in should be a discussion that includes your parent(s) or guardian(s).
Managing this conversation
Having this very discussion with my parents about my reach colleges made me feel very stressed and scared. I feared not being able to even apply to a school with my dream program because Mom and Dad said so. When I finally built up the courage to initiate the conversation, I brought a map, a list of colleges, and laptop with me. A mutually beneficial part of this discussion is keeping it as straightforward as possible. Some preconceived notions of your dream school could cloud your judgment, and you want to present the facts with a neutral point of view so you can ensure the college becomes your future home away from home. Here's a great list of considerations that can act as great framework for your college search that I’ve personally used in talking to both my parents and college counselors in order to formulate a realistic, attainable, and smart college list, including faraway and out-of-state schools.
What aspects to focus on
In trying to make a smart college list that everyone can be on board, these are the top things you should consider. Obviously, these won’t be the only things you’ll consider when choosing a college, but in order to sell your parent on out-of-state schools, you need to keep your focus on what’s most important to them.
What are the top benefits you’ll gain from attending this college?
Essentially, this is you explaining why this specific college is on your list—why you like it, what makes it stand out, which programs interest you, etc. Understanding the reasons why you want to go to a certain school will help you solidify them and explain them to your parents. (Bonus: you may also find a college with very similar programs next door or just a state away.)
How will you travel to the school, and how will it cost on average?
When you’re so consumed with tuition and other fees, travel costs to and from college can really sneak up on you (and your family), especially if you’re looking at colleges farther away. It’s important to budget for them and discuss travel arrangements with your parents—especially since it’s more than likely you’ll want to go home for breaks or maybe a random weekend here or there. You can also look into the activities and events the college offers parents specifically for when they visit.
What’s the out-of-state tuition rate (for public schools) or overall cost?
For me, this pertained to the state schools I was looking at, but you can also use this point to look at the overall costs of the school. If you’re considering state schools too, you should research what the out-of-state fees are, what they cover, and if there are any deals for students in nearby states. This is also a great way to see how public institution costs fluctuate depending on the state.
What’s the weather like?
While this may not be a game changer, it’s important that you get a sense of your potential future environment, especially if that environment is a big change. For instance, if you live somewhere where the climate is traditionally warmer year-round and you go to a school with harsh winters, you’ll have some adapting to do. It can impact your leisure options and overall happiness, and it might even affect your job and internship opportunities.
How will non-school expenses affect your budget?
Again, it’s easy to forget that college costs don’t stop at tuition! Books, activity fees, local transportation, groceries, health insurance, and general spending money can all add up fast. Make yourself a budget and factor in as many foreseeable expenses you can think of—and find places where you can cut expenses that you can life without
What are the room and board fees and conditions like?
College websites usually include their room and board prices. Visiting colleges will help you get a better look at what to expect too. There’s a chance room and board could be expensive and the living accommodations just aren’t worth the price, and you decide to pivo to a different living situation. If you’re thinking about living off campus at any point, this can also be a good time to research what those expenses are like, such as average rents.
How safe is the campus, and what kind of precautions are in place?
With the influx of stories about fraternity and sorority hazing, unruly partying, discrimination, and too many cases of assault on campuses, it’s important to visit campus and note the school’s safety rules and resources. And don’t be afraid to ask people questions. If they’re not willing to answer, it could mean the school doesn’t take safety seriously enough.
Not only will this advice help you narrow your college search to your comfort zone, this framework and thought process is a great way to prove to even the most overprotective parents that going to a college farther away or out of state is a good idea. Just by taking the initiative to present your research in this way shows your responsible and mature enough to be going off to college on your own. So go have those conversations and start forming your perfect college list!