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Across the miles: The distance undergrads will go to get an education

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College search is anything but a scientific process. For better or worse, it’s usually more based in emotion than reason.

Still, certain factors used in determining college “fit” are more measurable than others.

Cost, size of undergraduate community, or graduation and retention rates are all numbers you can grab onto and compare among different colleges on your list.

But one equally measurable factor—distance from home—isn’t quite as cut and dry.

Yes, as-the-crow-flies mileage couldn’t be clearer. But other considerations muddy the simple concept of distance from family and friends. And these make the decision of how many hours or miles you’re willing to travel for a home-cooked meal more difficult to evaluate.

On a practical level, distance can be facilitated by easy access to transportation—a train or plane with regular routes and reasonable fares. Or it can be complicated by harsh differences in climate that make the commute more difficult.

And distance can come with emotional baggage. There are those who can’t get far enough away—they’re looking for adventure and a complete change of scenery. Others seem to have an invisible tether attached to the familiar and want to be able to touch home base regularly.

It’s no secret that homesickness is one of the primary reasons students dropout or transfer after a year or two. And it’s not always too predictable—when it will strike and how debilitating it will be.

There are financial considerations, time zone changes, and sometimes cultural differences that make the adventure across miles difficult to navigate.

Niche.com, formerly known as College Prowler, reports that while most students elect to stay within 100 miles of home, higher achieving students—those with at least a 2100 on the SAT—travel more than 500 miles on average and are more likely to leave their home state than stay.

Thinking along similar lines, the ACT surveyed over one million students and found that those who received a 33 or higher traveled a median distance of 170 miles away from home, while students who scored a 24 or below traveled less than 50 miles from home.

At the end of the day, some colleges are considered well worth whatever sacrifice is necessary in terms of distance and travel.

And for students willing to go the extra miles, there can be benefits in terms of extraordinarily welcoming admissions offices or generous scholarships used to support geographic diversity on campus.

Probing this issue a little, Niche.com analyzed travel statistics for more than 1200 colleges and universities to come up with a list of colleges with students traveling farthest from home. The top 25 includes liberal arts colleges, art schools, military academies, and not surprisingly, some of the most selective institutions in the country.

If you’re interested in the distance undergrads will go to get an education, here are 25 colleges with students farthest from home:

  • Reed College: 1,357 miles average distance from home/91% out-of-state students
  • U.S Military Academy (West Point): 1,209 miles/94%
  • Stanford University: 1,095 miles traveled/62%
  • Rhode Island School of Design (RISD): 1,085 miles/96%
  • Sarah Lawrence College: 1,066 miles/87%
  • Berklee College of Music: 1,054 miles/90%
  • Occidental College: 1,018 miles/58%
  • Harvard University: 1,016 miles/85%
  • U.S. Air Force Academy: 1,014 miles/91%
  • Colorado College: 1,004 miles/83%
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 977 miles/92%
  • Wellesley College: 976 miles/89%
  • Lewis and Clark College: 973 miles/88%
  • Yale University: 973 miles/95%
  • Dartmouth College: 968 miles/98%
  • Brown University: 959 miles/98%
  • Amherst College: 934 miles/88%
  • Middlebury College: 879 miles/95%
  • Columbia University: 849 miles/83%
  • Oberlin College: 836 miles/93%
  • Tulane University: 835 miles/87%
  • U.S. Naval Academy: 835 miles/93%
  • Eckerd College: 833 miles/81%
  • University of Puget Sound: 830 miles/79%
  • Vassar College: 820 miles/74%
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