A World Away: Applying to Stateside College While Living OCONUS


Senior year of high school is all about beginnings and endings. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, filled with things like transcripts, SAT scores, college applications, and financial aid. It’s an ending of 12 years of schooling, and all the highlights, bumps, and bruises endured along the way. It’s a realization that our firstborn, Rachel, is one step closer to being a full-fledged adult–living her own life, making her own decisions, becoming her own person.

Sniff, sniff…where are my tissues?

But this process is a bit tricky for us. Because we’re currently stationed in Italy.

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How do you establish residency when you are outside of the continental United States (OCONUS)?
Our state of residency is South Carolina; we own a house there, we pay South Carolina taxes, are registered to vote there, and have South Carolina drivers licenses. So establishing residency is not an issue at the South Carolina colleges Rachel is applying to. But she is also applying to colleges in Virginia, a state in which we cannot claim residency. And unfortunately, there are no residency waivers or exceptions for military dependents who graduate from an overseas high school. One college waived her application fee, but she is still considered an out-of-state applicant. With the number of military dependents graduating high school from overseas each year, you would think there was a special circumstance waiver for them. That is not the case, at least, not that I have found.

Was it difficult to schedule college tours while OCONUS?
Living in Italy, you would expect us to spend our summers traveling throughout Europe. It didn’t work out quite that way for us. Instead, Rachel, her younger sister, and I spent the summer in the U.S. visiting family and friends, and visiting colleges. Scheduling college tours was very easy, since it was all done online. A few families stationed with us in Italy made trips back to the U.S. this past summer, too, for the sole purpose of visiting colleges. Some families are traveling back over the winter break for tours while others, like Rachel’s best friend, are not visiting colleges at all, and are relying on the information found on the internet to make their decision.

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Is your daughter nervous about moving to another continent by herself?
Our daughters attended an international school prior to our posting in Italy–they currently attend a Department of Defense Dependents School (DoDDS). Being in an international school afforded them opportunities to travel to several countries for school related programs. We have also traveled quite a bit during our time OCONUS. My kids feel very comfortable traveling. In fact, Rachel originally wanted to go to University in London. Could she handle being a continent away from us? Absolutely!

Are there any military kid preferences on college applications?
Good question. If you find any, let me know. We have no knowledge of military kid preference. Each application has a section regarding the applicant’s affiliation with the military, but there is no indication suggesting preference for military dependents.

Rachel has 10 moves, 12 schools, and 3 OCONUS moves under her belt. She has also visited 11 countries. The experiences and opportunities she has been given through our military journey have contributed to the person she is today: a confident young woman who can adapt to any situation. She will be just fine at college.

Me, on the other, well…that’s another story.

Have you lived OCONUS with a high school student applying for college? How did things work out?

anna-nPosted by Anna Nemeth, Marine Corps Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

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