Deciding where to go to college can be daunting, and the thought of actually going even more so. Taking the safe route and going to school local can seem really appealing, but everything that makes it seem like a good idea could actually hold you back from having the full college experience.
Going to college with friends from high school, living with someone you already know, and being a driveable distance from (or even living at) home all sound great, but college is all about branching out. These things also often backfire when childhood friends grow apart in adulthood, close relationships get derailed by the strain of living together, and the constant availability of home allows you to put off real independence for just a little bit longer.
Of course, some people have all of these things and thrive, but there is an entire world outside of your hometown, and you won’t know what’s really out there for you until you experience it. Here are all the reasons why it’s essential to leave your hometown for college.
You’re forced to be independent- even when you don’t want to be
Most of the time, the independence of college is great. We can stay out as late as we want, we can eat whatever we want, and we can do our homework whenever we want.
Other times, though, independence sucks. When you haven’t done laundry in three weeks and would love nothing more than for your mom to just do it for you. When you’re tired of the food in the dining hall but have no idea what else to eat and you miss the food you always ate at home. When you’re falling behind in class and need someone who has the time to sit down with you and patiently explain it all.
These are the times that make or break being a ‘real’ adult. If someone else could always step in whenever things got hard, that’s not really being independent. I know that if that was an option for me, especially during my first semester of freshman year, I probably would have been home every weekend.
But if I hadn’t stuck it out, I wouldn’t have achieved everything I have now. Not to mention, I wouldn’t have the pride I feel when I look back on it. Because I built a whole life for myself from scratch, states away from my hometown, I feel competent, capable, and ready to do it again after I graduate.
You’ll build a life that’s yours and no one else’s
Just like I’m proud of getting through some of the difficult parts of adulthood on my own, I feel immense pride when I look back and realize that I have an entire community, circle of friends, and set of struggles and accomplishments that I didn’t have three years ago.
College is the perfect time to start over. In high school it’s too easy to get pressured into doing things and acting in ways that you don’t want to. Going to college, you have the chance to be yourself. However, if you’re surrounded by people you grew up with and a lot of the same people from your high school, it can be a lot harder to take advantage of that fresh start.
Making friends in college is also very different from making friends as a kid or as a teenager. Growing up, friendships were often formed based on who you lived near or who you had classes with. By the time high school graduation rolls around, it’s easy to see that a lot of those friendships wouldn’t be as strong if circumstances hadn’t pushed you together. Sometimes, you’re even ready to start distancing yourself from these childhood friendships.
Moving out of your hometown for college gives you the space you need from friends you feel yourself drifting apart from. It also allows you to find people who you really connect with who will become lifelong friends. You can’t do this if you’re still committed to spending every day with the same friend group you always have.
Nothing makes me more proud than to come home for the holidays and realize that I really miss school and the environment that I created there all on my own. The best part is then getting to share my school life with all my family and friends from home and growing closer with them by catching up on everything we’ve missed while being apart.
Coming home is all the more rewarding
As much as I enjoy school, I’m over the moon when every single break rolls around. Freshman year was a difficult and lonely transition for me. Thanksgiving break was a huge milestone, and realizing that I made it three whole months in another state without a single person I knew before I came was hugely satisfying.
Now, as a busy junior, I’m just as excited for my family’s cooking, my big bed, my dog, and old friends as I was back then. There’s never a dull moment during any of my breaks because I have my entire hometown life to catch up on. There’s so much of my life at school that I’ve been waiting to share with my friends and family, and they all have just as much, if not more, that they want to share with me.
If I didn’t have to hold out for a holiday for these moments, they wouldn’t feel nearly as special and I wouldn’t have as much to do to make the time feel truly well spent.
If you don’t do it now, it might never happen
So often I see people putting off traveling or pursuing their dreams until the elusive “someday” arrives. Today is someday. College is the perfect time to put yourself and your goals first. In fact, no other time in your life may be as ideal.
After graduating high school, you’re going to be approached with an insufferable amount of questions of “what’s next?”. The fact that so many people are asking, means that the answer can be pretty much anything.
Your late teens and early twenties are when you’re expected to travel, experiment, and explore. You have the freedom that comes with being an adult, but you don’t have to do it all on your own quite yet.
However, the longer you wait, the more factors come into your life that could hold you back from simply packing your stuff and moving. Pretty much as soon as you graduate college, the question goes from the open-ended “what’s next?” to “how are you going to pay rent?”, and your options narrow pretty quickly.
College also offers the perfect safety net that makes going out of your comfort zone just a little bit easier. You’re not moving out of your hometown with the obligation to figure everything out for yourself from there. You’re moving out of your hometown into a place that is already promising you a bed, food, and its own community. Once you get out there, there will be people there to help you every step of the way.
You won’t know what you’re missing until you do it
Life in your hometown might be completely satisfactory, great even. But if you’ve never experienced anything else, you have no idea what you might discover. I lived in the suburbs my entire life and had hardly ever even visited a city before going to college. Now, I can’t imagine myself living anywhere but in a busy city.
Going out of your comfort zone and having a variety of experiences, positive or negative, are crucial to life. The more you put yourself out there during college, the better prepared you’ll be for life after college. The ability to adapt is one that will be beneficial throughout life.
It’s possible to create a college experience that’s basically an extension of high school. But college is the ultimate opportunity for growth, and you’ll get more out of it the more you put into it.