For many high school graduates, the thought of uprooting life and attending a college hours away from home sounds pretty intimidating. Leaving a familiar town, life-long friends and your devoted parents seems rather unappealing to many who would rather enjoy the comfort and connections closer to home.
However, many of us who chose to venture away from the nest - even just a few hours north or south - can agree that it was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
1. Gaining Independence
To start off with the most obvious reason, going away to college makes you more independent. One of the greatest skills you can learn is how to deal with situations without Mom and Dad rushing to your aid. While they are only a phone call away (and I still use that phone call for reassurance in many situations), they are not physically close by to take care of things for you. Instead, you put on your grown-up pants, research solutions to the problem, and make a mature decision. Finding a part-time job to make your own money can also help you to feel more in control of your life. The independence thing is definitely some work, but it also feels very rewarding to know you don't need Mommy or Daddy to hold your hand through things anymore.
2. Finding That Sweet Freedom
Along with this new independence comes a refreshing dose of freedom. For the first time in your life, you have the ability to start over. You are in a new town with a different culture and your family is no longer involved in every decision you make. This freedom should not solely be used for partying and wallet-draining antics, but rather to find the activities that interest you, the best types of friends to surround yourself with, and the direction you want your life to take. Moving away to school can be a rewarding experience that makes peer pressure a thing of the past and allows you to become who you truly want to be.
3. Broadening Your Horizons
If you are not persistent in branching out, going to college close to home can make it tempting to stick with the people you knew from high school who have similar interests and lifestyles. In contrast, going away to college exposes you to new people from different walks of life. I go to a school just two hours from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. While this isn’t a very far distance, I have already been exposed to people who were raised very differently from me (currently picturing the mortified looks I received when I told people I attended an all-girl high school). For example, my roommate last year was from a farming family in rural Kentucky. Since I am a city gal who can barely operate my family's lawnmower, hearing stories about her family's farming business and the various animals that run around in her own backyard was actually quite entertaining. Even the smallest amount of distance can help you encounter a new group of people who bring you out of your hometown bubble.
4. Networking, Networking, Networking
Cue the groans. We've all heard a million times that networking is the key to success during and after college. While this can be annoying and a bit intimidating when constantly preached, a huge part of success is inevitably about your connections. If you plan on establishing yourself and your career in your hometown, then attending college close to home is perfect for you to network right there. However, if you have aspirations of venturing to faraway cities to find your dream job one day, moving away from home for college can connect you with a wider variety of employers, professors, and advisors who can provide you with guidance and experience. Building relationships with these people can prove to be a huge advantage when it comes time to apply for internships and jobs.
Now I’m not saying everyone should move away from home for college. We all have different aspirations and staying close to home does NOT make you unambitious. There are plenty of people who go to college in their hometown and have found endless opportunities and satisfaction from the experience. However, to those of you who want to try moving away but feel scared to leave that place of comfort and familiarity, I say take the plunge. It definitely won't always be sunshine and rainbows but if you give it time, the fear of leaving your roots will be replaced with the courage to try new things and experience life for all its worth. Listen to your inner fight song (mine happens to be "Roar" by Katy Perry) and believe that you can independently thrive in even the most unfamiliar places. Adventure is out there, but you have to be brave enough to find it.