Why I’m Glad I Chose an In-State over an Out-of-State College


Snapchat friend map

When I look back at my choice to attend college in state, I wish someone would ask me this question from my favorite movie, Kill Bill, Vol. 2:

“Which ‘R’ are you filled with: Relief or Regret?”, bounty hunter Budd questions partner-in-crime Elle Driver.

Unlike Elle, I respond with “Relief.”

High schoolers, you might write off in-state colleges completely because you worry that your parents will come and visit you as often as they can. You may only look out of state because you don’t want to run into an old classmate.

One year after I made that fateful choice to live less than 45 minutes away from my parents, I’m filled with relief. The stockpiling of student loans, the homesickness, the long trips to and from home… those things don’t make me worry too much. While my friends who attend college out of state have overcome or learned to deal with these difficulties, I believe that I’ve set myself up for lesser amounts of stress by picking a college in state.

I saved a ton on in-state tuition

University of Maryland tuition increase graph

No college student wants to get in a bad routine of spending a lot of green. As a young adult, you need to seriously consider the value of money. What better way to start by considering how much you can save by picking a school with in-state tuition versus out-of-state tuition?

A 2011 study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicates that students paid $8,990 more in tuition on average attending college out of state rather than in state. Hasani Isreal, a graduate student at George Washington University, further emphasizes that an 18 year old may have to pay tens of thousands more per year if at an out of state college.

Isreal references NCES’s study of out-of-state tuition at the University of Virginia during the 2012-13 school year. In order to become a Wahoo that year, an out-of-stater needed to cough up $26,012 more per year than a resident of Virginia.

If you’re relaxing as you read this because your parents said they’ll pay your tuition, stop and think. A 2018 study by Sallie Mae concluded that on average parents pay almost three fourths of each child’s college tuition.

You better thank them for saving all that money to send you to college while they raised you at the same time. While living on my own at college, I realized the importance of saving money. Now I definitely know never to take my parents, their financial support, or in-state tuition for granted.

I wanted to see my family easily from time to time

Brian Myers with mother

Even Eminem misses his mom’s spaghetti as an adult.

You might not want anything to do with your parents upon graduating high school. Going far away to college won’t result in a clean break from your parents. Forgetting your parents when you go off to college will not fully initiate you into adulthood.

When you find yourself in a jam during your teenage years, your parents or older siblings can act as a great resource for help. You may live without them as you begin your freshman year of college, but every once in a while, a quick drive home or a lunch meeting with your family can give you a great opportunity to catch up in person. Believe it or not, you’ll sometimes have the strange urge to hug your parents instead of FaceTiming them.

The proximity of an in-state college between you and your family does come with a caveat. While you won’t have to spend as much on drives as on flights, you and your family have the responsibility of making sure you give each other enough time and space from each other.

Yes, you have the ability to see your parents more easily when you go to college in state, but as a young adult, you need to learn to find the solution on your own. You shouldn’t always have to go to your parents for the solutions. They may help you find resources, but in order to mature effectively, you need to seek out and find the answers to life’s problems on your own initiative.

During my first year at the University of Maryland, I became wiser and more independent when I didn’t drive home to my parents one weekend after another. While I felt much less anxious with the option of visiting them in the same state, I learned more when I could solve problems on my own. When I kept to myself for a couple of weeks, not only did I learn how to live as an adult, but my parents did not feel the need to check in on me as much.

I had a family emergency

Two dogs sitting in backseat

If you fell off a cliff and broke most of your bones, would you rather travel seven minutes or seven hours to the nearest hospital?

If you answered seven hours instead of seven minutes, you may have hit your head too hard at the bottom.

We all want to have a support system by our side when an emergency happens. I found out one of the pros of going to college in state when my own family had an emergency during my first semester of college.

Growing up, I’ve had two parents, two siblings, and two dogs in my family. My family adopted our first dog back when I was four years old. Our second pupper joined us right before my eighth birthday.

When I left for college, I knew that I would need to adjust to life without my parents, but getting used to not living with two four-legged stress relievers was more difficult. I had laughed and played with those dogs for more than half my life.

One night that November, while I sat in my hall’s study lounge writing an essay for my government class, a phone call interrupted me. My mom called to tell me that one of our dogs had suffered a heart attack and only had a few hours left to live. I then immediately called my older brother, who came by and drove us home to embrace our dog before she passed away shortly after.

The night my dog died was a sad event, but it could have been much sadder had I not lived close enough to say goodbye to her in time. I realized that if I had gone to school out of state instead of in state, I likely never would have been able to say goodbye to the family member I loved for 11 years.

It’s true that you may never run into an emergency like mine during college. The lesson, however, comes from the insurance I got in the unfortunate case that I needed to support my loved ones. Meanwhile, I’ve made friends this year who have not been able to say goodbye in person to their family members, human or animal.

If you choose to go to college out of state instead of in state, keep in mind that distance can make a ton of difference. Make sure you know what you’ve got in who you’ve got before they’re gone.

I had a strong network going into my in-state college

People talking at a networking event

Think of the people you know off the top of your head. Start by trying to name the ones that live in your neighborhood. How about the ones that live within 10 miles from you? 20 miles? 50 miles?

As you move through these distances, you’ll likely notice that you know less and less people as you move farther away from home. When looking at going to college in state or out of state, you should consider that you may not have as many connections initially if you choose to go out of state.

Maintaining my connections by staying local at an in-state school has made transitioning from high school to college a fluid experience. You may dread the idea of running into people from your past as I originally did. You’ll change your mind when the upperclassmen you knew from childhood show up as the only ones you know at a club’s first meeting.

Studying at an in-state school gives you a much better chance that you’ll have and make connections early in your college career. If you can make an effort to reach out to a familiar face at a club or event, that person may introduce you to more connections within that organization. You’ll not only have the opportunity to get invited to more parties, but you’ll establish a higher level of clout for your career as you socialize with other training professionals and their connections.

I think I was only at University of Maryland for about two weeks before I changed my tune about seeing people I knew from high school. In the brand-new realm of college, kids that I barely talked to from high school suddenly became the friendliest I had ever seen them.

I gradually realized that even though I had never been close with some of these familiar faces, most of us wanted to reach out to each other for a sense of nostalgia and camaraderie.

One of the biggest pros of in-state college has been growing my connections in college through the people I already know. Joining clubs, going to parties, or dancing at a club can become less intimidating when you know you have a familiar face to look out for you.

If you jump long to avoid people from your past, you may shorten the jumps your career will make in the future. I almost wrote off UMD in my college search because my brother went to the same school. I’m glad I decided to go to college in state because he introduced me to fantastic clubs and professional fraternities for my major, and grand get-togethers for my weekends.

For more on the importance of having and making connections during college, check out content from certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW) Amanda Augustine and communication and public speaking expert Kit Pang. Both offer highly professional insight on the advantages networking will bring you.

I can often hang out with my friends from college in my state

Map route from Gaithersburg to Frederick

The other day, I drove 40 minutes from home to see my friends from college and hang out at the pool. As I cruised back home that night, I realized how lucky I am that I got to spend six hours with my friends from college. My friends who go to school out of state would need to drive six hours or more just to reunite with their college peeps.

I would have tons of fun going to school in Florida or California. Warm beaches for miles and a taco truck on every block make me want to fly away thousands of miles right now. Then again, I can’t fly down there to hang out with friends from college once a week.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve become grateful that I can carefully visit with my friends on a weekly basis. I’m thankful that I live in the same state as most of my friends from college because I don’t have to experience much loneliness at all.

If I’m bored or without my family, I can hit up my friends and ask if they want to go for a hike or catch up at a park equidistant from us. We have to wear our masks and social distance, but hey, hanging out with them in person has been way better than not being able to meet up at all. We might only have to drive 10 minutes each to reminisce about the fun we had freshman year and daydream about the chaos we will bring forth in our sophomore year.

Attending college in state continues to help me stay in touch with my friend group much better than if I had a friend group based at a school out of state.

Take one of my friend groups at college, which has 12 people. Of the 12, 10 of us live within the state of Maryland, while the other two live in New Jersey. The farthest one from me in state lives only an hour and a half away by car, so I could easily make a day trip to see any of them without having to spend the night.

Even more friends from UMD live within 30 minutes from me. If I lived out of state from my college, I would probably have to restrict myself to interacting with my friends virtually by Zoom or FaceTime. I can’t speak for you, but I would go ballistic if I couldn’t see my close friends in person for the six months between last school year and the upcoming one.

I rest my case, now go make your own

Brian Myers University of Maryland t-shirt

When I thought of picking a college in state my junior year of college, I also thought of a coroner signing my death certificate. One year after starting at the University of Maryland so close to home, I am not only alive, but I thrive and I vibe.

I’ve given you this advice on attending college in-state because I’ve received so many benefits from studying close to my home, my childhood, and my newfound friends. You should listen to what I’ve had to say because my advice comes from honest experience.

You should also follow the honest experiences of other college students, whether they’ve gone in-state or out of state. If they followed their passions at their dream schools out of state and ended up loving life, value their experiences as well before you decide on a college.

Choosing which college you should go to is a huge decision. Don’t make your 19-year-old self unhappy because your 17-year-old self didn’t want to go to the same school as your lab partner in AP Biology. Think hard, ask for advice, and whether you decide on an in-state or out-of-state school, your careful decision making will better lead you to success.