The College Conversation: Out of state doesn't have to mean out of mind

It is heartwarming how our 6-year-old thinks she will live with us forever.

And while it is moving to hear her devotion to daddy and how she wants to marry him someday, I know the time will come when her pure adoration of us will turn into something that resembles complete and utter animosity.

I hope it is a fleeting hour or short phase, if we are lucky, but more than likely, she will want to fly far from the coop. When the time comes for college, I imagine she won't want to live at home with her doting parents (as she is an only child). Inevitably, she will want to head east or north out of our Orange County bubble. Honestly, I hope so.

We've had an interesting month in our office, as many of our parents are deeply saddened by the notion that their children want to leave Orange County and go out of state for college. Their thoughts run away from them, and they seem to expect the worst.

They declare their children will never come home again if they travel beyond our state borders. Seriously? Have you ever been back East in the dead of winter? Come March, during their spring break, California sunshine will beckon. And summer, in most parts of the country, is just as dreadful with stifling heat, bugs and humidity.

Some parents fear their relationship will deteriorate as their teens turn into young adults realizing there is more to life than living under the close eye of their parents. It's actually quite the opposite.

More often than not, distance makes the heart grow fonder. The more time you have away from each other, the more moments will be cherished when you are together. It will surprise you how much they text and call. Teenagers who move out of state grow up and mature faster than those who remain under your roof or too close to home.

We also often hear the myth that where your children go to college automatically glues them to that location for future employment. Internships and jobs while in college should develop close connections with local companies.

Yet that does not mean your child has no chance of ever leaving that location in search of a new job in a completely different area. If anything, their network will be widely expanded. They will meet people from all over the country and world. Keep in mind that they already have a network of family and friends here, so an out-of-state college will actually help their job prospects down the line.

Since most families we meet raised their children solely in Southern California, it is a common feeling that their teenagers will not be able to handle the freezing temperatures in most other areas of the country.

North Face sells jackets that will keep your child warm in temperatures of -20 degrees. While I agree that most California teens do not have a clue about how cold it is in most parts of the United States, they will learn very quickly how to layer, throw on an extra blanket, and sit by a fire.

It is a common misconception that out-of-state college tuition will cause families to go broke. Yes, out-of-state public university tuition is certainly not inexpensive.

However, parents must compare apples to apples. High-achieving students are often awarded merit aid that makes going out of state more affordable. We've had many students granted upward of $10,000 each year bringing the cost of going out of state comparable to a UC institution.

It must be taken into account that the majority of California's public colleges produce five-year degrees. Take that into consideration and do a formal price comparison comparing apples to apples. Private out-of-state colleges cost the same for in state and out-of-state residents. Many private colleges offer merit-based aid to bring the costs down.

We encourage families to explore out-of-state options since it is a safe way for students to take a risk and try out a different part of the country. There is a reason why one of the most popular topics in college essays is how students yearn to leave the Orange County "bubble."

It is not necessarily that they want to get as far away from their parents as humanly possible. It is often the allure of freedom and independence, as well as the desire to meet people other than their friends with whom they've been raised. It is exciting to have the ability to re-invent oneself in a state where no one has heard of them.

Give your child the gift of transitioning into adulthood faster. Allow them to learn to be their own person, cook their own food, and do their own laundry. Force them to be immersed in the real college experience, since they won't have the chance to come home to mommy and daddy every weekend. Expose them to a wider world.

After all, what's the worst that could happen? If anything, after earning that college degree, they will want to come home.

But, as far as my 6-year-old is concerned, she is never moving out.

LISA McLAUGHLIN is the founder and executive director of EDvantage Consulting Inc., an independent college admission counseling firm in South Orange County. Her column runs Sundays. Please send college admissions questions to Lisa@EDvantageConsulting.com.

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