Application season has officially started. August 1st was about two weeks ago, which means you most likely have already created your infamous Common App account. Awesome! Woot woot! Partaaaaay! Let’s go celebrate.
You’ve made the very first step–creating your account, maybe filling out the easy stuff, perhaps starting on your main CA essay–but the next step is to start on your individual schools’ supplemental essays. Before you can do this though, you have to create a list of colleges to which you want to apply. The Prospect has a few articles here and here (and a video here) about how many colleges to apply to, private vs. state schools, and the like; but I wanted to add my own perspective on making your application list: distance. The good and the bad, because it matters.
1. Family. Family’s awesome, and of course you love ’em, but boy do they know how to make you pull your hair out. College doesn’t necessarily mean less nagging–about your bedroom’s cleanliness (or lack thereof), the who/what/when/where/why/how of your plans later, why you decided to quit Chess Club, the C- on your Physics midterm, “What happened to your old friend Julie? Don’t you like her anymore?” et cetera–it just means that you can more easily… ignore it. The farther away you move from your family, the easier it is to refuse the phone call from your dad at the inconvenient time, the less likely it is that your mom will plan a surprise trip to campus to come and see you. Moving away can give you more independence, more confidence, and the ability to appreciate your family in a new way. I really dislike the phrase “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” because it’s so cliche, but I have to admit that it’s very relevant in this situation. The fewer times you can see your mother, the more you cherish the times you can, even if she’s fussing about how you need a hair cut the whole time.
2. Leaving people behind. Have you gone to school with the same people for all twelve years? Does it seem like everyone chooses the same college to move on to? Do you really want to stay with the same people you’ve been with since what almost seems like birth? I surely didn’t, and I think this one speaks for itself. Meeting new people can be fun.
3. New places. Did you grow up in the country? Have you always wanted to experience urban life? Vice versa? Have you never been west of Illinois or east of Ohio? Do you just want to experience something new? If you haven’t had the privilege of traveling a lot, this is a great chance to go. You’d get to live four years of your life in a place where you’re curious about, where you’d always imagined yourself enjoying, your family didn’t want to go, or something else. This is a time where you can decide for yourself where you want to live: urban, suburban, rural, Alaska, Hawaii, Brussels, London. Just like meeting new people, new places can be fun, too.
1. Family. Homesickness is bound to hit, and it’ll sneak up on you. One minute you’ll be peacefully studying, and the next you’ll be wailing to your roommate about how much you miss your dog Floppy. As long as you’re dorming, you’ll always miss your bed, your mom’s pancakes, the ordinary things that you’ve always taken for granted before. But you’ll miss them the same whether you’re across the country or down the street. The only difference is how easily you’ll be able to go back. Plane ticket prices are not a joke.
2. Leaving people behind. Your friends. Your favorite restaurants. Your hangout spots and your nostalgic carvings in the tree at the park. Gone. Bye bye. You’re leaving them behind, and, depending on your financial situation, you may not be able to visit them as much as you want to. See above: plane ticket prices are not a joke. Once again though, this fact will be the same whether you’re two hours away or two days away. You will still have to leave them, so this is less a con about going out-of-state for college and more a con about generally going off to college at all.
3. New places. It will be a bit awkward. You will be the tourist for a while. You will get the “Do they even have Wal-Mart in your home state?” questions. It’ll be weird to be new, and it’ll be weird to ask where everything is. You won’t know the geography of the state, and you won’t know how far away one city is from another. It’ll be scary, you’ll need a map, and you’ll need some good new friends to show you around the place, but it will be okay. You won’t be alone, because at every college there will be international and other out-of-state students that you can buddy up with, too.
I wholeheartedly recommend expanding your collegiate horizons. I’ve always known that I wanted to go to college out-of-state. I wanted to have the opportunity to travel, since my family has always been stationary, and I wanted to be able to say that I’ve been somewhere my family hasn’t yet, that I’ve made a mark on my own somewhere, stuck a Jasmine flag in a pile of random dirt in California just to say that I have. If this is or isn’t for you is a personal decision, and it’s okay to not want to. However far away from home you go, you’ll be somewhere new, so it’ll be exciting and difficult and crazy and wonderful and horrible all at the same time, but it’ll all end up okay. So think about it, make a few decisions, update your list, and work on those supplements! Get to it!