There are many things you should take into consideration when you’re narrowing down your college list; academics, housing, extracurricular activities and more all matter! However, one of the most important factors to some students is your college’s proximity to home. While you may not think distance makes that much of a difference, it definitely affects your college experience! Here are six reasons why the distance between home and school is so important:
1. Storage and belongings
When choosing where to go to school, you’re probably thinking about your friends and family, the college’s academic programs and other big factors—and you’re probably not thinking about storage. But, the proximity between your hometown and your future college restricts how much you’ll be able to bring to school and what you’ll have to leave at home.
Cassidy Hopkins, a senior at Emerson College, says that storage and shipping have always been something that she has had to think about, since her hometown is on the other side of the country. “It was hard because I wasn’t able to bring a lot to school,” she says. “I only got to bring two checked bags of clothing and the rest I had to buy when I arrived at school.”
“While the rest of my friends were going shopping and preparing for college the summer after high school, I could only make lists,” she adds.
While storage is a small factor compared to other elements that go into your college decision, it is something to think about. Shipping costs are high—if you’re flying back and forth between school and home, you have to think about how many bags you might have. “I was lucky enough to make friends with generous students who lived close to my school,” says Cassidy. “My friends and their families have been so helpful in letting me store my belongings, which is normally a huge burden.” So while shipping and storage are certainly things to consider if you’re going far, they don’t have to be a deal breaker! Think about alternative options for storing and moving your belongings if you choose a school that’s far from home.
2. Saving money
While you might be itching to move thousands of miles away, consider how much money it costs to live across the country—and how much money you may be able to save by staying close to home. When you attend a school that is further than driving distance away, there are new factors to consider. You’ll have to pay for plane tickets home, shipping charges and other travel costs if friends or family want to visit. Make sure you’re thinking about budget when making your final decision.
On the other hand, staying close to home might save you a little money here and there. Even if you plan on living on campus (and not at home), there are small ways to save. Shelby Ostrom, a junior at the University of Kansas, lives about 30 minutes from her hometown. “I definitely think [going to school close to home] has affected my college experience in both good and bad ways,” she says. “[One of the good aspects is that] I can go home whenever I want to, have meals and do laundry.”
When thinking about proximity, budget definitely comes into play. Remember that distance between school and home isn’t just about missing family or seeing friends, but also raising or cutting costs! Think about whether your decision will have an effect on your financial situation as well.
3. Family time
Relationships are probably the number one factor keeping college freshmen close to home—and for good reason! It can be hard to tear yourself away from family and friends. Whether you are going close or far, family time is something to consider when you’re thinking about proximity from home to school.
Kelly Rourke, a junior at Clark University whose hometown is just 20 minutes away from her school, loves being close to her family. “Whether it’s bringing some laundry home on a Sunday or having a weekend meal with my family, I have enjoyed being able to stay connected by being close by,” she says. “I also think that being close to home is totally what you make of it. You don’t have to go home all the time or even see your family at all outside of school breaks, but having the option to do so is definitely nice.”
Quality family time is definitely something to consider when choosing a school, near or far. Just because you choose a school far from home doesn’t mean you don’t care about spending time with family—there are always other factors to weigh. However, if you find yourself struggling when you’re away from home for weeks at a time, you might want to thinking about staying close to your family.
4. Missing out on opportunities
There are certainly benefits to choosing a school close to home, but there are downfalls as well. If you’re constantly popping home for a visit every weekend, you might be missing out on opportunities and experiences at school.
While Shelby recognizes the benefits of attending college close to home, she also finds that there are negatives. “I went home almost every weekend my freshman year because I was so homesick,” Shelby says. “It gave me a disadvantage at making friends and having fun.”
It’s common for students who attend school close to their hometown to spend a lot of free time back at home, especially during freshman year. When you’re feeling homesick or desperate to keep in touch with friends, it can be tempting to pop back home. Just remember that if you choose a school close to home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be spending all your time there (unless you truly want to)! Be sure you have your priorities straight and recognize that there will be opportunities and experiences on campus as well. Figure out what is most important to you so you can create a nice balance between home and school!
5. Experiencing different lifestyles
Lifestyles often change in correlation with geographical location, so consider how the culture will change wherever you decide to go to school.
“When I was looking at colleges I knew I wanted to travel out of state so I would be able to experience a different part of the country and open my mind to new outlooks and viewpoints on life by surrounding myself with people from diverse backgrounds, because I believe everyone has something to teach us,” says Helmi Henkin, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, originally from California. “Going to a large state school definitely helps me attain this goal, [and for future students] it can be a great opportunity to enrich your life and step out of your comfort zone.”
Helmi recognizes that going to school out of state isn’t for everyone. “If you know yourself well enough to know whether you would be able to handle not being able to go home constantly and adapt some of your lifestyle changes depending on what’s normal or available in the school’s area (for example, weather, religious or political beliefs, environmental consciousness), then I would definitely take a chance and go out of state. It could be the best decision of your life,” she says.
6. Becoming independent
Your years at college will undoubtedly be a period of transitions and exploring, especially because it allows you to live independently for the first time. For many students, this is the first opportunity to live without the support of their families back home, which has its pros and cons. While college will probably force you to become independent no matter where you choose to attend, proximity does play an important role.
Cassidy says she enjoys the independent aspect of going to a college on the opposite coast. “I feel like I’m very prepared for life after graduation, because I’m doing things myself that I otherwise would have relied on family members for,” she says.
Micki Wagner, a sophomore at the University of Missouri whose hometown is two hours away, agrees that the idea of independence is key. “I think going away is important because it allows you to learn and grow as a person on your own for the very first time,” she says. “There will be times you stumble, undoubtedly. But you will always come away having learned something you might not have learned had you stayed home and your parents had taken care of the problem.”
College itself may help you to become more independent, but proximity definitely has an effect on it. If you’re really looking to force yourself to be more independent, consider choosing a college that’s farther from home.
No matter where you choose to go to school — whether near your hometown or far away — proximity will definitely have an influence on your college experience. Choosing a college isn’t just about academics, student life and other elements that normally come to mind first—location is critical too! In order to make the right decision, be sure to consider all the factors and prioritize them by importance.