A Student Perspective on the In-State Spider Experience

November 10, 2021
A post by Kyah Stewart, Admission Counselor

One of the most critical questions to ask yourself during the college search is, “how far away am I willing to move for college?” Some students know immediately that they want to go as far away as possible, while others are open to staying closer to home. Both have benefits and drawbacks, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide where you’ll be happy—but with so many great college and university options in the state of Virginia, it’s at least worth looking local if you’re a Virginia resident.

Richmond offers some pretty compelling financial support programs for Virginians. But of course, that’s only half of the equation. We decided to poll some in-state Spiders to see what attracted them to Richmond, and what motivated them to stay. Here’s the inside scoop!

Meet the Students:

• Hometown: Richmond, VA
• Major: Healthcare Studies and Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies

• Hometown: Midlothian, VA
• Major: Biology and Classical Civilizations

• Hometown: Chester, VA
• Major: Chemistry and Pre-Physical Therapy

Why Did You Choose to Stay Close to Home for College?

Bailey: I was initially planning to go as far away from Richmond as I could for college. However, after I actually toured UR, I fell in love with the campus and the community. I was able to experience the great campus environment, and I realized that UR doesn't just feel like an extension of the city I grew up in –campus is its own place entirely. I love how UR feels secluded from the hustle and bustle of downtown RVA, but is still a 10 to 15-minute drive or shuttle ride away from my favorite spots in Richmond.

Lindsey: After looking at schools all up and down the East Coast, I chose to come to the University of Richmond because it was the perfect school for me. Richmond offers opportunities that can’t be found everywhere, like internship and research funding through the Richmond Guarantee. I knew Richmond was the school for me because even when I was visiting other universities 12 hours away, I would start comparing them to Richmond. At that point, the distance didn't matter—if Richmond had been anywhere, I would have chosen it. Regardless of whether it was 15 minutes or 15 hours, Richmond was the school that felt like home.

Mak: I actually didn’t think I would stay close to home, but UR hit all of my top 4 needs in a university: less than 5,000 students, offers study abroad, encourages undergraduate research, and provides a liberal arts education. My admitted student day sealed the deal for me—I felt like I got a sneak peek into the student-faculty relationship! To this day, the relationships that I have made with faculty and staff are some of my most meaningful connections on this campus.

What is your favorite part about being close to home?

Bailey: My favorite part about being close to home is how easy it is to see my family. If I want some of my mom's lasagna, I can just hop across the river and get some. On weekends when I'm not too busy, I'm able to see my parents and sister. Another unexpected benefit to staying close to home? Laundry. If I don't feel motivated to do my laundry at school, or I need more detergent or dryer sheets, I can take my dirty clothes home—sometimes I don't even have to do the laundry myself! Definite perk.

Lindsey: I love being able to see my pets. Whenever I get stressed out by work, it's nice to go get my dog and bring him back to campus to walk around and unwind. My friends enjoy seeing him because they're all missing their pets as well—so it's just a very happy, serotonin-filled time when I bring Chippy to campus!

Mak: I'm glad I stayed close to home during undergrad. Partly because it made the acclimation to college a bit easier, but also because I feel like I got the opportunity to learn more about RVA. I grew up 30 minutes outside of Richmond and as a first-year, I realized that there was so much more to the city than I thought!

What is your least favorite part about being close to home?

Bailey: My least favorite part about being close to home is honestly just telling people that I'm from Richmond. When asked where they're from, my friends have really exciting answers like the U.K., Lebanon, coastal Florida, and the mountains of Colorado. I usually just say, "I'm actually from Richmond, about 10 minutes away from campus." On a campus with people from all over it’s an unexpected answer, so they don’t know how to react. Thankfully, it isn’t negative. Just leads to some awkward pauses!

Lindsey: I think my least favorite part is that by staying so close to home, I’m still connected to my past. But that’s also one of my favorite things about being close. I received job opportunities babysitting, dog sitting, and even interning my first year because I had some previous connections in the city.

Mak: Since many of the students here are not Virginia natives, I often hear about their trip packing up the car for their first year of college. Or they tell me how interesting it is to be in a place that is so different from where they grew up. Sometimes, I get a little FOMO (fear of missing out) when they talk about it.

Have you explored or discovered something new in the city as a student?

Bailey: Absolutely! I had only been to the Scott's Addition neighborhood in Richmond to visit one diner as a child. Since being at UR, my friends and I have found some exciting attractions in the area, including a great spot for bowling and karaoke and the BEST barbecue in Richmond (ZZQ!).

Lindsey: Yes! I didn't travel downtown very often before college. As a student at UR, I go to The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts much more frequently. I even have a student membership, which gives me access to special events and exhibits! I go with my friends and we usually grab food somewhere close by like Sticky Rice—one of my favorite sushi restaurants in town. Even after living near a place for my entire life, there are still so many new things to uncover.

Mak: The ice cream places here are unreal! Starting the spring semester of my Junior year, I made it a mission to find a new food or dessert place to eat at every week. Richmond is the best place for foodies, and it’s been a blast finding all of these different places that I never knew existed.

What advice would you give to a student who is trying to navigate the college search process?

Bailey: Visit campus early and as often as possible. I didn't know I would apply to Richmond—let alone apply Early Decision—until I got a feel for campus life. It’s helpful to visit more than once if you’re local, because when you tour campus can matter. Visiting during breaks or exams can make a campus seem less lively than it actually is.

Lindsey: I think you should look at any school that is connected to your interests, even if it is close to home. I think many local students are deterred from applying to UR specifically because they know the city of Richmond or they know that their parents live nearby. If you think Richmond has the characteristics that you’re looking for in a college, take a tour! If you enjoy your tour and can picture yourself on campus, that could be a sign that Richmond is a good fit for you.

Mak: Compile a list of your college must-haves like size, athletics, extracurricular activities, and academic opportunities. Look for a college that ticks as many of your boxes, but then pick one that is completely the opposite to compare. Also, trust the process. Maybe you won't end up at your dream school, but it is truly up to you to make the most of your college experience! I believe you can be happy anywhere.