Near and Far … Rebels Head Off to College

One of the biggest decisions of a high school senior’s life is what to do after high school. Often, students that choose to go on to a post-secondary school struggle deciding whether to attend college close to home or far away.

Having grown up in a tightly knit community like South Kingstown, many students say they want to leave the area and attend bigger schools in the south or west. Yet is that always the right choice?

One such student that made the decision to go south was Morgan Reilly, a member of the South Kingstown Class of 2015. She opted to attend North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, a school with about 35,000 students enrolled.

“I wanted to experience something that wasn’t like South Kingstown High School,” said Reilly. “I wanted to be somewhere where nobody knows your name, and you don’t see the same people every day.”

The decision to move south resulted in a brand new experience, but not the one she wanted.

“Going south was definitely an experience,” Reilly said. “But I had a hard time meeting people like me in such a big student population.”

Growing up in small town Rhode Island, the former SKHS student said she found it hard to fit into such a big community, especially at a school with more students than the entire population of South Kingstown.

Morgan Reilly holds up her NC State Wolfpack hand sign as she poses at the front entrance to campus

Ultimately, Reilly chose to transfer to Stony Brook for the spring 2016 semester, a smaller school of 16,000 undergraduates located in Long Island, New York.

“I decided to transfer to Stony Brook because I think a smaller school would make it easier to meet people like me,” Reilly said.

According to Kathleen Engelman, a college assistance counselor, students prefer going far away to college to get a taste of living independently.

“Going away to college can be a beneficial experience because it teaches students to be accountable for their own health, food, and money,” Engelman said. “It can also be a way of learning how to live with, and tolerate other people.”

Another Rhode Island student from Westerly High School, Clair Morrone, ventured far from home to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

“I definitely felt homesick for the first couple of weeks,” said Morrone. “I was so far from home that I couldn’t afford to make the trip except for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she added. “Everyone was from Virginia, and they already knew each other, so it was tough to fit myself into friend groups that were already formed.”

After a semester, Morrone transferred to the Community College of Rhode Island for a year. She says she will transfer again to Rhode Island College in the fall of 2016.

According to Christine Kenyon, a freelance college admissions consultant, students who grow up in a bigger town or city are normally able to thrive at a bigger school, since they are more comfortable being around larger populations. Students from smaller towns, she said, tend to fit into smaller schools where there is a more tightly knit community.

Senior Will Moffatt celebrates his acceptance to South Carolina University

Many members of South Kingstown High’s class of 2015 now attend the University of Rhode Island, a school of about 13,500 undergraduate students. According to the University of Rhode Island profile, 57 percent of all undergraduate students are from Rhode Island. SKHS Class of 2015 graduate Zack Walker is one of those members.

“I like being at URI, but I definitely see the downside of staying close to home,” said Walker. “Even though living in a dorm is a different experience, I’m still in the same town with the same people,” he added.

Ryan Bertelli, another member of the South Kingstown Class of 2015, also made the decision to attend the University of Rhode Island.

“There is a lot more to the campus than you think when you’ve grown up in the area,” said Bertelli. “I also like the idea of saving money and living close to home,” he added.

Ryan Kappler, a senior at South Kingstown, looks at URI differently from most SKHS students. Kappler says that money is his biggest concern. “The benefits of low student loan debt after college outweigh any reasons I have to go out of state,” he said.

Morgan Reilly and he roommates pose for a picture in front of her school’s mascot

Some high school seniors at South Kingstown believe going to URI is out of the question.

“I want to go out and experience the world outside of our town,” said Eric Gaudette, a senior at the high school who is looking at colleges in the mid-Atlantic region and farther. “If I don’t like it in the south or out west, at least I’ll know. I still feel it’s better than never experiencing other cultures.”