How (and why!) to Move Across the Country for College

Thinking of going across the country for college? 

Moving to college in a new state across the country gives you the best of both worlds — you can feel like a resident of a new place during the school year but return home often on breaks. For young students, moving across the country for college is a wonderful way to feel independent, encounter new things and attend the perfect school for their educational goals. If you’re wondering whether it’s the best option for you (or for your child), take a look at the pros and cons, the process for a long-distance move to campus, and get tips for making the relocation as smooth as possible.  

Male student and parent unloading the car at a dorm after moving to college across the country.

 

Is moving to another state for college the right move for you? 

It’s wise to consider the pros and cons when deciding where to go to college. These are some of the advantages and disadvantages of going to college across the country from home: 

Pros: 

  • New experiences: A new place brings new adventures like outdoor activities, cultural programs and travel opportunities.
  • Independence: Figure out how to do things yourself and find your way as you create a new social circle. 
  • New connections: With students, faculty and staff coming from across the country (or even across the globe), you’ll be able to meet a new group of friends and collaborators.  
  • Specialized programs: Sometimes, you have to look out of state for your subject matter or to find the best schools or professors in a particular field. 
  • Fewer distractions: There’s less temptation to return home or hang out with old friends, so you can focus more on school. 
  • Fresh start: If you felt like you were labeled a certain way in high school or your hometown, a move can offer a clean slate to make a new name for yourself. 
     

Cons: 

  • Travel time: If you need to return home for holidays or family events, it takes time and money to travel back. 
  • Cost: Out-of-state tuition, moving costs, and travel expenses can add up. 
     

How to make a cross-country college move 

If you have friends moving to a nearby college, they’re probably planning to throw some things into their car for their dorm and return home to grab anything they might forget. However, if you’re moving more than a few hours away into a new state, it’s a little more involved. On top of the usual “moving to college” checklists, here’s what to do for a long-distance move to college: 

Plan ahead 

College move-in happens during the peak moving season, so it’s crucial to make plans in advance, no matter how you’re moving. Start planning at least 6-8 weeks early so you can reserve your move, gather the things you’ll need, and pack them properly.  

Pick a moving service 

There are several ways to get your stuff to school. You could move yourself in a rental truck, but that can be difficult if you’re trying to bring a vehicle, not to mention finding parking on a busy campus during move-in weekend. You could ship everything, but that can get expensive with oversized, heavy packages. One of the easiest ways to move to college is with a self-moving service, like U-Pack®. You pack your stuff into a moving container, and they deliver it to campus (or you can unload it at a service center for a considerable discount).  

Take the right stuff 

As you’re looking through a college packing list, be sure you’re thinking about all seasons. Sure, you’ll need summer and fall stuff, but if you plan on flying home for the holidays, it will be tough to switch out to your winter wardrobe or bedding. Depending on your plans, you might need to take everything you’ll need until May.  

Pack smart 

Instead of throwing stuff into a duffel bag, you’ll want to make sure you pack everything properly so nothing gets damaged on the way to campus. Use high-quality boxes and packing materials to protect everything on the trip.  

Get help 

Don’t move in alone! Some campuses have teams ready to help first-year students move in, but if you’re an upperclassman and traveling to college alone, consider hiring local moving help. 

Make transfers to your new town 

Since you won’t be going home regularly, you might want to: 

  • Change your address so you can get all of your mail 
  • Transfer your voter registration or figure out how to vote absentee 
  • Register your vehicle in the new state if you don’t plan on driving it home for regular inspections 
  • Transfer medical care if you regularly see any doctors or specialists, so you don’t spend breaks going to a ton of appointments 

Consider storage for summer 

If you don’t want to move everything back and forth each year, check into a short-term storage facility for the summer. Don’t wait until May to do this as many facilities fill up for summer. Start looking for somewhere to store your stuff when you come back from winter break.  

Tips to help with the transition to a faraway campus 

To help with the changes, use these 8 tips when going to college across the country:  

  1. Have trips home planned. Before you ever leave, pencil in a time to return home. Sure, plans might change (so don’t book flights that far in advance), but it will help you to know that there’s a home visit coming at some point.  
  2. Stay connected. Whether it’s a group text with your high school besties, a weekly video chat with your family, or messaging friends on social media, your current relationships can help you get through the initial homesickness. 
  3. Network beforehand. Look up hashtags or social media groups for your incoming class to meet people online before you get to campus. 
  4. Join clubs to find your people. Take advantage of groups on campus to connect with people as soon as the semester starts.  
  5. Remember that everyone is new. Even if other students are from nearby places, they are all new to college. It can help to remember that you’re not alone and that everyone is experiencing lots of new things at the same time. 
  6. Arrive in town a day or two early. If possible, get to the new city before move-in day so that you can familiarize yourself with campus and all the essential spots (grocery store, pharmacy, coffee shop, bookstore, etc.). 
  7. Prepare yourself to be unique. If you’re from far away, you might hear “Wow! That’s far away!” a lot. Figure out how you want to talk about where you’re from since you’ll likely be asked about it at first. 
  8. Ask for things you miss. If you’re craving local snacks or anything from home, ask friends or family to send it to you. Care packages are life when you’re at college. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need! 
     

Have questions about moving far away to school? 

If you have questions about planning your cross-country move to college, leave a comment below. We’re here to help!