Attending College in a Different Time Zone

Last Updated May 7, 2010 1:15 PM EDT

Most students attend college close to home.Cute house
More than one out of three students attend a college that's only 50 miles or less away from home. In contrast, only 14% of students chose a college that's 500 miles or more away.

I was talking to a college counselor at a private boys' high school in St. Louis recently and during the conversation, he said something like this: You have to understand that the parents at this school don't want their boys attending a school that's more than a three-hour drive from St. Louis. He added, I think this desire to stay close to home is a Midwestern thing.

Actually, I responded, I hear the same sentiment from parents in California. In fact, I think parents everywhere feel that way.

I'd argue, however, that keeping a teenager close to home could reduce parents' chances of shrinking college costs.

Attending College a Time Zone or Two Away

Applying to college a time zone or two away, can gives students a leg up on larger financial aid or merit awards. Why? Because colleges crave geographic diversity. If a college admission office in Ohio or Michigan is trying to decide who gets a scholarship between two equally talented candidates, do you think the child from 50 miles away will get it or the teenager from San Francisco?

In the age of Skype, Google Chat, texting and email, parents can stay in close touch with their children regardless of where they attend college. My daughter has been studying for the entire year at the University of Barcelona and I talk to her just as frequently -- via Skype -- as I did when she was in college in Pennsylvania.

A lot of parents get hung up with the cost of airfare to and from faraway colleges. I have found the plane tickets actually cost me less than the cost of keeping my daughter on our car insurance policy. Parents don't realize that they can often remove their children off their car insurance coverage when they are attending distant colleges, which can be a huge cost saver.
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and you can also find her at TheCollegeSolutionBlog.com. CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.
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Attend college image by Steve & Jemma Copley. CC 2.0.