Often this is the factor that plays a huge role early on for students in deciding where they want to go to school. For some students they are quite comfortable staying near home and going to college. They may have fears about leaving family members or going to a school where they don’t know anyone. For others, they can’t wait to get out of the house and live on their own. They want their freedom and want to explore a independent lifestyle without having to answer to parent’s rules. For both of these philosophies, there are both positive and negative aspects of them.
For those who would rather stay close to home, there is the comfort of having a place to go and people to turn to if times get tough. Family is often a great support place and there is no place like home for many. There is nothing like mom’s cooking or dad spoiling you with some shopping or spending money. There is also that comfort level of having a sibling or close friend to talk to if struggles emerge.
All of that being said, there are a number of negatives with staying close to home. Some would argue that you don’t learn how to become independent and grow as a person. If mom is still doing your laundry and dad is giving you money every time you overspend your budget, then you aren’t learning how to take care of yourself, which should be one of the ultimate goals of your college experience. Being on your own should also help you learn to be responsible about things such as paying bills, meeting deadlines, becoming organized and managing your time wisely. There is also the concern that you may not explore as a person and leave your comfort zone, which will stunt your growth as a person. By not exposing yourself to different types of people, races, cultures, beliefs, etc. you are limiting your growth as a person and not strengthening your people skills that you will need to use in the professional work world.
Just as staying close can be limiting, going away to school has its issues too. As mentioned above, going away forces you to learn to become independent and responsible in multiple areas. It will expose you to being on your own and develop your survivor skills immensely. It will force you out of your comfort zone and immediately challenge your social skills as you learn to navigate a whole new city, region or state. You will be forced to initiate social interaction since you won’t know anyone.
These challenges can be both positive and negative. It really depends on how the individual deals with them. For some young people, being away from family and friends can become really overwhelming and can ruin the college experience. If you go away to school and the school environment does not meet your expectations, you are stuck there for at least a semester or maybe a whole school year depending upon your financial resources. The isolation of being away from what you know, can impact your effort in classes and how you view college in general. Isolation, loneliness and homesickness are very common for students who go away to college.
As mentioned earlier, I had a student go back East for school and transfer after a year, because she did not like the feel of the campus in such a large city. I had another student attend college in a small town in the Mid-west. His social experience was extremely disappointing and forced him to transfer after only one semester. It is important to note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with transferring from one 4 year school to another if your first choice isn’t just the experience that you had hoped for. Many students transfer and go on to enjoy their college experience. For every student who has transferred back, I have had 20 students go away to school and love it. Due to the positives and negatives of both situations, many students try to find a middle ground by going to school several hours away by car. This allows them to be away from their parents and become independent, but at the same time close enough to get home if they have difficulties.
For those of you who are concerned that your parents won’t let you go away to school, my advice is relax. Every year I have students who are in there junior year of High School and they tell me that their parents have said that they can’t go away. Often this can be a cultural issue, or economic or sometimes its just a philosophical one. I give them all the same advice. Just wait. Parents initial reactions are just that, a reaction. Often parents need time to accept the fact that their child is growing up and becoming an adult. There is no point in wasting your energy as a sophomore or junior in arguing with your parents or trying to convince them to let you go away to school. Your best bet is to just ask them to allow you to apply to the schools you want at the beginning of your senior year. You could help yourself accomplish this by saving some money to help pay for application fees. Once you have applied and find out what schools have actually accepted you, THEN spend your energy on convincing them to let you go away to school. They will hear of other students in your class going away and are more likely willing to give it a chance if it’s affordable.
One student of mine told me of her frustrations about her parents not letting her go out of state for college. A year later, one week before graduation, she informed me that she was going to school in New York! Parents will usually accept their child leaving home for school, they just need time getting used to the idea. For some parents, the idea of being alone (if they are a single parent) or not having kids in the house is a scary thought for them. Most often parents will end up being proud of their child going off to school and will brag about it to their friends.