Commuting: Is it the Right Fit? (for teens)
Although it may seem like you’re the only college-bound student not raiding the mall for posters for your dorm room, you’re not alone. According to the University of Arizona’s Commuter Student Affairs, nationwide, more than 87 percent of college students do not live in campus housing.
Are You Sure Commuting is the Best Option for You?
Whether it’s because of financial restrictions, parental concerns or your own desire for privacy or to stay connected with your family, living off-campus is an option many first-year students consider.
Before you sign up for your parking permit or bus pass and decline residence hall space, though, make sure you examine the value of on-campus housing.
When students and their families weigh the costs of campus housing and a meal plan versus the costs of public transportation or gas money, parking permits and car maintenance, not to mention food at home, they might see that living on campus isn’t as expensive as they thought it would be, said Steven Roy Goodman, an educational consultant at Top Colleges. “The trick is to have the facts on the table and to have rational numbers to discuss.”
If you talk about the financial reality with your family and still think commuting is right for you, then you might want to consider some of the social “values” you’ll be missing out on before you finalize your decision. Most people agree that students grow not only through college courses, but also through learning to live with people from diverse backgrounds and values. For your dorm-dwelling friends, college is a time when they’re forced to become more independent, planning their time and balancing responsibilities in a new environment, away from home and previous expectations.
Living off-campus will not exclude you from these experiences; you’ll just have to make a conscious effort to make these changes.
Dr. Mary O’Reilly, retired school counselor, commuted all four years in college. With public transportation, the trip took an hour each way—making school her life. She suggests that students who want to or must commute be aware that they will miss out on activities and events, unless they are proactive.
To receive a full education, O’Reilly discussed lectures over lunch, arranged to attend evening activities and made copies in the library to supplement limited time at school.
Do commuter students miss out on some aspects of college? Yes. They miss the experience of residence hall life—moving away from family and sharing a community with other students of many different personalities and backgrounds.
Some other tradeoffs of commuting to consider include:
- Limited time for meetings with professors, library work, on-campus activities, and friends
- Time lost commuting
- Hazards of transportation at night—for students who take public transportation and for tired drivers
- Difficulty balancing school, work, friends, and family
- A loss of easily available opportunities to make friends.
Although residence hall life can be a fun opportunity to grow, your first priority in college is to learn, which you can do without living on-campus. If you’re okay with trying to work through the challenges of making sure you get the complete college experience, commuting to school could work for you.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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