Do you have dreams of living somewhere different? Want to go to a place where you’d meet new people and expand your horizons? Many take the opportunity to do just that during their college years. For some people, going away to college and immersing themselves in a new environment is an essential part of the experience.
For other students, going away to college is the only option. According to Econofact, “About one in six American high school seniors lack access to a nearby college, at either the two- or four-year level.”
Either way, while there are certainly merits to staying close to home for college, using college as a time to branch out can be a worthwhile experience. Here’s why:
A willingness to go to a school away from home allows the potential student to have more options. For those students who are certain (or nearly certain) of the major they want, attending a school that has one of the best programs makes sense.
Kevin McKeever, a work-at-home father and freelance writer/editor, has a daughter graduating college this year. After visiting dozens of colleges, Megan choose Boston’s Simmons College. McKeever, who lives three hours away in suburban Stamford, CT, says his daughter chose the college because of its six-year accelerated and highly ranked physical therapy program, as well as the fact that it offered a sizable merit scholarship. She also wanted to experience a major city.
While the majority of American high school seniors live close enough to find a commuter school, that school may be limited in the programs it offers. Large schools, however, offer a wider variety of majors, allowing students to choose a program they want after sampling prerequisites.
One of the best things about moving to a new place is that it gives you a fresh start. Being in a new and different environment makes for a clean slate, which can bring out the best in people. It allows people to escape expectations based on past behavior and behave in a way that won’t be compared to previous actions.
A study in the Pacific Sociological Association Journal found that going away to college is particularly important for first-generation American students. The study found that, “first-generation students who attend colleges at a greater distance from home are more likely to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree.”
Going away to college forces students to have new experiences. Dr. Andrea Riskin of ProPsych Associates of New Jersey specializes in parenting, and the treatment of anxiety disorders and ADHD. She says, “Part of healthy development is leaving the nest, which is what we want for our children.”
“I believe 18- to 22-years-old is prime time to try new things. Going away to college is a great chance for young people to experience a different type of life than they are used to, figure out who they are, what they like and what they want to do.”
According to McKeever, one key reason Megan chose to go away is that she wanted to experience new things. And Dad approves. “I believe 18- to 22-years-old is prime time to try new things. Going away to college is a great chance for young people to experience a different type of life than they are used to, figure out who they are, what they like and what they want to do.”
In an article on Foxbusiness, senior advisor at College Confidential Salley Rubenstone notes her view on new experiences: “I always tell students, and especially parents, that one of the most important parts of going to college can be the ‘going’ itself — getting away from what is familiar, to expand one’s horizons and to be challenged by new experiences.”
One job of a parent is to help their children become self-sufficient adults able to navigate the challenges life inevitably offers. Going away to college is a way to foster a young adult’s independence. With no parent or guardian around to wag a finger and remind or cajole the young adult to handle their responsibilities (studying, eating wisely, getting rest, etc.), it forces him or her to be responsible and make decisions.
Dr. Riskin says, “Learning to be self-sufficient in a transitional format such as college provides students with a safety net, and yet at the same time, teaches young adults how to learn from their mistakes. Ultimately, we want our children to feel confident that they are capable of managing challenges and struggles and going away to college is a wonderful way to practice these lifelong skills.”
The chance to learn those life lessons and skills on her own made McKeever glad for his daughter’s decision to go away to college. “They have to spread their wings at some point, and college is an ideal time. My daughter needs an opportunity to be self-sufficient and do things without mom or dad coming to the rescue right away.” Despite McKeever’s agreement with his daughter’s decision, he has the typical parental worries. “She’s very responsible — 98% of the time, and I hope the other 2% won’t rear its ugly head.”
So there are many reasons, pro and con, in the great debate of home or away for college. Ultimately, each family and each student must make the decision for themselves. Hopefully, the college experience will be a fulfilling one whichever way they decide.
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