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Far Away or Close to Home?

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When it comes to choosing a college or university, your choices range from the school down the street to halfway across the world. For some, the prospect of going far from home seems like a necessary evil in order to attend a top pick institution. But for others, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel anywhere in the country or the world.

Whether you enjoy the idea of travel or not, going to a school far away from home has its advantages. Most importantly, it can increase your odds of acceptance, so if your goal is to go to the highest-ranked school you can possibly get into, going across the country (or the world) may just be your ticket to the upper tier. Why is this so? In a nutshell: diversity.

Many colleges and university have a genuine desire to diversity their student bodies, and even the less genuine among them recognize that increasing statistical diversity is to their advantage in the education marketplace. If you’re from Maine and you’re applying to small schools in New Mexico, your application may well be strengthened by their desire to boast a student body that comes from all 50 states. Diversity works both ways—when you go to school far from home, you’ll be exposed to different people and attitudes in ways that inevitably enrich your education.

Traveling far can also provide you with an opportunity to throw yourself into a sport or activity you’re passionate about. If you’re a hockey player from Florida, a surfer from Manhattan, or a fashionista from rural Alaska, you’ve got obvious non-academic reasons to go to another part of the country!

The advantages of a distance school don’t always trump the disadvantages, however. For some, the social cost of distance is too high. If you have a close-knit social crowd from high school and value staying connected with the friends you already have, a school closer to home (or even a university with many students from your high school) might be a good idea. If you never felt at home in your high school and crave adventure, however, choosing a school far from home may be just the ticket to reinventing your life the way you see it, without the input of peers who remember you eating paste in second grade.

These same standards apply to families—if you have a close, supportive family, you might not be willing to put hundreds of miles between them and yourself. But if you’ve got the kind of mother who might show up at your dorm room unannounced, a sister who always seems to need a loan, or an aunt who thinks you’re just the best (free) babysitter around, you might particularly enjoy getting away from home! Geography doesn’t solve family problems and dependencies, but it can certainly help contain them to a manageable piece of your life.

Lastly, there’s the issue of actually going the distance. Travel costs can be an obvious obstacle for many students looking at faraway schools. In some cases, however, if your home and your school are both close to airports or train stations, you might find it takes less time and effort to get home from several states away than from a remote part of your own state! Whether this is true for you or not, it’s worth doing some detailed research into exactly how difficult and expensive travel would be for each school you consider.

So… should you go far away for college? That’s a question only you can answer. Now that you have a grasp of the major factors to consider, enjoy exploring the possibilities!


Elisabeth Bailey+

Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

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