By Khaled Itani
As college decision time nears, some of you might find yourselves lost, overwhelmed and/or confused regarding where you want to go for college. While it is normal to feel stressed, you can’t let these negative emotions get the best of you, and you will come to find that when you can think calmly and clearly that a lot of things tend to work themselves out for the better in the end. With that being said, you will likely be doing a lot of reading and asking around for advice and perspective on where to go for university, in this blog post I intend to give you some insights on staying in your hometown for undergrad which may help you in your decision making.
Even if you are anticipating scholarship money or grants going into university, you still need to consider the costs of textbooks, access codes and if you are leaving home then rent and perhaps even gas money (all these don’t even account for tuition and fees!). You should consider these factors, evaluate the costs per year and make an informed decision from there. It may be exciting to experience a new life elsewhere, but if you are given the chance to graduate with a bachelor’s degree with close to no debt as well as not having rent to pay, it puts you in good footing in the future especially considering the student loan crisis in the U.S currently. Discussing cost can be a sensitive topic, as different people receive different types of financial aid/scholarships or none at all, and some scholarships are only usable at Florida institutions (e.g Bright Futures), so while this topic can be stressful, you shouldn’t avoid it and you need to be realistic.
For a lot of us, graduate programs are probably somewhere on our timelines. It is important to consider that being an undergraduate is typically only a 4-year journey, in the big picture of things, 4 years really isn’t that long. A lot of you are finishing high school now, so I’m sure you know the bittersweet feeling of 4 years going by fast. If you are thinking that you will be bummed and upset about being at home for undergrad while your friends are out experiencing a new scene, you need to remember that for graduate school it is VERY likely you will be studying in another city, state or in some cases maybe even a different country.Additionally, the fear of missing out on travel during your academics is only as real as you make it, regardless of which university you go to, you will most likely be able to find internships, study-abroad programs, shadowing-abroad opportunities, etc. which can help push you towards your goals while still experiencing a change of scene. From my personal experience however, as a Pre-Med student it is more difficult to try to do study abroad from my experience, especially because you have a lot of prerequisite classes and science classes you need to get out of the way, additionally other commitments like research, clubs, plain-out wanting to just be able to rest, etc. can tire you out and you may find out that maybe study-abroad isn’t for you, but everyone is different, this is just my own opinion.
3. Dismissing the fear of “not being able to grow”:
Some people fear that staying at home might prevent them of becoming their own person. Most people graduate undergrad at around 22, you have plenty of time left on your life to grow as a person, but additionally it is worth mentioning that you will likely end up getting pretty busy in your own academic life and involvements that you will start to grow without you even knowing. Transitions are often filled with struggle, and from struggle comes growth, when I look back at my growth regarding academic capability, I definitely feel like I experienced huge growth in relatively shorter periods of time during my undergrad semesters. In my case, I took College Physics I and II as a freshman, while typically these classes are taken by Juniors and Seniors, while taking these classes it was a struggle no doubt but after coming out of it all, I can look back and definitely say I experienced growth in my study habits, time management as well as my general outlook on difficult classes and even my work ethic to an extent. That being said, all this growth occurred without even factoring in a stayed home for undergrad, which now in hindsight I do find it weird that at one point I thought I wouldn’t be able to grow as a person staying in Orlando… that being said though, other types of growth can occur if you leave home for college, but it is incorrect to think that you can’t branch out, learn new things and develop yourself while studying in your hometown (and if you’re from Orlando… Orlando is huge, there is no shortage of ways to involve yourself to gain experience outside of your classes).
4. Programs of study (Note: this section is mainly for those who intend to go Pre-Health):
If you intend to go into Pre-Med or a Pre-Health field, it is important to know that a strong emphasis of your coursework will come from your medical school prerequisites, there is no “right” major for anyone pre-health (or even pre-law for that matter). It is worth noting however it could be convenient for you to go with a science related major (e.g: Biology, Health Sciences, Chemistry, etc.) so that your prerequisites coincide with your major requirements (2 birds 1 stone) but in the big picture your major doesn’t matter too much. However, if you want to study something very niche and specific, and you are certain that this is pertinent to your end goals then go for it (this might apply to people who are looking for a specific branch of a liberal arts field, or a specific type of engineering), but for example if you want to major in Neuroscience and go to a distant school for that specifically while your end goal is Medical School, you can simply do a common Biology major at a local school and still be able to get into medical school just as easily (easily is a bad word because nothing is really easy to be honest).
Everyone has their own story, their own journey and their own path. As cliché as it sounds, don’t compare yourself to others so much, everyone’s circumstances are different, and a lot of things go on in other people’s lives that we don’t know about and may never know about. Ultimately you need to do what is best for you, you have your whole life ahead of you and you shouldn’t put false ideas into your head that college is the end all be all or that college is going to be the best years of your life (You really think the climax of your life should be at 22?). You should start asking yourself deeper questions, are you the type to get homesick? Would getting your own space be beneficial to your relationship with your family? Are you ready to be sorta on your own? Is it something you can afford? Are you doing it because you want to or because everyone else is leaving? Through it all, think carefully, evaluate your options and the costs, talk to the right people, and make an informed decision. In the end things will work out, so long you work hard and have honest intentions things will work out.