Should I go to college out of state?

Going to college is a life-changing decision. Where you choose to attend is also very important. Let’s look at what might be involved in that decision.

You should go to college out of state if you have the resources to do so. You won’t be limited by course choice but financially it is more expensive.

There are just over 1600 public colleges and just under 2500 private colleges in the US. That is a lot of choices. There may be several reasons why you are considering out-of-state learning. Let’s go through some pros and cons of following that decision.


This for many is the decision maker (or breaker) for where you attend school. Going to college (to a state school) out of state is more expensive. Tuition fees for in-state are approximately $9000 per year, compared to out-of-state $23,000 per year. This is for a public school. Private schools are more expensive but generally, the cost is the same for in or out of state. They generally run about $32000 – $35000 per year.

State colleges are exactly that. They are run by the state and funded by state taxpayers. Fees for non-state attendees are therefore higher as you or your parents have not contributed to the tax of that state.

My post, accepted to college but can’t afford it may be interesting if you would like to read more about the finances needed for college.

The tuition fees are just the tip of the iceberg. The cost of attendance (COA) is about $11000 per year. This includes books, supplies, room, and board. So the overall cost for attending college out of state can run to $34000 per year. If you are doing a four-year degree that comes to a whopping $152000. That is a lot of cash.

However, don’t panic. There is a lot of help available. There is the FAFSA route. And also a lot of colleges offer merit-based aid. By combining some options together you may be able to reduce your overall college costs.

This is assuming that money is not tight but just not overly affluent.

This may not be the case at all. You may have your heart set on an Ivy which are all private schools, predominantly on the east coast. The Ivy fees are much higher, averaging $50000 per year, however, students pay the same, regardless of in or out of state.

The other Ivy point to consider is they offer very lucrative grants and scholarships. They want the best students on their attendee lists and so if you have what it takes they will definitely want you.

Differences between Community College vs University / Ivy League touches more on this.

The cost of any college is something that needs to be considered and definitely something that needs to be discussed with whoever is funding your college dream. They may surprise you and have a fund already in place or you may have to do some juggling of finances to make it a reality. But it is your first step as to whether you should go to college out of state or not.

New State – New You!

Apart from finances, there are other reasons to consider going out of state for college. The thoughts of moving somewhere new might fill you with excitement. A new state means a new you. You can move state and be whomever you choose to be. You may be from a small town and dream of the big city lights. The independence of being able to do whatever you choose, whenever you choose. (within reason of course!)

There will be some anxiety. A complete change of scenery is always going to take a little adjustment. But you should see it as an adventure. New places to discover. So many new people to meet. It definitely will push even the most confident out of their comfort zone. But the benefits will be amazing. You will be able to fully immerse yourself in college life – (not that you couldn’t do that in-state) but sometimes full immersion works better when you are on day one of new you in a new place, with no history and no baggage to explain. You can be the best you!

How to start preparing for college is another on eon my posts that you may be interested in.

Endless choice

This is another amazing positive if you are thinking out of state. Not all colleges offer all courses. You may be looking at something quite niche that just isn’t offered in your local state college – such as Viticulture, offered at Cornell, the study of wine. Or Egyptology, the study of ancient ruins and hieroglyphs, offered at Brown. This may mean that your college of choice may have to be out of state if you have your heart set on a particular course.

But out of state means the choice is endless. There is nowhere you can’t choose from. The nearly makes the choice harder. I would suggest that you think about what your major might be and where you think you might like to live for four years. Maybe you’re sick of the cold and want to live somewhere with a warm climate or the complete opposite!

Think about the distance from home. Do you want to be very far or be able to return home without too much travel involved?
Do you want to attend a large city school or a smaller suburban one? Maybe create a chart with what you want from your school and then do some research on where in the country might suit you best.

As I say sometimes too much choice is a bad thing. Try and narrow down your choices and reasons. You may find that in-state but still want to live on campus.


Most of what we have looked at has been positive reasons. There are also some reasons that out of state may not be a positive experience but this may be temporary and could also happen in-state. Loneliness. It is a very difficult thing to move away from home, but moving across the nation to fulfill your education dream can be overwhelming.

But it shouldn’t be a reason that you decide not to go. It might be difficult at first, to settle in and make new friends but lots of others will be in the same boat. For most, it will be the first time living away from home and everyone is going to be a little homesick, and not just at the start. You could be struggling with assignments or exams or just feeling a bit under the weather. It’s totally normal and all part of growing up and becoming independent.

Knowing that at some stage you’re going to be feeling low is half the battle. Being prepared can help you manage. Keeping active, both physically and mentally. Interacting with different people. Joining clubs and societies. Getting enough rest. These all lead to a better experience away from home.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping parents happy. From personal experience, mostly we just want to help. We worry about you away from home. Certainly, I was nearly at breaking point when my daughter moved away initially. I’m better than I was but not completely relaxed.

It’s good to set some ground rules with your parents if you do decide to go, but you need to do this before you go.
No constant checking.
No helicopter moms.
No criticizing.
This is easier said than done. Most moms are worriers. But a lot of contact from home can make you more lonely and homesick. It’s certainly a point to give serious thought to if you don’t deal well with new situations. But as I say, it will make you a better person, more mature, if you can cope with living out of state.

Careers and Employment

  • Having a career path already in mind might be a reason you are choosing a particular out-of-state school.
  • MIT is considered the best for Engineering.
  • Yale is ranked top for Law.
  • Stanford is #1 for Biological Science.

By attending one of these schools your future career prospects will be heightened. Future employers will all be in tune as to where the best degree is available for their graduate employees. To be top of that selection pile you need to make sure you are attending the best school possible. Talk to as many school counselors as you can and visit as many schools as you can, either physically or virtually, to find the best fit for you.

The other point is whether you need to work part-time while at college. Most colleges don’t recommend their freshmen year to work as well as study but sometimes needs must. Economically lots of states are struggling currently but some are less than others. It may be easier for you to get a part-time job at an out-of-state school than in your hometown.

This is not a reason to apply to an out-of-state school, as a part-time job is not the reason you are going to college. But if you are checking out a school you’re interested in it is always a worthwhile exercise to see what kind of jobs are available.

In the current COVID situation lots of places are closed or struggling. But this will pass and we will all get back to normality. But as I say some states are always better off economically and jobs are more widely available.

Whatever your final decision about out of state, make sure you explore all avenues and as many college options as you can. Wherever you ultimately choose, you want to be happy. More importantly, you want to finish your degree. The freshman dropout rate is upwards of 30%. Don’t be a statistic and choose wisely!

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

Recent Posts