Today, out of the blue, one of my close friends who is a senior in high school sent me a message asking if she could request a topic for this week's Monday's with Madison. Of course I said yes (in the future if you have an idea/recommendation I would love for you to send it my way)! She asked if I could write a post on tips for students who are thinking about going out-of-state for college. Being almost 3/4 the way through my first year at Iowa State University which is a little of 4 hours away from my hometown near Madison, WI, I definitely have some tips! If you can't tell from my blog posts/social media/etc., I am LOVING Iowa State and know that it is where I am supposed to be. So, I think that you (all of you high school juniors/seniors) should at least CONSIDER college out-of-state.
I will be dividing this topic into two parts to hopefully answer two perspectives on this question:
1) Why you should consider going out-of-state/the benefits
2) Tips for once you decide you're attending a college out-of-state
All ideas are from my point of view and I am slightly biased seeing as I am enjoying my experience at a university out-of-state. I have no doubt that I would have a good experience at an in-state institution.
1. Why you should consider going out of state/the benefits of attending a college out of state.
College is your first real experience where you are on your own. You get a fresh start and a chance to re-identify and solidify who you are as an INDIVIDUAL. I have found that being far enough away from my family that I can't usually go home on the weekends (not having a car on campus this year adds to this also) has pushed me to embrace my individuality, and take advantage of the many opportunities that are around me.
I won't lie, the first couple of weeks were hard. Many of the friends I made in the beginning of the year here at Iowa State live close by so they were able to go home (and did) often. Sometimes it was difficult being what seemed like the only one on my floor/in the dorm on a weekend, but once I changed my way of thinking, this improved. Once I realized that there were probably other people feeling the same way, or other people outside of my immediate friend group that were still in Ames, I embraced a positive mindset and began wanting to take full advantage of my time and the many people around me. Besides college, there won't be many times (if any) where you will be able to say you lived in close proximity to [insert large number of student population here] people your age in one town for 4 years (give or take).
Being away from home forces you to step outside your comfort zone to meet new people. It is will this leap of faith that "home" will come to mean, not a place, but a group of people that surround you. It will be weird because you'll go home for break and after a few days, miss being on campus and living close to all of your best friends!
Going to a college out-of-state has also pushed me to be involved. Naturally, I am the kind of person who functions better with a busy schedule. However, getting involved helps fill my time and helps me feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself. The different groups of people I get to work/grow/learn/have fun with, help to make me a better person and understand more about myself, but also make me feel at home in little moments each day.
There is something to say about going out-of-state instead of just a somewhat large distance away from home. I could have attended a university in Wisconsin that was the same distance from my home as Iowa State is, but I am a firm believer that my experience would have been SO much different. I feel that each state has different things to teach you or perspectives to teach you through. You will meet different types of people in each state and will have access to different opportunities based on the state you attend college in. Going out of state has exposed me to people, things, places, experiences that I wouldn't have been exposed to in Wisconsin. Through this I have become much more aware and appreciative of differences in society and cognizant of how to interact because of them.
Iowa State has introduced me to people who's family's own and operate farms, pumpkin patches that have corn pits as a main attraction, a Greek community that participates in Yell Like Hell each Homecoming week, the opportunity to work for the current best student newspaper in the country, Salt Company which is one of the largest student religious movements in the country, Des Moines, and so much more.
Attending college out-of-state will make the times when you get to see your family and friends so much more valuable. I look forward to breaks and other times when I get to see my family SO MUCH. I write countdowns on my white board and I'm pretty sure my friends get tired of hearing about my excitement. Since I live about four hours from them, my interactions are usually limited to phone calls and FaceTime sessions. So when I finally get to see them in person, it is a momentous occasion. You will learn to love your family and friends so much more than you ever could imagine was possible. I have always loved and been close to my mom, but being a good distance away from home has drawn me even closer and each week I enjoy our spontaneous phone conversations and deep talks. Just this weekend I got to see my family for just a day and it was SO much fun! I had been looking forward to it for so long and I treasured each moment that we spent together. I miss them tons already!!
I can't say that going to college out-of-state will be easy all day, every day, but I can definitely day that it will be worthwhile. It sure has been for me!
2. Tips for once you decide you're attending a university out-of-state.
A) Investigate clubs and organizations that you may be interested in joining. Commit to at least getting to know more information about them once you arrive on campus.
B) If your spiritual life is important to you, explore church options before arriving on campus. The best way to find the right fit for you is to attend multiple and compare to find what works for you.
C) Decorate your room with elements that remind you of home. Each day you will come back to your same, probably small room. It is therefore, that much more important that your room is home-y and comforting. In my room I have TONS of pictures of my friends and family as well as pictures of my hometown and the beautiful scenery. If you go to college out-of-state, this will be even more important.
D) Have times planned for when you will go home or when your family will come visit you. These times will be ones you will look forward to!
E) Hopefully you will meet someone who lives close by/in-state. If so, if you're close enough, try to plan a time when you can go home with them. Getting off campus will be fun, relaxing, and different!
Having fun in my friend Hannah's hometown
F) Explore the town your college is in and the surrounding area. Chances are you will find some pretty cool new places. If it is going to be your home for around four years, you might as well know all the nooks and crannies!
G) Don't leave your friends behind! Just because you may be hours away from your closest friends doesn't mean that you're friendship has no chance. Make time for connecting and catching up with your friends. Randomly text them and let them know how much you still value your friendship. My best friend sent me flowers this Valentine's Day all the way from Minneapolis and it made my day, if not my week.
H) TAKE TONS OF PICTURES and in general, document your time in this amazing new place. You will enjoy looking back and remembering all the fun you had with some pretty awesome people.
I) Overpack. Okay, this may sound really weird but if you will be going to college out-of-state, there will be fewer chances for you to get things from home and bring them back to campus. If you think there is a chance that you may need something pack it and pack extras of toiletries and other high-use items. I have a storage bin on top of my closet/dresser filled with extra things for when I will eventually need them.
J) FaceTime your family. One of the highlights of my weeks has become FaceTiming my family every Sunday. It is so great and refreshing to see their faces, hear their voices, and catch up each week. This regular routine will leave you feeling comforted and leave you with a little piece of home.
FaceTiming with my Parents
K) Attend sporting events. Getting involved in campus athletic event is a great way to spend your time and to dive into student life at your university. By learning the traditions, cheers, and more you will begin to feel more like you belong in your new home.
L) You will start to call your campus/dorm/etc. "home" and that is ok. This is actually a great step. It means that you are feeling more comfortable where you are and that this place now holds special meaning for you.
M) Find "your spots." Whether it be a coffee shop, a table in a building on campus, or a bench outside (granted the weather permits), finding a place where you can work and wind down is both beneficial and meaningful to your time as a student.
N) Look for older students in your clubs/organizations/classes/etc. who can serve as your role models and mentors. These people will make your college years easier, can push you to try new things, will inspire you, and may be some of your best friends. I feel so blessed to have already found some of these individuals through Salt Company and sorority!
Well those are all the tips I can think of right now! I'm sure their are more but I hope that these ones will help you high school students starting to think about college. Considering going to a university that is out-of-state can be scary and nerve-wracking but I have found my decision to be definitely the right one for me.