Sending Your Child Out of State to College: A Comprehensive Guide from a Mom Who's Done it 3 Times!

Sending your child off to college is a huge milestone in not only the parents life but in their life as well. That toddler who wouldn't let go of you leg and screamed bloody murder when you left them with a sitter, now wants to go to college in a whole different state. It's a lot! As a mom of three, each of my kids chose a school out of state for various reasons. I've learned a few things through the years and have a few tips to offer parents who find themselves trying to help their students navigate their next decisions. With careful planning and consideration, this transition can be a good and rewarding experience for both you and your child. In this blog post, I'll discuss important factors to consider before your child chooses a college out of state and offer practical tips on packing and preparing for their departure and how to stay connected with your kids, even when they are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

sending child out of state to college parents guide

Sending Your Child Out of State to College: A Comprehensive Guide from a Mom Who's Done it 3 Times!


Starting college visits? Start here! How to Plan the Perfect College Visit for Your High School Student


Part 1: Choose the Right College

This should go without saying that there are some considerations to take into account in order to select the right college fit for your student. I know there are some kids who are just ready to go anywhere that isn't within a stones throw of their parents, but there are other things to consider as well.

Don't Miss this Post: 10 Ways to Help Your College Student Survive and Thrive Their Freshman Year

Academic Fit

Before your child decides to attend a college out of state, it's crucial to ensure that the institution actually offers the academic programs and majors they are interested in. Make sure you research the college's course offerings, faculty expertise, and academic reputation. In fact, this should be done before they even apply! But once they hone in on that, if there is even a fraction of doubt about the major they have selected initially, make sure there are backup majors offered they are interested in as well. 

Financial Considerations for Out of State Students

Listen, college is expensive. And out of state tuition rates are often times higher than an in-state institution. You need to go into this with eyes wide open understanding what type of financial commitment you and your student are making. 

Keep in mind that private schools often offer more aid for students than an out-of-state public university. You might also find that your state offers reciprocal tuition rates at an out of state university. My daughter takes part in the WUE {Western Undergraduate Exchange} where students can save on nonresident tuition. My youngest son goes to a school that offers in state tuition {at a savings of tens of thousands of dollars each year} just by getting a driver's license in that state and living in the state over the summer, something he was going to need to do anyway as part of his program. 

With all three kids, spreadsheets were made laying out all of the financial considerations that had to be made for their top college contenders. Make sure you factor in airplane tickets for those college breaks! It's an additional expense you'll need to plan for.

Set Realistic Expectations for College

Going out of state for college has a little bit of reality that has to be interspersed in the romanticism of the decision. You need to take into consideration how often your student will be coming home from school and how often you will visit. It's likely they will have parents weekends and events that you just can't manage to travel to and that needs to be addressed. It also might be likely that they won't be leaving campus on short breaks to come home like some of their in state friends might. Your child needs to be comfortable with this decision. 

Part 2: Preparing for the Transition

preparing your child to go out of state to college

Health, Insurance and Banking for Out of State Students

You'll want to review a few of those necessities that you likely haven't even considered but could be a "what do I do" moment for your student when an emergency arises. Making health appointments is difficult for any college student that no longer lives at home. Finding providers in their new home city is the easiest first step, especially if they will need regular visits for prescription medication or any ailments they might have. 

The family insurance may not cover providers in their new home state. Before there is an emergency, you'll want to come up with a plan. The school often has health centers and special rates for out of state students. But not always. They might also have insurance plans you'll need to buy into as umbrella coverage for your student. 

You'll also want to make sure your child can access their home bank account and ATM services, or consider opening a bank account to make money transactions easier. 

The final consideration is looking at your cell phone provider and finding out how cell phone coverage is in your students new area. 

There are often parents Facebook pages for this information and you can join them as soon as your student is accepted into the school. It's a good way to start to consider all of the things that you likely hadn't even thought you needed to consider!


Transportation is a HUGE issue for out of state students. One of the major considerations for us has always been ease of access to the airport. Multiple DIRECT flights to your hometown and to their college town is ideal. Anytime you add in a layover, there is more of a risk of a flight being late or canceled. It's just one more cog in the wheel to consider. 

If there are direct flights, you can generally find more flight options that work with college academic schedules. They are also often less expensive. You will also need to take into account how easy it is for your student to get from their on campus housing to the airport and vice versa. You'd be surprised but not every college town has Uber! Are there shuttle buses your student can take to and from the airport? Are the flights limited during the holidays? What will they do if there is a canceled flight?

Consider getting TSA precheck if your student is flying often. This will help them navigate long lines at the airport on the busy holidays they will likely be traveling on. 

Part 3: Getting There


Moving to College from Out of State

I've done the college drop off every way you can imagine! I've had one kid pack all their worldly belongings in three suitcases and flown, driven another in our minivan and taken another on a cross country road trip that took us 29 hours so he could have a car on campus {a necessity for his major}

I went to college an hour away from home, so even wrapping my mind around any of my kids going out of state was overwhelming, but honestly, with shipping services and Amazon Prime, it's not hard to get what you need in not much time.

Don't miss this post: Dorm Essentials: Hand-Picked by College Students

My humble opinion, having a student pack light isn't a bad thing! I've seen friends kids pull up on move in day in uhauls stuffed full. College kids really don't need that much to be comfortable. As an out of state family, you likely won't be the roommate providing the mini fridge or couch. But if you are, you can likely find that at a store nearby. And if they find that they miss something from home, there's always Amazon!

If you are moving your child by flying to the location, and you have airline options, many college parents like flying Southwest because of their generous bag allowance. Sometimes the bag fee is cheaper than shipping fees, so make sure you do the math to find the best solution. 

Don't miss this post: Free Resources for College Students

Staying at College and Where to Store Your Stuff on College Breaks

The hope is that when a student starts university, that they will continue on at that university to finish their undergrad. But that also means that at the end of the term, they have to figure out what to do with all of the "stuff" they accumulated. Here's what we found that works over the summer.

We have had college housing that requires a year-long lease. So while the student may need to move from the dorms to their apartment or rental home, their lease will likely start just as school is finishing. They might have a housing situation that will allow them to store their items over the summer. 

But there may be a time when they are nomads. Many college towns offer storage units for a small fee. Your student will have to think about the logistics of how to get their things to the storage unit {especially if they don't have a car on campus}. This is another great incentive for less is more! 

If you live within a reasonable driving distance, they may just move everything back again! This is what we did with my daughter's things. She's been the closest at college and is only an 8 hour drive from home!

Part 4: Staying Connected


As I mentioned earlier, you likely won't be heading up for all the home games and you might have to be selective in choosing to attend parents weekend {we try to avoid it...keep reading for why!}. With an out-of-state student, you are likely buying plenty of plane tickets for your student, and adding in purchasing more for you and your family to visit, adds up! Coming up with a plan to stay connected to your college student is important if they are going out of state.

Why We Try to Avoid Parents Weekend

The moment the university releases the college calendar, I'm pretty sure there is someone at the airlines and local hotels and it's their job to increase ticket prices and nightly stay prices. There's usually a home game scheduled during parents weekends and sometimes activities for parents planned, but after doing this a few times, your goal with a school visit is to visit your kiddo. You will find plenty to do as your student shows you around to all their favorite new restaurants and around campus. I also find that you get more time to hang out with your students friends if you go on a different date than parents weekend because their friends aren't busy with their own families or activities. 

If you do go for parents weekend, book everything early!

Don't miss this post: Setting Boundaries for College Students Home on Breaks

How Often to Talk to College Students

I went to college in the 90's and for whatever reason, Sunday was the day I called home. Remember, I had to use calling cards and I think long distance might have been cheaper on those days. I still call my parents every Sunday all these years later. 

We have an expectation that our college kids will call us using FaceTime {because it makes me feel better seeing their faces} on Sunday. I like hearing what they are up to, connecting with them about their week ahead and listening about what happened in the past week. If something comes up, we fully understand. We want them to acclimate to college life and have activities and meet for study groups. But overall, Sunday is the day that tends to work for all of us. There's no specific time for the call that's set, but if it's getting late, sometimes I send them a text to let them know what day it is and see if they are doing ok. 

I try not to call them the rest of the week. I will text them on occasion, and they will text me, but I find that constant interruptions from mom {or dad} don't help them adjust any better to their new environment. If they need me, I always answer but I always let them initiate the call home.

The Secret to Getting Proof of Life From Your College Kids

All that to say, sometimes I miss my kids! And occasionally those texts are pictures of the dogs because 99% of the time, they will respond with a double tap heart or even a quick text back. It's my {not so} secret way to get proof of life from them. 

I also joined BeReal. Not all of my kids are on it, but the ones that are, it's nice to see them pop on and get a glimpse of what they are doing and who might be in their photo at the time. 

Stay Connected With Your College Kids That are Out of State

Besides staying connected weekly with FaceTime, I will occasionally drop a care package in the mail. Amazon has pre-packaged care packages and I use those since shipping is included and shipping rates are expensive if you try to put together a care package on your own now!

It's really easy with digital gift cards to send them a little something like a Starbucks card or even ChickFilA. If I find out on our Sunday call that they have a test coming up or a big assignment, I'll usually send them a text or little something like coffee money to let them know I was thinking about them.

A Final Thought

One big thing to remember with your college kids, that's often on repeat for us is "do you need this, or do they need this?" My youngest son and I pulled out of the driveway for our road trip to college leaving my husband behind. He texted me that he was a mess and he was sad he wasn't going with us. I messaged back that he should look into tickets to visit our son in a few months time. After a quick search, he messaged back with a version of that very sentiment. He was the one that needed to go. Our son would likely be fine. But as parents it's hard to know that we've worked for this moment.

I wrote more about it when I talked about giving our kids roots and wings.

Sending your child out of state to college is a huge step in helping your student to gain independence as they venture into adulthood. These are just some of the things we've had to consider with our kids as they have navigated the college decision process and what it's looked like for us as parents to support them from thousands of miles away. 

In case you missed it: Saying Goodbye to Our College Freshman

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