In-State vs. Out-of-State Colleges: How to Choose

Selecting a college that is right for you can seem like an impossible decision. Chances are, your state offers several possibilities, ranging from public universities to private liberal arts schools. There are schools in your town, nearby towns, and other states or even countries. There are colleges offering large campuses, small class sizes, and every student to teacher ratio in between. The act of selecting a school can quickly become overwhelming.

While there are many ways to narrow down your search, location can be a big one for some students. So, how do you choose? Comparing in-state and out-of-state colleges can be a good place to begin.

Think about where you want to live

Before you even begin to think about cost or any number of factors, consider where it is you want to live for the next four-plus years. If you love your home state and hope to end up there someday, you may seriously consider an in-state school. If you’re looking for a change, an out-of-state school may be the right choice for you.

For many students, it can be easier to find employment after graduation in the town or state in which they received their degree. Students hold internships, make connections, and become a part of the community in which they study, so finding a location you enjoy can narrow down your choices.

Consider the cost

A great way to compare in-state and out-of-state schools is by looking at a breakdown of what it might cost to attend each. Out-of-state tuition can be very costly, but some schools offer waivers or other forms of financial aid. Find out as much as you can about particular policies regarding tuition and see if it fits realistically within your budget.

Some students choose to begin their studies at an in-state school, saving money to transfer to an out-of-state school down the road. Do some investigating to find out if this is an option that might work for you.

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Look at degree programs of interest

If you’ve got your heart set on studying something specific, it is important to know that not all schools are created equal. Some schools only offer a limited number of majors, leaving you to explore out-of-state opportunities.

Some degree programs are location specific—if you want to study marine biology, for instance, Idaho may not be the right state for you. Similarly, New York City may not be your ideal location if you’re interested in rural wildfires.

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Certain schools and even degree programs also monitor the number of students accepted in-state and out-of-state, meaning your chances of getting into a school or program could potentially vary based on where you’re coming from. This will be good information to find out, no matter your decision.

Evaluate potential opportunities

If you’re a student athlete and hope to pursue your sport in college, location can be a factor worthy of consideration. Some schools offer great ski programs while others specialize in soccer—where do you fit in? Climate and geography can be limiting factors in these situations.

Maybe you’re interested in investigative journalism and find a lack of options within your state. In this case, look for out-of-state schools that excel in your chosen field.

You’ll also want to think about potential experiences available in and out of your state. For some students, college is all about trying new things. For them, an out-of-state college might be just the ticket to adventure and education. For others, in-state schools offer the same amount of opportunities while remaining somewhat familiar.

The bottom line

Ultimately, the best way to see if a college, be it in-state or out of it, is right for you is to take a trip there. If possible, make multiple visits at different times of year. This will give you a good idea of what the climate and general atmosphere of the school (and location) is like. You’ll also see how students interact with one another and you’ll have an opportunity to discuss possible financial aid options in person.

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In-state colleges are great options for some students, while the out-of-state experience is right for others. Identifying a college that is the right fit will be extremely beneficial in your future academic success. Take your time and find out what’s right for you.