When it comes to choosing which college to apply to, you and your child have a long checklist of options to consider. But one of the first decisions to make is whether or not the student will pursue her higher education on Long Island or go away to school. The main considerations are finances, programming and readiness, said Kristen Capezza, director of undergraduate admissions at Adelphi University in Garden City, and all three have to be the best fit for your child.
“One of the buzzwords is value—what it costs out-of-pocket versus what you get for it,” Capezza said. “Whether you go hours away, commute or even live on campus close to home, it’s the resources offered that should be at the heart of the decision.”
She said, for instance, the additional cost spent annually for an away school could be used for the local student to lease a car or put money into savings for after graduation. “It really comes down to what the student’s priorities are.”
For some, that could be experiencing an out-of-state education. And for the student who earns a scholarship, the cost of an away school can be offset, making it a more attractive option.
Sunil Samuel, director of admissions at Hofstra University in Hempstead, added that the cost of travel should also be factored in since whether you want to visit your child or she is coming home for a visit, there will be expenses that add up over time.
Capezza advised that when comparing schools, instead of concentrating on where they are located, focus on what they offer. “Does the school meet your long-term goals? Does it have work-study options and mentorships? If it has a top-notch program that fits with your career aspirations, that is the most important aspect, not where it is located.”
At the same time, Samuel said that the type of internships a student will want to pursue could influence his decision. “You have to consider if you should stay on Long Island where you have access to the city and the best internships in the world, especially if you plan to come back to the area to work after graduation.”
Kathy Coley, a former counselor and senior director of communications with SUNY Farmingdale State College, said that if the major a student wants is only offered at a specific school, that can be an important factor, regardless of where it’s located.
After being accepted to both SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Stony Brook, Amanda Cooper, 18, was left with a difficult decision: whether or not to attend a school upstate or stick closer to her Oyster Bay home. Ultimately, Cooper chose to enroll in classes at Stony Brook for its science program.
“Part of it was that I was a little more familiar with the area around Stony Brook,” Cooper said, “so I didn’t have to start from scratch.”
Cooper currently dorms on campus, but said she frequently travels home—primarily on weekends and holidays—to spend time with her family.
“I’m really happy that she stayed so close to home,” said Amanda’s mother, Meigan Cooper.
Another issue to consider is a student’s readiness to leave home. “Students can have varying degrees of readiness to be away,” said Capezza. “If students are prepared to do their own laundry, manage their own finances and their time, they will probably do fine away. But there is no right or wrong answer. Sometimes students feel pressure to go away because their peers are. But if students have siblings to watch or a job near home they’d like to keep, maybe staying on Long Island is best for them.”
For Suzanne Beck and her daughter Sabrina, 18, the decision to go away was an easy one. Though Sabrina applied to three local schools, she also applied to three in Florida. She preferred a warm climate, and Suzanne wanted her to stay on the east coast so she could fly home easily. But her daughter’s maturity to be away from home was not in question.
“She had been to sleepaway camp since she was five, so the independence part we knew she could handle,” said Beck of Oyster Bay.
Another consideration is the student’s support system for times he is homesick, according to Capezza. “You could be across the country and may have no one to talk to. Students have to think about what they have nearby and consider what works best for them.”
When her daughter decided to attend Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Beck was relieved because they have family friends and relatives nearby.
“When it was too far for her to fly home for Thanksgiving weekend, she had someone there to stay with, and that made me comfortable,” Beck said.
But Samuel said that no matter where students go, they should establish family away from home, whether they join a church or clubs.
“The idea is to create a support system for themselves to help them through the transition,” he said. “Sometimes we hear from the parents of kids who attend school nearby that they see their kids too often. They come home to do laundry, eat home-cooked meals and bring their friends.”
Capezza said that when families consider the concept of going away, they shouldn’t take that literally. “You could be 20 minutes away and still choose to immerse yourself in that life. You can still have a robust college experience even if you commute. Regardless of where you go to school, you are still going away to a whole new environment than your high school experience.”
Even though Cooper lives less than an hour from campus, she decided she wanted the real college experience by choosing to dorm on campus. “I wanted my own space. It turned out to be a good thing for me. I can do my own thing and be back at home in an hour,” she said.
But Beck said that for Sabrina, the choice to go away came down to wanting to have a new experience. “She really wanted to be away to be with new people and new interests,” she said. “We’re in a small school district and she had been with the same kids since kindergarten.”
Ultimately, then, the choice comes down to preference. Fortunately, because there are so many excellent opportunities for higher education all over the country, if the student’s first choice doesn’t work—regardless of whether it’s home or away—she can always transfer.
—Additional reporting by