6 Tips for Applying to College Out of State

Are you a high school student who’s considering venturing beyond the borders of your hometown for college? Attending an out-of-state school can open up a world of possibilities and offer a truly rewarding experience. While there may be some financial challenges associated with out-of-state tuition fees, the benefits of exploring new places, meeting new people, and expanding your comfort zone make it a worthwhile option to consider.

However, the process of finding the right college and getting accepted as a nonresident can be overwhelming. To help guide you through this journey, we’ve gathered expert tips to make smarter choices when applying to out-of-state colleges.

1. Search for Out-of-State Scholarships and Discounts

Believe it or not, some colleges actually offer lower tuition fees for out-of-state students compared to in-state residents. States like New York, Minnesota, and South Dakota are known to have cheaper tuition fees for nonresidents on average. Look into whether your prospective colleges fall under this category, or consider applying to schools that offer such incentives.

Additionally, many institutions provide scholarships specifically for students from outside their home state, which adds ethnic and cultural diversity to their campuses. Reach out to the admissions office to discover what scholarships you may be eligible for. Remember, the financial support offered by an institution should be a crucial factor in your decision-making process.

2. Check for Regional Reciprocity Agreements

Another way to save on tuition fees is by applying to colleges that have regional reciprocity agreements. These agreements provide eligible out-of-state students with the same tuition rates as in-state students, or at a deeply discounted rate.

Programs such as the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) offer lower tuition rates to students from certain institutions in eligible states. Look into similar programs offered by organizations like the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Education Board, and the Midwestern Higher Education Compact.

Check out our guide: How to Save Money on Out-of-State College Tuition: Establishing Residency Explained

Remember to submit your applications early to improve your chances of qualifying for these agreements.

3. Attend College Fairs and Regional Open Houses

Attending college fairs and regional open houses can give you valuable insights into schools you may not have considered before. These events provide opportunities to interact with college admissions faculty and learn more about the institutions.

The National Association of College Admission Counseling organizes free regional college fairs where you can engage directly with representatives from various colleges. Additionally, some institutions have regional admissions representatives who live and work in specific areas. Introduce yourself to them prior to the event to make a lasting impression that could potentially help with acceptance offers.

4. Look for Colleges with a Strong Sense of Community

When choosing an out-of-state college, finding a community where you feel comfortable is crucial, especially if you’ll be living far from family for the first time. Pay close attention to the communities surrounding the colleges you’re interested in.

Seek a warm and supportive environment that cares about its community members and offers services and comfort similar to home. Consider whether the clubs, organizations, and health services match your interests and needs. Remember, community extends beyond the campus walls into the neighboring towns and cities, so explore the surrounding areas as you make your decision.

5. Connect with Alumni

Connecting with alumni can provide valuable firsthand insights into student life at different colleges, especially if you’re unable to visit the campuses yourself. Reach out to alumni through your network or contact the university’s alumni office to find individuals living in your area.

Alumni often act as ambassadors and are willing to share their experiences and put in a good word with admissions. Their perspectives can help you determine if a particular college is the right fit for you.

6. Submit a Stellar Application

Crafting a standout application is crucial to out-of-state college admissions. Differentiate yourself from other applicants by showcasing what makes you unique. Highlight your academic achievements and extracurricular involvement to optimize your chances.

According to admissions experts, providing evidence of academic strength and active participation in community service or leadership roles can significantly enhance your chances of standing out.

Don’t forget to submit your application early, especially to colleges with rolling admissions or limited spaces for out-of-state students. Early submission improves your chances of acceptance.


Embarking on an out-of-state college journey offers the opportunity for personal and academic growth, exposure to new environments, and meeting diverse individuals who can broaden your horizons. Consider these tips from admissions experts and ensure you make informed decisions when applying to out-of-state colleges. Don’t let the complexity of the process discourage you; instead, see it as an exciting adventure that can shape your future.

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