Too Close to Home?


Does a greater distance from home make for a better school? Learn how to make the most of your college experience when you're not "going away" for college.

Q. I've grown up living right down the street from a Christian college. I've always thought it was a good school, but I never thought I'd go there because I wouldn't really be "going away" to college. I did check it out, though, along with several other schools. And actually, out of the six schools I've visited, it's at the top of my list. It has everything I'm looking for. I just wish I could move it a few hundred miles away. Is the fact that it's so close a good enough reason to choose another school that I don't like as well?

A. Absolutely NOT! Countless students go to college close to home, even though they probably don't live on the same street. That is close! But there are ways to "go away to college," even if you live next door to the school you choose.

First of all, don't live at home. Most schools would rather have you live in campus housing for at least your first year there. Dorm life can be a wonderful way to connect with both students and campus activities. For many students, the dorm is the place to make lasting friendships. And while you may decide to eventually live off campus, I think starting your freshman year in the dorm is a great way to go.

Once you move in to the residence hall, don't go home at all for the first few weeks of class. (Talk with your parents about this so they understand and know what to expect). Pretend you've gone far away to school. Like other students in the dorm, keep in touch with your parents with phone calls and e-mails. By not visiting for a while, you'll have a better chance of making college your home away from home. Get to know your roommate(s), students on your floor, and others in your building or in other dorms. Be intentional about making new relationships.

After you have gotten connected, you'll find advantages to being close to home—like being able to do your laundry without needing a roll of quarters for the machines! Free snacks and home cooking can be another occasional bonus, a nice change from the school cafeteria—but don't overdo it. It can also be great to have a place to invite your friends to hang out from time to time. Students that are far from their own family like to be invited into a home and get out of the dorm for a while. If your parents aren't open to that, you can be the "guide" for your new friends, showing them the best local places for pizza and fun!

Another way to "get away" is to check out your school's study-abroad programs. They're very popular and fit almost any interest. You may also find semester programs of study within the USA. These kinds of opportunities can give you experience in living away for a short time and enrich your education as you go.

Written by Judy Moseman

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