College life from an out-of-state perspective: what to know, pack and research before committing


Caitlin Noe ’24 is a government major. In addition to training as opinions editor for the Flat Hat, she is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity, and works as a research assistant for AidData on the TUFF team. Email Caitlin at

The author’s opinions are their own. 

The College of William and Mary recently released Early Decision II results, and with the regular decision around the corner, now is a good time to write about the college experience as an out-of-state student. For some background, my home state is Illinois, and I would have appreciated having more information on life as an out-of-state student when I made the decision to come here. It can be hard to find that kind of information all in one place or without a connection to a current student.

There are many benefits to the out-of-state student experience. As the college cliche goes, I feel I have grown immensely. I have learned to make a home for myself in a completely different environment. I have never regretted my decision to go to college in a different state. That being said, there will be the occasional inconvenience.

For one thing, traveling to and from school can prove a nuisance. Just two weeks ago, the College decided to delay move-in for this semester by a day with only a few days’ notice due to a small amount of snow. I already had my flights and car service booked to take me to a now-closed campus. Luckily, I had a friend I could stay with in Virginia, but do not be surprised to have unexpected things happen to ruin your original travel plans. Delays, canceled flights and long days are a given at some point in your college life. 

Moreover, Williamsburg is not a terribly convenient place for getting to the Richmond Airport. Ubers and Lyfts here are unreliable. The James River Car Service is reliable but at a high price point. There is also a reasonably priced bus service offered by the College, but it will not always line up with the day you want to leave or arrive on campus. Additionally, traveling during short breaks is exhausting and stressful. For example, Thanksgiving break is so short, I spent half the time in an airport or on a plane. If there had been delays, it would have been for most of my break. Breaks are just shorter for out-of-state students. 

In terms of the logistics of getting belongings here, I would recommend storing your things in Williamsburg. I did the drive to Williamsburg with my things only once for freshman move-in. Since then, I have brought back just one suitcase during breaks and stored my things in Williamsburg with Storage Scholars over the summer. However, something you should know about this strategy is you will have to do quite a bit of shopping once you return to Williamsburg each semester. Obviously, there are some items you cannot bring on a plane or things you have forgotten to pack. Build in an extra day for a Target run every semester. Don’t forget medicine or snacks. 

On a less serious note, out-of-state students should familiarize themselves with Virginia slang. You will first come across these terms when people tell you where in Virginia they live. NoVa refers to Northern Virginia. Charlottesville and Richmond are sometimes referred to as C-ville and RVA. The DMV refers to DC, Maryland and Virginia (not where you get your driver’s license). It is also essential to learn the following: When they reference Cookout, they mean a fast-food restaurant, not a literal cookout. When someone tells you, “Let’s Go to Wawa!” they are referring to a convenience store. There may be a few things I have forgotten to share, but don’t worry, you will soon catch on.


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