It’s Decision TimeIt’s Decision Time

It's Decision Time

If you are planning to attend college this fall, you may be anticipating that early-admission acceptance. If not now, you’ll definitely be eagerly checking the mailbox in the next few months. And if you haven’t yet submitted applications, you may still have time! Colleges with rolling admission policies don’t have hard-and-fast deadlines and continue to accept applications until they have filled all the spots in their freshman class.

Ultimately, if you have more than one school from which to choose, how do you decide if you should stay close to home or travel far from the nest? Jim Montoya, vice president of higher education relationship development at the College Board, an organization in New York City that connects students to college opportunities, offers the following things you should consider when making the close versus far decision:

The “I” in Independence. “If you’re going to go 3,000 miles away, you want to go to a college that has a strong residential life program that supports students that are far away from their families,” notes Montoya. “Student life becomes a very important component of looking at colleges.” The good news, he adds, is that everyone is much more connected these days through computing and cell phones. Thanks to technology, Mom and Dad are mere nanoseconds away.

Make It Work. The lure of exciting campus life is often the biggest draw for students who leave home to go to college. Students who go to school close to home and also live at home need not miss out on the campus experience. “Even if you live at home, you may be able to arrange to have a meal plan in one of the residence halls where you can make new friends,” says Montoya. Join clubs and organizations that look to connect off-campus students to those students living on-campus.

Distance Learning. If you decide to go to school close to home, you may not have to give up on the chance to explore beyond your hometown. “Maybe you can take advantage of summer school programs that let you study in a different part of the country, or certainly study abroad programs that would enable you to spend a portion of your experience further away from home,” says Montoya.

The Best of Both Worlds. You may decide to stay home for a few years to attend community college and then transfer to a college in another state. This is a great way to test-drive college without completely cutting the strings. Even so, says Montoya, students beware. “You have to be focused on the transfer process right from the beginning of your community college experience—taking the right classes and following the right academic pattern. Knowing that you’re going to transfer may require letters of recommendation, so students should get to know their faculty members and make contact with a transfer counselor to get the proper guidance. Building relationships is especially important for the student that plans to transfer.”

Be a Smart Shopper. If you’re contemplating going to school far away, make sure you do the necessary window shopping. “I am always surprised when I hear a student say I never visited the campus before I made the decision to go there, especially when it is thousands of miles away from their home,” says Montoya. “I think it’s worth the investment. Often just being on campus gives you a sense of comfort level and readiness.”

Don’t Stress. “Students put so much pressure on themselves,” Says Montoya. “I always remind them that it’s not a forever decision. Where you choose to go to school does not necessarily determine your next four years.” You can always transfer farther away—or closer to home.