Importance of Comparing Colleges by Location

There are so many factors that go into making the college decision – from academic reputation to finding the right fit to affordability. Beyond the institutions themselves, it’s also important to compare colleges by location. Where a college campus is can have a big effect on whether or not it’s financially feasible to attend.


Take a look at some of the ways location might affect the average annual cost of college:

Travel expenses

No matter how far away a student goes to college, at some point, they will want to visit home. Whether it’s just on long school breaks or a couple of times a month, compare college locations to consider what it might cost to get from campus to home. Is air travel required and are there direct flights? Will you need a car on campus to get back and forth, and if so, do you have to pay for parking? Does being a commuter student make the most financial sense?

Cost of living

Is your dream school in a large, expensive metropolitan area or a small college town? Depending on the answer, students might pay more for everything from meals to recreation to local transportation. If you ever intend on renting an apartment as opposed to living on campus, the average annual cost of college can be significantly increased in areas with hefty rental prices.

In state vs. out of state

If you’re considering attending a public institution, it might make sense to stick with your state of residence. For the 2015–2016 academic year, the average public four-year in-state tuition price was $9,410 while the out-of-state cost was $23,893 (more than double), according to The College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges. However, some schools do offer tuition discounts for out-of-state students, especially among private colleges and universities, so don’t completely rule out leaving the nest.

Local connections

College success is more than just acing your classes. Part of the experience is seeking out internships to enhance your studies and apply what you’ve learned. Many students end up calling their college town home after graduation. That being said, it’s important to consider what sort of work and internship opportunities are available in the school’s area and if those mesh with your intended career field.

There tend to be larger organizations located in big cities, so check out the nearest metro area if you’re opting for a small college town. Also noteworthy are certain industries clustered in specific regions. For instance, there are tech startups in Silicon Valley and financial services in Virginia. Think about what you’d like to do and where you’d like to work someday and have it match with your college choice. This can offer a seamless transition into your career.

When deciding where to attend school, make sure to consider the bigger picture. When you compare colleges, think about their locations and how that might affect your average annual cost of college and overall experience and comfort level. In other words, when you go on campus visits, you should also check out the surrounding areas as well. If you’re torn between two or more options, finding time to revisit campuses or giving more thought to each school’s location just might be the tiebreaker you need to make the right choice for you.

Author: Dawn Papandrea

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