I am not only an advocate of students going to college, but I am an even strong advocate of students going AWAY to college! Go on...get out of your parent's house! Get out of the town you've lived in your entire life! Leave your childhood friends and go make new ones! Go live in another state! Chances are, wherever you're currently living, you've lived there for the better part of your life. Why? Because you live with your parents/guardians and wherever they go, you go. College is the first time in your life you can break away from your home...and when I say "home," I'm talking your physical house, your hometown, your neighborhood, your street, your family, your friends...and go live somewhere completely different!
Going to college and getting a higher education is one thing. But going AWAY to college and living on campus in a dorm, meeting new people from all over the country and world, experiencing a new city or new state, now THAT is what the college experience is really all about and THAT is an unmatched education in life that beats anything you'll learn in the classroom. Now, I'm not dissing your local state colleges because getting an education, no matter HOW you get one, is still great. But think about it...you live at home and commute to class at your college and then return home. Home, school, school, home. All the while, you're entering your 20s and you're still living at home with your parents, and you're still hanging out with the same local friends you've had your whole life. It's starting to sound like a glorified high school, isn't it? Home, school, school, home is what we've been doing our whole life from pre-K to senior year of high school. It's time to change that...
When I left home for college, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I am a certified Daddy's girl and Momma's girl who had never left home alone before, so you can only imagine the amount of tears that flowed from these eyes! In the weeks leading up to my departure, I started researching gap years and deferring my acceptance. I didn't want anything to do with going away to college. I eventually left home kicking and screaming (I'm being half-serious) and I'm alive today to tell you I survived the infamous FRESHMAN YEAR.
It is said: "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." That cannot be anymore true. Living away from home as a lowly 17- or 18-year-old gives you the chance to really learn about yourself without being influenced by the comforts that have always been around you. You won't ever know who you are until you leave your family and friends in the dust. During my freshman year, I found myself doing a lot of things alone before I really made some good friends. Eating alone, going to club meetings alone, sitting in class alone. But through all that alone time, I really gained a strong sense of confidence and independence because I didn't have Mommy and Daddy and all my home friends walking me along.
Going away to college also opens you up to meeting different people and making new friends. The friends you have at home are probably some of the same friends you've had since the 2nd and 3rd grade. Away at college, you'll meet people from all over the country and even from outside of America. If you grew up in a neighborhood that is predominantly one race (for example, an urban area with a large black population), college might be the first time you're taking classes and making friends with people from other ethnicities. In the real world, you're not going to be working with all your childhood friends and family members. So going away to college to interact with people from different walks of life will help prepare you for the real world.
Are you an East Coaster who's always dreamed of California? Or a person from middle America with big city dreams? Going away to college gives you the chance to experience living in a new part of the country. And if you don't want to go very far, even going to college in another part of your same state constitutes as going away! I went to college just 2 hours from home...far enough so I couldn't commute from home, from close enough so I could go home whenever I needed to. And while I wasn't far away from good ol' Springfield, NJ, Philadelphia, PA felt like a world away!
When it comes to deciding WHERE in the world to apply to school just think: why spend 4 years working your butt off in high school to settle for going to school just down the street? While your local college might be the best match for some, don't just let convenience be the deciding factor in finding the right school for you. You should truly challenge yourself to find the college that is your best fit, no matter where it may be. Don't just apply to colleges because all your friends are going there or because you THINK you might not be able to afford another school. Apply for a range of schools, submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1, and apply for as many scholarships as you can so you can make your dream of going to college out-of-state a reailty. College is four LONG, but fun and rewarding, years. So wherever you go, you want to be happy with your decision.
Natasha Scott is author of The College Admissions Bible. Visit www.CollegeAdmissionsBible.com for more information. To contact Natasha for a speaking engagement or other opportunities, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 973-951-4613.