As college costs are skyrocketing, many students and parents are looking for ways to minimize its financial impacts. And one of the most popular ways seems to be taking advantage of resources close to home -- namely, in-state schools or community colleges, both of which are becoming more and more viable options for students not able or not willing to shell out upwards of 50,000 a year to get further away from home. Or, some students find that the school they've fallen in love with just happens to be ten minutes away from their house.
Like most college choices, going to school close to home has both pros and cons. As a University of Michigan freshman who's not only from Michigan, but is also from Ann Arbor (where U of M is located), that was something I wrestled a lot with while making my college choice.
I didn't want to be close to home. I wanted to discover a new city and home -- to be fully independent for the first time in my life; something I feel is an important part of college. I was genuinely concerned that being this close to home was going to impede my personal development as an adult.
In the end, U of M was the best choice academically and financially for me, so I chose it. And during this semester, I've found two things: that a lot of my fears were unfounded, but that some of them were also realistic. So, for anyone thinking about staying close to home, here's everything I wish I had known coming in -- it would have saved me a lot of anxiety in the long run, and let me plan ahead much better.
1. You won't run into your parents all the time. I promise. My parents work for U of M -- my dad actually works in a building about three minutes away from my dorm -- and during this entire semester, I have run into a parent on campus approximately once. He then proceeded to not even notice me after I called out: "Dad!" across the Diag (he claims I was too far away to hear; love you too, Dad).
2. However, it is important to have a talk with your parents about boundaries. If you want to see them every week, say so. If you don't, say that too! It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it's better to get it out of the way early on.
3. Set boundaries for yourself too. Is it tempting to go home and get free food and laundry? Yes. Should you? Probably not. Even if you're going to school close to home, you should still expect yourself to live independently.
4. With that said, be aware that it is possible to be independent close to home, but don't expect to have the same experience as you would moving to a new city. For the first couple weeks of school, my friends who went out-of-state filled up their social media posts with: "Got lost again, haha. I'll figure it out eventually," or, "Just booked a flight for the first time, #adultstatusunlocked." As a townie, you probably won't have the challenge of figuring out where everything is, or figuring out how to travel by yourself and your safety net will be a little closer than most. For me, that's been the biggest con so far. However, it's not irreparable; during the summers, you'll have plenty of opportunities to leave for internships, volunteer opportunities, etc. And, let's be honest -- knowing where everything is can be nice sometimes.
5. There's absolutely no shame in staying closer to home for financial reasons. If it's the choice you have to make, it's the choice you have to make; although more exotic locales might sound alluring right now, student debt definitely doesn't.
6. Be open to finding new sides of your town. Even if you grew up there, chances are as a college student there are new things to discover. I know for myself, there were a lot of things about Ann Arbor I didn't know -- for example, which restaurants are open past 2 a.m. -- which I partake in frequently now (for incoming students, it's Pizza House, Bubble Tea on Friday and Saturday, and Insomnia Cookies).
7. If you're going to a local school, chances are a fair amount of your classmates are too. And I know I was a little wary of running into people from high school again, and again and again. I'm not going to lie -- it has happened, even at a comparatively big school like U of M. That's a con you'll just have to accept. But be aware that it's also very possible to surround yourself with entirely new people for 99 percent of your time as well.
8. Make sure you do hang out with new people! When going to a school close to home, where you know a lot of people, it's really tempting to just hang out with your old friends because it's a lot easier. Don't. Make new friends. That's not to say you shouldn't keep in touch with your old friends or spend time with them, but make sure you're meeting plenty of new people as well and not using old friends as a crutch.
9. Promise yourself you'll give it a chance. Being grumpy can ruin your college experience no matter where you are. If you find that it's just completely not for you after a semester or two of giving it a try, that's one thing, but if after day one you vow to never leave your dorm until your transfer acceptance comes in, that's another. Every college experience will have pros and cons, and right now you might be highly aware of the cons, but I promise there are pros too.
10. Even if you end up loving your school close to home, seeing Facebook posts from friends about coming home from Boston, or New Jersey, or wherever they've ended up, might still bring you down a little, or make you feel like they've gone on this great adventure and you've just kind of stayed where you were. But I know for me, despite those feelings, at the end of the day I've had a great semester at one of the best schools in the world, for a fraction of the price, and it turns out there's not a lot to complain about there. Go Blue!