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“Location, Location, Location.” That’s a common mantra for home buyers and business owners alike, but it is also one of the most important factors in choosing the right college for you. While school size, academic reputation, social scene and cost of tuition, room, and board are all important factors in making the college decision, studies show that proximity to home is also one of the top ten reasons students select their school of choice.

Pair that with a transfer rate of 45 percent for four-year programs, and the need to pick the right location becomes even more clear. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of flying across the country for college, but have you considered that choice would mean you will be a several-hours flight away should an emergency come up or a bought of homesickness strike? When you catch the flu that is making its way around campus, sadly mom and dad aren’t going to be able to bring over chicken soup and tissues.

Or maybe you’ve always thought you’d stay close to home or commute to school. The financial benefits of saving the room-and-board fees and the personal benefits of letting Mom and Dad do your laundry are obvious, but what about having a curfew at age 21? When you choose to stay at home, you’re not changing your surroundings either. Will you regret not exploring a new city or making new friends?

Your college choice will impact your future friends, career path, way of thinking and character development. It is important to give the decision of where to go to school — close to home or far way — a lot of thought and serious consideration.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of going away for college or staying at home for college.

Going Away for College

There is something quintessentially collegiate about waving goodbye to your family in August and not seeing them again until Thanksgiving or even Christmas break. That is the experience almost every student who decides to go away for college has when they leave for school — be it a few states away or across the country.

Pros for Going Away to College

Among the first benefits to those going to college out of state is the building of character and fostering independence. By placing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you will undoubtedly learn new skills, find you are capable of more than you realized and expand your horizons.

For example, students in a new city will learn to navigate a subway system, cook meals for friends and roommates, meet people of different backgrounds and learn to rely on themselves, not their parents, when something goes wrong. And it’s not all about being on one’s own. Students who go away from home also forge very close friendships — what some today might call a “framily” — thanks to new surroundings.

Another benefit to going away to college is putting down roots in a new city. If you’ve thought, “I can’t wait to get out of Dodge,” select a college or university in a city that you do see yourself settling in. If your hometown is far away from tech jobs, and you are thinking of going into computer programming, pick a college in a tech hub.

Today, however, this concern can be addressed by a huge increase in online Degree programs and course offerings. About a third of all higher education students are taking at least one course online, and many colleges and universities offer online Degree programs that are equivalent to those offered in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms.

When weighing the pros and cons of going away for college, be sure to consider online classes vs. traditional classes. Since Vista College has lifetime career services assistance as well, it can help provide a strong foundation for your education and potential career. Simply put, online education can provide the balance you are looking for.

Maybe you are thinking of enrolling at an out-of-state school because your hometown isn’t as diverse as you’d like. Over your four years in college in a different, more diverse region, you can work at internships and part-time jobs in your chosen field, find a mentor to help you transition into the working world and form friendships with those who will also settle in your new hometown. Thinking long term about the type of city and the type of job you want will help you pick the right out-of-town college for you.

Another benefit to moving away is the ability to define who you are on your own terms. Maybe you’ve had a less-than-ideal family situation — moving away from college can give you a healthy distance and help you better negotiate family dynamics. If you’ve always been known as “the youngest Smith sister” or “Mayor Jones’ son,” moving away will help you define who you are on your own terms.

Cons for Going Away to College

Going to college out of state or far away is not all positives, though. There are cons to choosing to move far away for four years. There are logistical and emotional difficulties that come with being far from family. Your support system won’t be there in times you most need them, like when you bomb your first oral presentation (even the best students have bad days) or fight with your roommate. There is no family member nearby to give you a hug and talk with you face-to-face. Thanks to FaceTime and Skype, you can still stay connected, but when you are feeling very homesick, it is not the same.

And of course, life is going to continue back home. Just as mom and dad will not be able to comfort you, you won’t be able to be home if they fall ill, need help with a move or could use your sense of humor on a particularly bad day.

Beyond the emotional and logistical downsides to going far away from home for college, you will probably also incur more expense. Even with financial aid, scholarships and grants, room and board will be a necessity for all four years (either on campus or off) and travel to and from home will be more expensive. Think a plane ticket instead of a tank of gas. Also, you won’t want to haul or ship all of your belongings to another state at the end of the school year, so you will probably end up renting a storage facility to house your stuff.

Some students question the value of the room-and-board fees, since often dormitories are made up of cinderblock-walled rooms seemingly the size of a postage stamp. Shared bathrooms, shared laundry facilities — which usually cost additional money — and bunk beds do not seem worth the thousands of dollars a year they will cost. On top of that, students spend money on meal plans. While some school cafeterias have greatly improved their offerings in recent years, many more still offer mystery meat and plenty of unhealthy options. Many students do not end up seeing the value in these fees and charges.

Finally, there’s old-fashioned homesickness. While this will probably go away as you get to know your new hometown, the unfamiliarity of a new place can make the transition to college life difficult. Not only are you adjusting to new classes and a new level of academic challenge, you also need to know where to buy groceries, who your doctor will be, and where to go if you want to see a movie.

Staying at Home for College

Now that we’ve talked about the pros and cons of going away for college, let’s talk about staying near home. The red-slippered Dorothy told us in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home,” and it can be true for your university choice as well.

Pros for Staying at Home for College

Surveys show that the average college student graduates with around $30,000 in student loan debt. Based on your area of the country and school of choice, it might even be more. That is a pretty big financial responsibility to be burdened with before you even apply for a job.

Staying close to home and saving on room and board, as well as laundry, groceries and other incidentals, is good for your pocketbook. And don’t let those student loan numbers deter you from going to college completely — it’s still more financially beneficial than not attending. The unemployment rate for recent college grads is around 8.5 percent, while the unemployment rate for those with only a high school Degree is around 23 percent.

The importance lies in pursuing higher education, and your school of choice is not as important as once thought. Traditional thinking says you should bend over backwards — and take on a lot of debt — to get into-top tier schools, and then your career path will be set. But current research tells us that graduates of “moderately selective” schools earn just as much as graduates of elite institutions. The long-term benefit of higher education lies in finishing your coursework, not in attending an Ivy League school.

If you don’t want to live at home and commute to school, there are financial benefits to at least staying in your home state. At state-run schools, the tuition for state residents is typically much lower than those students enrolling from other states.

Another benefit to staying close to home for college is that there will probably be a strong alumni support system to help you ease into the job market. The campus and alumni career center will also be at your disposal, hopefully smoothing the path to internships and a full-time job after graduation.

It’s no secret that college can be stressful. You’re choosing a career path that will set the course of your life for years to come, trying out new social and cultural experiences, and working to earn top grades. Having the support of family and friends close at hand can help balance out the stress of college. A built-in, long-standing support system can help you achieve success at college.

Cons for Staying at Home for College

While there are obviously plenty of benefits to staying near home for college or university, there are some downsides as well. The scholastic disadvantage to staying at home for college is that you immediately limit your academic options to the schools nearby. What if you’ve decided you want to go into a health care field, but there is no school nearby with that focus? Or maybe you want to enter a communications or journalism field, and the nearby university is known for its engineering program.

A remedy to this concern is online coursework and Degree programs. If you do not like the offerings at your local schools, you can choose your own coursework in fields as varied as healthcare, information technology, business and legal — all while staying close to home.

Vista College offers Associate and Bachelor Degrees, professional certificates and Diplomas in a variety of fields. Another benefit to online classes vs. traditional classes is that online education allows for more personalized, individualized learning and 24/7 access to course materials. This means you can learn on your own time, at your own pace. Perfect for those who need to balance work and school. It is also a great fit for those who want to stay close to home but aren’t sold on the nearby colleges and universities.
For many, college is the first step into full adulthood, and staying at home can complicate that personal development. Some can easily fall into old habits, like allowing mom and dad to take care of all the cooking, cleaning and bill paying. That sounds great, but it can also create an extended adolescence instead of a burgeoning adulthood.

Beyond that, think about dating! For many people, part of the fun of college is meeting new people and dating. Many meet their lifelong partners or spouses in college. But dating and partying can be awkward or difficult to navigate if you are living at home. Say you want to make your new girlfriend a fancy homemade dinner — will you kick your parents out of their own kitchen to make that happen?

Off to School

Today many students choose a middle ground between going away to college and staying at home. In the changing landscape of education and technology, that middle ground is online programs.

Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders report that online learning results are equal to or better than those obtained in face-to-face classrooms, and 65 percent of academic institutions report that digital learning is part of their approach to education. After looking at these pros and cons, it’s no wonder: Many of the cons are addressed through online coursework. Students can attend a school of their choosing without ever leaving home, thanks to digital course offerings. Check out Vista College’s courses to get the best of both worlds and start on the path to a rewarding career.

No matter which school colors you decide to wear at the start of the academic year, the college experience is yours for the taking. Studies show that higher education is critical to career stability. A positive attitude, an openness to new experiences and a willingness to learn will make you successful no matter where you enroll.

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