Advice for Students Going to College in Another State

Thursday, September 08, 2022
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If you’ve calculated the costs of out-of-state tuition and decided that you still want to attend a college in another state, that means that you are ready to embark upon a profound learning experience and a personal adventure.

Getting There

If you drive to school, you have the advantage of being able to transport all of your belongings in your car (just be mindful of break-ins en route!).   If you are driving more than one day, book those Airbnb or motel rooms in advance – you don’t want to be stuck in some random town without a place to sleep.

Flying comes with its own considerations.  First, get a frequent flyer card.  Second, be aware that you’re only going to be able to bring a limited amount of belongings, and those excess baggage fees are expensive.  Third, book early!  Holiday periods in college are also the times of greatest travel (for example, the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year). 

What to Bring

Dorm rooms are tiny and only have limited closet space.  Typically, the dorm room comes “furnished” with the minimum:  a stripped bed, a desk, and a lamp.  You’ll need to provide your own sheets and towels. 

Be aware that the local furnishings stores like Target often get cleaned out at the beginning of the semester.  Amazon Student Prime is a good alternative (the majority of college towns also have Amazon Hubs for returning packages.)

If you plan to buy a used bicycle, you should do so right away as demand for used bikes skyrockets during the first week of the semester.

You can certainly ship items – your college will provide you with the address for their receiving department.  There are also companies that specialize in moving college students specifically, though remember anything you can’t fit into your dorm room you’ll just have to ship home.  Sometimes, less is more.  

You’ll want to pack a couple of souvenirs of home – a favorite pillow, poster, or piece of art can warm up your otherwise spartan dorm room.  

Check out this list of 10 essentials for college.

A New Wardrobe

if your school is in a place with hot, humid summers – which describes most states east of the Rockies -- -- you may find it boiling hot when you arrive.  Pack those flip-flops and shorts.

If you’re going to a snowy clime, you may find winter a bit of a shock.  See what the local students wear – they’ve grown up with winters, and they know all about gloves, boots, wool socks and hoods.  You need to get your winter gear in order by Halloween -- when that first cold snap comes, you can go from wearing shorts one day to gloves the next.  Be ready for it!

Finally, college campuses can be large and sprawling, and you’ll often have to walk distances equivalent to several city blocks every day.  Flip-flops are comfortable around the dorm, but not great for walking a half mile to class.  If you’re in a snowy clime, you’ll need sturdy boots for winter (both for the snow, and for “mud season” -- when all the snow melts in the spring in a slushy mess).

A New Social World

Being physically separate from your old high school crew is a rare opportunity to build a new social life from scratch.  

The first week is a steep learning curve as you figure out where to eat, find your classes, and get used to your new living situation.  During this time, you’ll likely bond with other freshmen in your immediate living arrangement (typically the dorms).   The socialization of the first few days can be intense, and might be tiring if you’re not used to having lots of people around at home.  

If you are assigned a roommate, send them an email before you arrive to tell them a bit about yourself.

While you will naturally branch out into your own social circle with time, those first few friendships are powerful.  Many people develop a life-long relationship with other students that they meet in the dorms during those formative first weeks of college.

The Holidays

You definitely don't want to be stuck in the empty dorms over Thanksgiving  – that would be a serious recipe for homesickness!

If you decide to go home, be aware that the day before Thanksgiving is the biggest air travel day of the year.  Book your tickets early.

It’s common for out-of-state students to join new friends who live close to school for Thanksgiving.  This is a great opportunity to soak up some of the local culture in a family setting.  If you’re lucky, you might get invited to stay during December break.  


It’s almost inevitable that you’ll feel homesick at certain points in your first year.  This is a normal response, and though it can be a painful feeling, it’s usually short-lived.

You should have a set time every week to call your family at home like Sunday evenings.  

And be aware that when you go home for the holiday break, things may feel a little different.  Home will not have changed, but you will have grown significantly into a new, more independent individual with an expanded worldview.