Applying to In-State vs. Out-of-State Colleges

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Cameron Devall
Cameron Devall

Cameron began his career as an English language teacher. After graduating from Heythrop College of Philosophy and Theology, University of London, he continued on to teach in Indonesia and Russia. Today, he fulfills his true passion by writing.

College application time is one of the busiest for high school students. It’s the time when you must decide which schools to apply to, which have programs and campuses you like. Not to mention, which schools you have a chance of gaining acceptance. But beyond that, you can decide whether you want to live close to home or not. Choosing between in-state vs. out-of-state colleges is difficult. Let’s look at the most important factors to consider.

When it comes down to first building your college list, some students do not have the freedom to choose a school that isn’t close to home. That may be for financial or personal reasons. However, those that do have the freedom to decide on a school based on their personal preferences should still seriously consider their options!

So, as you approach the decision between in-state vs out-of-state schools, take a breath. Before sending tuition deposit to any university, take your time making the college decision and application process fully informed.

Staying In State

Pros: upsides to staying close to home

  • The cost. There is really no factor that has more influence over where a student attends college than the cost of tuition. In a research article put out by George Washington University, “the average cost of in-state tuition at a public institution is $6,752” while “the average cost of out-of-state tuition at a public institution is $15,742.” The average cost difference of $8,990 is something most students and their families cannot ignore.
  • Other positives include being just a drive away from home, possibly being familiar with the campus already and already knowing other students attending the school.

Cons: the potential to miss out

  • A school closer to home may be overly familiar, eliminating the excitement of “going away to college.”
  • It can also mean being more limited in the number of academic programs available, simply due to geographic luck.  
  • Staying closer to home might mean keeping the same friends from high school and not pushing yourself to meet new people. Staying in a place you know also means not experiencing another city, state or part of the country.

Traveling Out of State

Pros: the good sides to taking a risk

The two main reasons students want to attend a school that is out of state are:

  • to study in a specific course offered, or
  • to get the experience of going away from home and being independent.

First, the academic variety. Looking at schools that are not within a day’s drive provides more option. It can mean going from having to choose one school out of the five that offer your program in the state… and choosing one out of the hundreds that offer that program throughout the country. The opportunities for study and personal development are greatly expanded by how broad the student makes his or her college search.

Second, we can look at the social aspect. The experience of being too far away from home to just run back at a moment’s notice is unique. It encourages students to make more friends and be more independent in their university life. In a U.S. News article, Jacqueline Murphy, director of admissions at Saint Michael’s College, states that the confidence a student can gain at an out-of-state school can do incredible things for their school and career goals.

Cons: pushing yourself can be difficult

  • Going to a school in another state or on another coast means missing out on some family gatherings and celebrations.
  • If you aren’t able to travel far, it can possibly mean attending a school that you have never actually visited or seen!
  • It usually means having to pay higher tuition. There are more scholarships for in-state students and often more financial aid for them as well. As an out-of-state student, you will certainly spend more money for the experience of meeting new people and getting to know a new place. 

So in the end…

As you can see from reading through these points, it’s a trade-off. The advantages of one option are the disadvantages of the other. Students should consider what they want from their university experience both academically and personally before making the all-important final decision.

If you’re struggling beyond what these tips can help with, reach out. Book a consult and see how we can help.

Questions? Let us know!