5 Tips to Prepare for an Out-of-State College

Last updated: Dec 18, 2020

Your college journey is going to be a blast. As an out-of-state student, you’ll experience new adventures far from your hometown — an idea that probably excites and overwhelms you. How do you get ready for life in another state? Start with our five tips on how to prepare for an out-of-state college.

A college student and her father make a list for attending an out-of-state college

5. Prepare for Adventure

When you hoist your last suitcase into the car, pull out of your parents’ driveway, and head for college in another state, you’re embarking on the journey of a lifetime. As the landscape changes, so will the culture, the food, and even the common forms of entertainment. (Snow skiing turns to water skiing the farther south you go.) Each new experience will enrich your education.

USF’s three campuses are on the Gulf Coast of Florida, a region that is rich in history, culture, and wildlife. (Just wait until you see your first alligator, which still resembles its ancestors from 80 million years ago.) From sugar-white sand beaches to fresh-caught seafood to world-class art museums and bustling nightlife, the region has plenty to keep you busy. Make time to explore everything.

If you’re studying at USF Tampa, don’t miss:

If you’re studying at USF St. Petersburg, don’t miss:

If you’re studying at USF Sarasota-Manatee, don’t miss:

Adventures don’t have to be limited to your college town: You can also travel the world through a study abroad trip. At USF, global travel opportunities are a priority for our students, so we offer program options in more than 25 countries around the world. Not only will studying abroad earn you a stamp in your passport, it will also help you gain valuable global networking skills and language practice. International travel might even boost your creativity: “New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind,” explains this Atlantic article.

4. Prepare for a New Climate

Before you pack your suitcase, research the weather. You might be surprised at how much a new climate can change your lifestyle. USF’s three campuses are in the humid, subtropical Gulf Coast region, where highs in the 80s and 90s are common. In other words, leave the snow boots. Pack the sunscreen.

Here’s a sample list of garments you might want to bring to the Gulf Coast region:

  • Swim gear. The region boasts some of the nation’s best beaches — including Clearwater Beach (No. 1), St. Pete Beach (No. 4), and Siesta Beach (No. 6) — which means swimsuits are a must. So are sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats.
  • Cool, comfortable, lightweight clothes. You’ll feel like a true Floridian when you start wearing flip-flops to class.
  • A jacket. Floridians crank up the air conditioning, so you may want to pack a jacket even in the summer.
  • Winter clothes. We may not get blizzards, but warm coats and hats do come in handy.
  • Business clothes. You never know when an internship opportunity or networking event could arise. Pack a professional outfit that makes you feel ready to take on the world. Can’t find the closet space? USF Tampa’s Suit-A-Bull has you covered with suits you can borrow.
  • Weekend clothes. Whether you’re interested in Ybor City’s nightlife or St. Petersburg’s waterfront activities, you’ll want to be prepared for weekend excursions.
  • Other useful items. Follow this checklist for additional move-in essentials.

Getting ready for a new climate goes beyond knowing what to pack. It also means finding out how locals live. In Florida, residents know to drink plenty of water, keep to the shade on hot summer days, take mosquito repellent to picnics, pack an umbrella during rainy season, and stay alert for severe weather. Talk to your university’s residential services staff to learn the steps you should take to stay safe and comfortable in your new environment.

Two college couples walk to class on a brick path under the shade of trees

3. Prepare for an Emotional Transition

At some point during your first semester, you’re going to feel homesick. It’s a rite of passage for new students. But if you prepare for the emotional upheaval, it can make the transition easier:

  • Book an appointment with your college’s wellness or counseling center. You may not feel homesick yet, but having a standing appointment with a counselor means you’ll be supported when the blues do arrive.
  • Get involved. With more than 700 student clubs and organizations across our three campuses, USF offers students plenty of chances to dive into a thriving campus life. The sooner you sign up for an activity, the sooner you’ll discover your new friend group.
  • Take advantage of your college’s mentorship programs, such as peer coaches who can help you get settled into your new home.
  • Join a social media page dedicated to your incoming class so you can make friends even before you step on campus.
  • Research local opinions on social issues and politics to ensure you’re not in for a rude awakening when you arrive. (You can ask admissions officers about the social climate.)

2. Prepare for a Physical Transition

Moving to a new state means switching up your routine. Make sure you have everything you need for daily life:

  • Choose your meal plan and housing. Will you be living on or off campus?
  • Determine the transit you’ll need for navigating the city. Is there a subway system? Will you need a car? You should also assess the size of your new campus. At USF’s sprawling Tampa campus, you can use bikes and the Bull Runner bus system to get between classes. At USF’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses, you can more easily walk to your next lecture.
  • Find the grocery store closest to your residence hall. (Good snacks will be essential for those late-night study sessions.)
  • Get established with a primary care doctor. This will be easier than you think, because your college probably offers medical clinics on campus. Even if you’re healthy, it’s important to have a physician you know and trust (and who knows your medical history).
  • Check to see whether your bank has a branch in your new town. If not, it may be time to switch. USF students are eligible to join the USF Federal Credit Union.

Three students look at a laptop together in the library

1. Prepare for the Out-of-State Cost of College

Attending an out-of-state university doesn’t necessarily mean that your tuition will be more expensive. The University of South Florida’s tuition rates are competitive with many local schools. But even if your tuition costs are equivalent, you may experience a higher net cost at an out-of-state school. To begin estimating your expenses, try this:

  • Determine your new cost of living. When you move to your new state, the cost of items essential for your life — such as groceries, transportation, or health care — will vary. (You can use this calculator to see how living costs stack up in different cities.) If you’re attending USF, you’ll be happy to know that the Tampa Bay area is considered one of the most affordable of its size in the U.S.
  • Plan for travel costs. Consider how often you plan to return home and the price of your plane tickets or bus fares.
  • Find out which amenities your college’s housing will include, and decide whether you are going to buy or bring the rest. Calculate any moving or purchasing costs.

If you haven’t done so, make an appointment with a financial aid counselor who can help you determine your total cost of attendance. Remember, scholarships and financial aid can help you offset some of these expenses. (You can get more tips on our recent post, “Money 101: The College Student Budget.")

Questions about starting your college life at USF? Learn more about our university here. And be sure to download our condensed PDF guide of this post so you can have it on hand as you get ready for your adventure. Good luck!

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