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Pros and Cons of Attending College Out-of-State

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

A white map of the United States lays on a table. The camera looks from above. A girl with a black hat looks over the map and points at Michigan. On the map sits a laptop, a coffee cup, a Polaroid camera, a passport, a camera, and a pair of sunglasses.

Deciding to attend an out-of-state state college or university is a big commitment for anyone, especially high school seniors who have practically spent their entire lives in the same town. Leaving the people you’ve known and the places you’ve loved can be scary and nerve-wracking.

It might be harder to gain acceptance to certain universities and qualify for important scholarship opportunities, not to mention the homesickness you might feel from being away from your family. 

However, some people see college as one of the only times in their life where they have a blank slate. Maybe they want to live somewhere where the sun shines all year, leave their small town for a big city, or to simply have more options when it comes down to applying to schools.

If you find yourself struggling to decide what exactly you want out of your college experience, we’re here to break down the pros and cons of attending an out-of-state school into simple terms. Read on to find out!

Pro #1: Gaining Independence

College involves a major adjustment period for everyone. You’ll be expected to take care of yourself, wake up on time, attend all your classes, do your homework, and participate in part-time work or extracurricular activities without anyone holding you accountable.

While learning how to do these things by yourself is hard, it’s when you’ll learn the most lessons. Overslept and missed class? You need to make sure you’re going to bed on time. Did poorly on an exam? You need to reach out to the professor on your own. 

For some students who attend school near where they grew up, they might be tempted to come home frequently or have their parents do their laundry and grocery shop for them. While it’s obviously easier to rely on your parents for day-to-day help while you’re in school, those who attend college or university far away will end up maturing faster.

By booking all your appointments, budgeting, keeping your space clean, and eating healthily on your own, you’ll be in charge of your own life and future. If nothing else, it’ll be a great crash course for becoming a confident adult.

Pro #2: More Choices

This one is more obvious, but by looking at schools outside of your home state, you’ll have so many more options for colleges to apply to. If you live in a more rural area without many colleges nearby, you have 49 other states to explore!

Check out college- and university-dense areas like the east and west coast if you don’t already live there. While these areas offer widely different college experiences when compared to one another, you’ll still have many more options to choose from than if you only looked locally. 

Private, public, small, large, religious, non-sectarian, research, liberal arts, and HBCUs: the world of colleges is unlimited.

How To Get Financial Aid Out-Of-State

Pro #3: Different Weather

The weather can have a big impact on your mood and overall attitude. When it’s gloomy outside, you’re probably going to be tired no matter how much sleep you got last night. If it’s sunny and warm, you may be more excited to start your day and enjoy walking to class in the sunshine.

As previously mentioned, attending school out-of-state gives you more options so you’re free to get out of your rainy and cold town and into a place where the sun shines all year if you so choose.

Or, if you’re a native of a place where outdoor pools in the winter are common, maybe you’re looking for a spot you can enjoy snowy activities during the holiday season.

No matter what you’re looking for or where you’re coming from, there’s a school for everyone in every kind of weather. Check out our articles on the top 100 sunniest schools here or the 6 best college campuses for snow lovers here.

Pro #4: Exploring a New Area

There’s a whole world out there, so now’s the time to explore it. With hundreds of cities in the U.S. offering different cultural experiences, anyone can find their home away from home

Looking to go to a school that’s a world leader in higher education while enjoying fantastic sports and delicious Italian food? Check out Boston

Interested in studying politics and U.S. history while having access to incredible internships that set you up for success after graduation? Look into the Washington, D.C. area. 

Want to attend a ‘Public Ivy’ while enjoying year-round sunshine and hipster cafes? Research schools in the California area

Whichever city you feel drawn to, make sure to do thorough research into not only the schools in the area but also things like internship and job opportunities, cost of living, transportation options, crime rates, and the local scene and culture.

Con #1: Price

Now, we’ll be getting into some of the cons of attending an out-of-state school, with the first being potentially higher tuition rates for some state colleges and universities. 

State schools are funded by resident’s tax dollars and also receive money from the local government, which is often why public institutions are cheaper than private colleges. If you don’t live in the state that the public school is located in, you won’t be eligible for that sweet in-state tuition. 

Instead, you’ll have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is often thousands of dollars more, especially at top public research universities that receive many non-local applicants like the University of California (UC) System or the University of North Carolina (UNC) System.

If you’re applying out-of-state for private schools, don’t worry: private schools are mainly made up of out-of-state students so there’s generally one flat tuition rate no matter where you’re coming from. 

Con #2: Acceptance Rate

In addition to state schools being more expensive for out-of-state students, it’s also harder to get in if you’re not local. 

It’s also better for schools to have highly successful graduates who live in the same state it’s located in (hint: donor dollars), so that’s part of the reason why in-state acceptance rates are higher than out-of-state. 

For example, the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill is notoriously difficult to get into if you aren’t a permanent North Carolina resident. For the Fall 2020 admissions cycle, the admissions rate for in-state students was 24% – 48% while out-of-state was just 14%.

However, this doesn’t mean every out-of-state public school is going to be much harder to get into. Do your research and assess all your options. In the end, it might mean applying to more schools than you originally intended.

Con #3: Homesickness

Feeling homesick is a common struggle for almost all college freshmen. It’s probably the longest time you’ve ever been away from your family and friends, not to mention your childhood home and favorite places around town.

While you’ll likely go back home for holidays and breaks, for some people, that time can’t come soon enough. If you find yourself to be a major homebody, going to school out-of-state may only make these feelings worse and could cause you to become distracted from school work and socialization.

If this sounds like you, try to plan the distance from your school to your home accordingly. Maybe you want to go to a school 45 minutes to an hour away so you aren’t always tempted to go home but it’s not too far if you really need help.

Don’t forget that home is just a quick phone call or FaceTime away. Choose a time every week (or every day if you need it) to call the people you love to check-in and get a breath of fresh air. There’s absolutely no shame in missing home, and 9 out of 10 people in college do at some point—they just don’t always admit it.


No matter if you end up choosing an out-of-state school or not, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter what school you go to or where it is. What’s important is that you make the best out of the experience you’re given and have fun while you’re doing it.

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Author: Norah Baldwin

Norah is a high school senior from Boston, Massachusetts, and will major in Nursing next year at college. She currently works as a lifeguard and swim instructor for kids, and volunteers with the American Cancer Society in addition to blogging for Niche.