Hello! I honestly can’t believe that summer is almost over. There’s still a few weeks left, however, and I am going to pack in as much college prep material as I can! Today, I want to talk about a topic that has affected me more in the last year – commuting. For the first two years of college, I lived on campus. There were a ton of things I took for granted that I didn’t notice until I lived off-campus. Things such as prepared food being ready all the time, not having to deal with rent/electric/internet payments, walking to class, and being 5 minutes away from your friends.
When you move off campus into an apartment, it can be easy to become distant from campus and feel less connected. If you’re a freshman and you’re commuting, it’s hard to get connected in the first place. My goal with today’s post is to help freshman and upperclassmen who are commuting for the first time, and are worried about not getting the full college experience.
If you’re a freshman, it can be tough to be a commuter student. It seems like everyone lives in the freshman dorms, and it can be easy to feel left out. All it takes, however, is a bit more effort. The first thing you should do is find a few clubs you can be passionate about. (This is good advice for any freshman). Get actively involved in those clubs. Passive membership won’t help you at all! Your active involvement will get you connected to campus and other students outside of your classes.
Another way to get connected is to spend time on campus. Although it’s not super convenient, you have to be willing to come to campus outside of your classes. Be willing to come onto campus for group projects, club meetings, and other events meant for freshman. You will never connect to your campus and the community there if your only time on campus is spent in class.
Look into the commuter community. Most universities have some type of office for commuter students that offers specific events just for them to feel more welcome. Finding and attending those events can help you find other commuters who are also trying to get connected to campus!
The most important thing out of all these tips is to find a “home” on campus. A club, or place, or community where you feel welcome and involved. Even an on-campus job can help in this way. Having that place on campus outside of your classes makes you feel a stronger connection to the college community.
Commuting to campus requires a lot more organization than living on campus. You can’t just roll out of bed ten minutes before you need to be in class. Every night before you go to bed, plan your next day. Think about when you have classes, when you have breaks, and how long you’ll be staying on campus. If you have three classes with breaks in between, you’ll need to bring other work to do during your break. You might also need to pack a lunch, or at least snacks. If you want to work out while on campus, or have to go to work right after class, you need to think ahead and plan everything you need. There’s no time to run home and grab something you forgot when you’re a commuter student.
It’s important to give yourself enough time to get onto campus. I usually leave my apartment 30 minutes before my first class starts. That gives me enough time to drive the 15 minute commute, find a parking spot, and walk to my class. It’s really important for you to add in parking/walking time into your calculations, as those can add a lot of time. Some universities have better commuter parking than others, so make sure you’ll be able to get a spot. Twice last year I was circling a parking lot frantically searching for a spot as the time of my class got closer and closer. It’s not an experience I would recommend.
Fill Your Time Productively
This can be a huge struggle as a commuter. You can’t run home between every class, so it’s important to find ways to productively fill your time. First, when making your schedule, don’t give yourself too huge of breaks. A big break will tempt you to go home, and it’s highly likely you won’t make it to your next class. I try to give myself a few hour breaks to schedule meetings and eat, but anything longer than that can be tough.
You should claim a physical space somewhere on campus. I’m not sure if this happens at other places, but at my college, students can book small study rooms in the library. Last semester, I had a two hour break every Tuesday and Thursday morning, so I booked a room in the library during that time. It gave me somewhere to go, rather than roaming around. It also made me be productive (usually) because I was able to focus.
It’s also important to bring homework that you can do during your breaks. Most of my things are on my laptop, but many days I would also bring other books and materials to do homework for the next day. If you don’t think ahead and bring those things, it can be easy to just sit around on your phone during your breaks. I would much rather fill my time on campus well, and spend my time at home relaxing.
Other Random Tips
- Bring layers! Weather can change over the course of the day, and you won’t be able to run back to your dorm to grab something else.
- Always carry an umbrella. Buy one of those super compact ones, and attach it to your backpack. I’ve been caught too many times in the rain to leave without an umbrella.
- Bring your chargers. I highly recommend getting an extra phone charger, and carrying that in addition to your laptop charger.
- Bring headphones. It’s very frustrating to be stuck in a busy place with to much noise. Headphones can help block out some of the sounds that are stopping you from being productive.
- Have a mini care kit. Just a ziploc bag in the bottom of your bag will suffice. My recommended supplies are; cliff bar, aspirin, midol, a band-aid, kleenex, tampons, and a stain removal pen. Depending on what you need and want, you can add other things as well! Trust me, you will be so happy to have that stain pen when you spill coffee on yourself at the beginning of the long day.
- Find some friends who have dorm rooms on campus. Having a place to crash if you need it can really help. If you’re on campus late, or there’s a storm, it can be nice to have a place you can stay.
Commuting is not a bad thing! It’s a great way to save money, and with a little extra effort, you can have the full college experience. Just because you live off-campus doesn’t mean you belong any less than anyone else at your university. I hope with these tips you will feel better and more prepared for commuting! If you are a commuter, what advice has helped you in the past? Let me know in the comments below!