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Too Far Away or Too Close to Home?

For many students, the factor of distance becomes crucial in the college admissions process. Sometimes a parent wants to veto any school outside a certain radius of home. Sometimes a student feels such a need to distance themselves from childhood that any school in California starts to look a lot more attractive. It’s important not to let distance become a determining factor while at the same time acknowledging its real importance.

Distance should not control your parameters in coming up with a list. When I applied to college, way back in 2007, I chose only schools on the west coast. Why? Because my family and I lived in Seattle. My father made my list for me (we had a copy of the U.S. News & World Report college guide on the coffee table), but I have a feeling that my mother had a lot to do with the east coast prohibition.

Does limiting your list necessarily lead to a bad outcome? Of course not. But as much as possible, you should consider every option out there. Don’t let distance be a determining factor in forming your initial list, because you may feel differently later on.

You shouldn’t ignore a whole coast as I did, and likewise you shouldn’t ignore what’s in your backyard. Plenty of students recoil at the idea of going to the local (perhaps state) university, especially when home is in the same neighborhood. But this attitude can blind you to a great option, in-state tuition aside. If you don’t want to live at home, fine: make that clear. But studying and living near home has some distinct advantages, mostly ones that students don’t appreciate until after a few months of college life (home-cooked meals on Sundays and doing laundry at home are two of the most cliched examples).

The question of distance needs to be a question for the whole family, and should be discussed as any other factor in the college admissions process: practically as well as idealistically, and without letting it dominate other considerations.

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