College Commuter: Pros and Cons

By Brent Ramirez
Blog Content Contributor

Living away from home is something students either look forward to or fear when they first set out for college. Many adults in your high school life will have told you at one point in time that living on campus is an integral part of the whole college experience. After all, this is your first time out on your own and things can be both exciting and intimidating.

I’ve had my fair share of dorm room shenanigans, both good and bad, but it didn’t take too long for me to end up commuting. When I first started commuting, I was making a 40+ minute trip to school and I was really bummed out most of the time. I was mostly upset that I wouldn’t be having the same experiences as the other students: living, learning and growing with them. I constantly felt lonely. But, eventually I realized that there were many other students driving to school from home and that I wasn’t the only one.

The truth is, some students just can’t afford to live on campus, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Heck, every time I say the word “college” I feel like I’m one more dollar in debt. When college continues to stack expense after expense on you, it can be extremely overwhelming. Commuting is an option that can definitely help lighten the stress on your wallet and make the financial burden of school just a bit more bearable.

Like anything in life, commuting has its fair share of pros and cons. So here are just a few things to consider if you’ve recently decided to make the switch to the commuter life or if you are a freshman commuter.

PROS:

You get free food (Need I say more?) 

Now depending on your living arrangements with your parents or whatever your living situation is, this may or may not be the case. But for some commuters, there’s a good chance that you get to come home to a bountiful pantry and fridge full of endless wonders of food and beverage, blessed to us by the gods we have come to know as “Mom” and “Dad”. Free food is the best food of course.

Rent is also free!

This one may also depend on your living situation, but for those with parents who are willing to keep you off the streets, be thankful. It’s a blessing we students can find shelter in these “mom ‘n pop” type places. They typically come fully furnished and even provide you with your own private bed and bath, so there’s no need for those shower flip flops.

Consequently, you’ll have a slightly happier wallet.

While commuting may mean filling up on gas a bit more often than normal and paying for a piece of plastic to stick on your windshield, this cost is typically dwarfed compared to the expenses of living on campus. Between meal plans and going out to eat, you would only have to worry about the latter. So enjoy that extra cash and put it somewhere else that will be more useful for you. 

You will learn to truly make good use your downtime.

When living on campus, those hours in between classes make for a perfect nap or video game break in your dorm. When it comes to being a commuter, your time on campus really becomes that much more valuable. Your access to your school’s resources now depends on how early or how late you’re willing to be on campus when you don’t need to be. The library is no longer just a walk away in the middle of the night, so you will learn to make the most of the time you have on campus. 

CONS:

You spend a lot less time on campus.

The flip-side to the previous pro. If you’re anything like me, it is very easy to get caught in the flow of just driving to school for class and driving straight home after. This can sometimes mean less time with friends who live on or around campus and just experiencing overall FOMO (fear of missing out). A few ways to remedy this is to join a club or organization, or find a job on campus. These clubs and organizations will often hold meetings and events that typically require you to be on campus with people you share the same interests with. So if you don’t already have friends from school, this is a great opportunity to make some!   

You don’t live down the street from your classes. If you leave something that you need for school at home and it’s not something you can just print off of the magical Cloud, you are essentially out of luck, or as T-Pain would say, “You’ve officially been chopped and screwed.” I know I talked about making good use of your free time on campus, but sometimes in between classes, you could use a good ole nap in your bed.  While some people are comfortable with napping on a bench or desk in public, in general, you’re stuck on campus and can’t fully relax until you drive home at the end of the day.

Sometimes you get to sit in traffic. Yay.

That was a sarcastic “yay” by the way. This may not always be the case when it comes to your commute. Some roads are busier than others, but every now and then there will be an accident on your route and you will have to sit through the limbo of stop-and-go traffic for a while. Traffic can make you late to class and it will keep you away from that toilet that you’ve desperately needed to reach for the past 25 minutes. Now if you like to sit in traffic for hours, this may not be a con, more power to you. But for most people, the only thing you could do is try to enjoy that alone time in your car.

Last, but certainly not least, parking will be the death of you.

Commuter parking is the bane of every commuter’s existence. Trying to find parking on a college campus can lead to stroke, heart attacks, depression and the overall death of your soul (don’t quote me on that). If you don’t have an early class and head to school later in the morning, you might miss out on those prime parking spots. Some school lots require shuttles to take students from the parking lot to campus and don’t even get me started on the shuttles, we’ll save that for another article. All jokes aside, finding parking can be very stressful, so you may need to make adjustments on your commute time and wake up earlier in order to get good parking spot.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Photo by Brent Ramirez. Bobcat Stadium is one of the several lots available to Texas State commuter students.

Those are just some pros and cons that I can list based on personal experiences. If you’ve chosen to make the switch or are a freshman who drives to school from home, I wish you the best in your travels to campus. The commuter life definitely has its ups and downs, but it’s ultimately what you make of it. Happy commuting!

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