McElhinney: Mississippi colleges aren’t for everyone


Emily Lin

Out-of-state colleges are a popular choice among students who seek greater diversity in their community and a variety of educational and job opportunities.

Kate McElhinney, News Editor

When MSMS students begin applying to college, we are encouraged to apply to at least one in-state school. We are also told that staying in Mississippi is a great way to give back to the community that raised us. Although attending a university in Mississippi has its benefits, out-of-state universities can offer many things that in-state colleges cannot. 

The main benefit of going to college outside of Mississippi is change. Change in surroundings, change in culture and an overall change in lifestyle. As nice as it would be to go to college and already have a group of high school friends there with you, there’s something beautiful in entering a new environment knowing nobody and forcing yourself to open up and meet people. Before coming to MSMS, all my friends wanted to go to Mississippi State or Ole Miss, and I was looked down on for wanting to go out of state. For me, the prospect of a new community and new friends was exciting. I don’t want to attend a college where I already know 100 people there; to me, that’s more intimidating than knowing no one. Additionally, losing the ability to drive home to see family every weekend would force me to further gain independence, as well as some practice flying alone. Moreover, most colleges have better connections for future job opportunities, connections that Mississippi’s in-state universities may not have. 

A huge factor for many students when choosing which colleges to apply to is diversity. Colleges like Ole Miss and Mississippi State University have much lower percentages of BIPOC students, having only 22% and 28%, respectively. However, many colleges outside of Mississippi‒ especially on the East and West coast‒ have much higher percentages. For example, Amherst College, a popular liberal arts college in Massachusetts, is much more culturally diverse, with 58% of its students being BIPOC, similar to Stanford University’s 63%. While not every college outside of Mississippi is diverse, there are many more options. Mississippi has 17 four-year universities; it is very likely that students that don’t fit in with the four or five main Mississippi colleges will prefer out-of-state institutions.

While diversity is a factor for many—or at least it should be—a main issue with out-of-state universities is the cost. In-state tuition is a major benefit of remaining in Mississippi, and Ole Miss and MSU offer hefty scholarships to students with good ACT scores. However, most private institutions offer great financial aid and scholarships. Student loans are daunting, but getting scholarships and grants can greatly lessen them. Work studies and ROTC are also viable options, as well as applying for the QuestBridge College Match Scholarship or becoming a National Merit Semifinalist. Obviously, it isn’t an option for everyone, but it should definitely be considered. 

Of course, there are many factors that go into choosing the perfect college, and every student is different, but going to college in-state isn’t for everyone. MSMS students are always pressured to stay close to give back to Mississippi, but there are other ways to do that than going to an in-state school. I have always preferred urban settings, and Mississippi universities can’t offer that. I also prefer northern temperatures over the Mississippi heat, so staying here has never felt like a viable option for me. Although cost may be a major factor when I do choose a college, going out of state will be worth it because of the added experiences, cultures and opportunities I will get.