Commuting is becoming a more common option for college students across the country. Forbes notes that, in 2014, more than half of college students (54%) chose to live at home to make school more affordable, a 26% increase since 2010. So, what are some questions you should ask yourself before deciding to bunk it up at home? Here are just a few:
- How much money will commuting save me?
Knowing your expenses and budgeting early will be key to any commuting decision. Transportation costs include those beyond the purchase of the car: parking permits, insurance, and fuel and maintenance. Most colleges also charge a small fee per semester for a parking pass. You will need to calculate all of your expenses and compare it to the total cost to live on campus for a resident, including meal plan. The lesser overall cost may sway your decision on whether or not to commute!
- How far do I live from campus?
Next, you need to factor in how far away you live from campus. Is it 5 minutes down the road? An hour drive on the highway to get there? The answer not only affects fuel cost or train or bus ticket expenses, but the length of the commute may also affect your health; who wants to stress about missing the train or forgetting to warm up their car in winter and risk being late to or even locked out of class?
- How will I commute to campus?
If you don’t have your own car and you live on your own, commuting might be difficult. Reliability matters. What this means for you is that if you’re set on taking the train, make sure that train is running. If you’re taking the bus, make sure the bus has a route and they stick to it. If you’re sharing a car with your significant other, you better hope you don’t break up because then you’re without transportation for the remaining semester. In any case, it’s important to set your alarm early and have a solid morning routine to keep yourself balanced and safe against the clock.
- Do I want an on-campus or off-campus job?
If you’re going to support yourself, you’re going to need a job. Or two. If you’re going to be a commuter and want a job on campus, you need to know the amount of hours you’ll be working and balance that with a social, physical, and mental schedule that suits you. Trust me, it’s not easy. If you’re going to be a commuter and already have a job off-campus or are looking for one, make sure to map the distances between both places and create an academic schedule that allows for sufficient breaks in between.
- What do I want my social experience to be like?
Are you crazy and loud? Do you love talking to other people? Can you not sit still most of the time? A majority of people would say that dorming is the best solution for this type of character because you are literally steps away from making friends, attending sporting events, participating in student clubs and organizations, and experiencing the nightlife. But commuting allows you to be up and on the go, too; it forces you to reach out to other students and professors and it teaches you lessons in time management.
On the other hand, if you’re quiet and reserved, socially awkward, or you prefer to stay at home with your pets instead of going out to the bar, then commuting may definitely be the right choice for you! Introverts love the idea of knowing that once they are done with class they can hop in their car and head home rather than go back to a dorm full of obnoxious roommates.
Note: There are no restrictions on your involvement, you simply have to put yourself out there to get that “full” campus experience.
- Do I want to join a sports team?
The last thing that most college students want to consider is athletics. If you’re an athletic individual and want to be the star of your team, living on campus is a huge advantage. I know, for me, it would have been impossible to get up at 4:30 in the morning and drive all the way to campus for a 5am practice, which is why I only tried out for basketball when I lived on campus my first semester. But, if you’re hardcore into sports, I would just consider the fact that your coach will probably expect you to have full availability–much in the same way your job after graduation will—and decide from there!
There is really no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether or not to commute. I chose to commute based on my social comfortability, the ease of mind it brings to me, and the freedom it allows for me to go to work, see family, and simply get away from campus and engage in activities such as hiking and horseback riding. Are there some things that college just can’t offer you? What do you say…are you ready to get commuting?