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

February 26, 2011|By Lisa McLaughlin

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

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