How to prepare to go to college far from home

Getting ready to go the distance

If you’re anything like me, you might want to get out of town for college—like, ASAP. Going to college 2,000 miles away from home and not knowing a single soul was exciting for me. It can seem daunting, but it can also feel like a fresh start. However, making the big move means that there are extra things to prepare for that you might not have to think about if you were staying local. If you’re planning on going to college far from home, here are some things you need to plan for.

Choosing a school 

Of course, the first thing you have to do is pick the school you want to go to. Distance can be subjective—500 miles away from home may be far enough for one person, but nowhere near far enough for you. Choose the school that’s right for your academic goals and is within the distance from home that you’re cool with.

Travel logistics

If you’re moving further away than a simple car drive, you’ll have to think about alternate travel. Whether it’s by train, plane, bus, or something else, keep those in mind. Set up membership accounts with every company you travel with. This way, you can accrue points or frequent flyer miles. These points can add up quickly and give you extra perks. In my sophomore year, I decided very last-minute that I wanted to go home during spring break. I didn’t have the dollars do it, but I had enough points stacked up that I was able to use those and fly “for free.”

Culture & environment

New cities mean new beliefs, personalities, behaviors, foods, and so much more. This can be an amazing, or not-so-amazing thing. Do some research before you take off for school to see if the community culture is the right fit for you.

You also might be dealing with weather that your wardrobe isn’t ready for. Moving from New England to the South for college had me struggling to say the least. Prepare for new climates and conditions. Invest in a good pair of rainboots or a rain jacket that can hold up during hurricane season. Find a sturdy winter coat and snow boots if you go to a school with frosty winters. Pack plenty of light layers and sunglasses for those sunny, hot campuses. Wherever you go, you’ll want to be comfortable in what you have on.

Consider setting up a new bank account

As a college student, having access to a bank and ATMs are a must. You never know when you’ll need cash to get into an event or enjoy yourself at a cash-only venue. The banks you’re used to seeing at home might not have brick-and-mortar locations in your new college city. Find out what banks are near your campus and think about making a new bank account with them. Before my freshman year of college began, I got a new debit card with a bank that was across the street from my campus. It was super convenient for me to get cash whenever I needed it, plus I was able to avoid pesky ATM fees by using a card within that bank’s network.


Another thing you may not have thought about is healthcare. Many students remain on their parents’ health insurance policies throughout college, so this may not be a concern to you. Their plan might be able to cover any out-state-emergencies you experience, and you can go home for any routine medical care needs you have. However, some insurance plans don’t cover expenses that are out-of-state or out-of-region, or there might not be any in-network providers for you to see if you need to. In this case, you could consider getting health insurance through your school or through state programs. 


Leaving your hometown can be so much fun, but it’s also totally normal to miss home. Missing your family, your house, and all the familiar places and faces can make you homesick. If the thought of going weeks or even months without seeing your family or friends fills you with anxiety or dread, going to school far away might not be the move for you. Don’t feel pressured to leave home just because a school is in a new city or because it seems like an opportunity you can’t miss out on. On the other hand, it’s also okay if you don’t think you’ll miss home too much. Homesickness is natural, but not inevitable.

Contingency plan in case of emergency

I went to school in a state prone to getting hurricanes every year, and I had to evacuate for a month during my senior year due to Hurricane Ida—but I had a plan for that. First, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly where you’re going in case of an emergency and how you’ll get there. Some emergencies can make it so that flights get cancelled and trains stop running, so you’ll also want a backup plan just in case. Then, you’ll want to remember all the things you need to bring with you if you need to evacuate. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Important documents (Social Security card, birth certificate, ID, or passport book)
  • Medications & first aid kit
  • Cash
  • Food and water
  • Toiletries
  • Chargers and battery packs for your devices

The gist

Going to college far from home can give you a fresh perspective on life, and you can be more independent. This might be the first time you really get to make your own decision on where you want to be in life—own it. And always know that you can change your mind and go to a place that feels right for you.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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