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College Research: Geographic Impact at Public and Private Schools

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, January 28, 2013

Applying to colleges farther from home may help increase your chances of admission and provide more opportunities for financial aid at both public and private institutions. Therefore, it's a good idea to include some diverse geographic options when doing your college research.

Public schools
Public institutions, those that receive a significant proportion of their operating budget from a state's government, usually give admission preference to in-state residents. These institutions also charge lower college tuition to in-state students.

Some public schools restrict the proportion of out-of-state students admitted. UNC and the University of Illinois are examples. At schools like these, one does not typically gain an advantage by applying from out-of-state. A college review may be able to give you a sense of whether or not a certain school focuses on in-state students.

This does not mean, however, that no public institutions recruit from out-of-state. Schools like the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Vermont have built their reputations and college ratings by including 30 percent or more out-of-state students in each incoming class. They appreciate the diversity, talents, and dollars that these students bring to campus.

Public institutions can play an important role in diversifying your college list. They can (but do not always) offer lower college tuition. They offer an enormous variety of academic and pre-professional programs. They also typically utilize a form of rolling admission, which allows you to learn of your admission decision within a couple of months. This can help you secure one or more spots while continuing with applications to other colleges.

Private schools
Private colleges are much more likely to consider geographic diversity as a positive factor when reviewing your application. Private institutions have no restrictions on enrolling out-of-state students and most actively recruit students from far away. They love to brag about enrolling applicants from 30, 40, or all 50 states, as that statistic may help increase their college ratings for geographic diversity.

That being said, many excellent colleges have trouble enrolling more than a dozen students from states more than 300 to 400 miles away, and will take notice if you're from outside their traditional range.

The financial aid factor in your college research

Colleges, public and private, also use financial incentives to lure students farther from home. Most colleges (excluding a small group including the Ivy League) offer significant merit-based financial awards to qualified students. These scholarships are intended to attract desirable students to campus — and the colleges realize that they need to offer more aid to students who live farther away. To find schools that may have a tendency to provide these types of awards, check out a college review; it may include helpful tips on this subject.

Most of these awards do not require a separate application. You receive notice of them along with your acceptance letter. So, if you want to increase your odds of admission, and perhaps open up some additional financial assistance, applying to a broad list of colleges farther from home is an excellent strategy.

Be strategic in your college research

The key to making college affordable and rewarding is to give yourself options. By creating a solid, balanced list you'll be able to choose a school that fulfills most, if not all, of your requirements. Although it may require more travel or watching college videos to research schools farther from home, the effort might result in more admission or aid offers, so it's important to keep geographic diversity in mind.

By Howard and Matthew Greene

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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