A few key reasons many students stay in the Carolinas for college

Did you know that North Carolina is home to an ivy-league school. Sort of. The University of North Carolina is one of just four states that boast what are commonly referred to as the five “Public Ivies.”  The others include: University of Virginia, University of Michigan and two in the University of California system: Berkeley and Los Angeles.

North Carolina and South Carolina are the envy of many states around the country because we have such wonderful higher education opportunities.  The Institute of Education Sciences conducted research in each state to determine who stays closer to home and who heads out of town.

Here are the numbers:

In North Carolina only 17 percent of North Carolina students venture out-of-state. North Carolina ranks sixth in the nation for retaining its own students – only trailing Alaska – 94 percent; Texas  91.5  percent; California – 90 percent; New Jersey – 89 percent and Michigan – 85 percent.

In South Carolina 6,955 students come to the Palmetto state for public colleges (University of South Carolina, Clemson and College of Charleston, among others) and only 1,109 students from South Carolina leave for other states. The University of South Carolina ranks sixth in the country for colleges with the most out-of-state students (2,409).

So the big question is whether or not the in-state perks are worth it. Aside from the obvious benefits of in-state tuition, what are the varying opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the comforts of home?

Double-edged sword of familiar faces.

One of the most obvious advantages of staying nearby is that you’ll know more people. For many students, that is also the single biggest disadvantage. Most students I speak with are eager to start college with a clean slate; no preconceived notions of who they are, who their friends are/were and they look at college as an opportunity to branch out and explore new friendships. Some students want to carry this to an absurd degree and won’t even apply to their in-state flagship school because they feel “it will be just like high school.”

I understand the resistance, but honestly, there will be  thousands of  other students there and having a few dozen students from your high school is not likely to impact your experience. Leaving familiar territory and familiar faces is what college is all about for lots of students. They are eager for the challenge and want to stretch themselves and become more independent.

Staying close to home has a variety of other advantages…

  • Easy trips home for laundry runs or unfortunate emergencies
  • No worries about storing personal items at the end of the year
  • High placement rates with local employers
  • Easier transition to college, less likelihood of homesickness or being lonely while adjusting and making new friends
  • Greater diversity at a larger university than at a smaller private school

John Carpenter, of AskJohnaboutcollege.com shares “Staying in-state is a great option and it means you will have many opportunities to create or strengthen a local network of support both while you’re in school (for internships and volunteer gigs) as well as when you finish school (for jobs, co-ops, graduate school contacts, and so on.)

Don’t underestimate the power of being known and knowing others; your contacts during your undergraduate years can become what propels you forward for the rest of your life. Staying close to home also allows you to give back to your state, using what you learn and whom you meet to make things better; by staying home, you’re fighting the “brain drain” that so many communities worry about, by being part of a real solution. You can still spend a year abroad, travel to different cities, explore the world and have your own state as your home base.”

That good, home-cooked meal is still the biggest reason many students cite for staying closeby.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com