Questions to Consider Before Commuting to College

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:

  1. 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!

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Nicole frustrated

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

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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?

5 Mistakes you don’t want to make as a commuter

Whether you commute to school or not, your time at college is valuable. So, you should probably make the most of it, right? Right. And that means not forgetting the little things. I call them “must haves” and “must do’s” but you might call them the tiny essentials for a great college experience. Here are five mistakes you don’t want to make as a commuter student:

  1. Not getting involved on campus.

A large part of going away to college is to get involved with something new. College is an exciting environment with strange people you just haven’t met yet. So why is it that commuter students shy away from becoming part of the community? A part of me feels that we like blending in, but not actually participating in college affairs. To combat this, make it a priority to go to school events, join a club or organization that interests you, attend lunch at the dining hall with friends or maybe even cheer on your sports teams! Even if you say you “don’t have time” to do something, make time; because your college years will surely prove to be the best, if you make them the best.


  1. Missing out on relationships.

As a commuter, you tend to have one goal in mind: finish classes and get home. When you’re so focused on getting up for the day only to look forward to going home at the end of the day, you miss out on some vital relationships, maybe even a potential life partner. At this point in your life, you’re probably spending a lot of your time at school or work, but it’s just as important to start forming connections with people. Having friends or a significant other can really boost your morale and your confidence. A study cited by the Daily Dot notes that 28 percent of married college-graduates attended the same college.

You could be a part of that 28 percent if you remain open to forming new connections.


  1. Forgetting backup clothes.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to pack a spare skirt, blouse, and heels for an important class presentation that requires business formal attire. Not only that, but what if you spill on yours clothes and can’t run back to your dorm to change? We don’t have that quick access to a cover up like the residents do. It can be embarrassing and it’s a hassle when it happens to you, so don’t be that kid that forgets to pack an extra pair. Your friends will thank you.

Becky and trunk

  1. Forgetting lunch.

Another struggle in the commuter life is having to live off of snacks. If you’re running late one morning and don’t have time to make a lunch, the next best thing is snack. But, they don’t always hold you over. One time I was working in the editing suite for an internship assignment when my stomach went off talking like it was its own person. It growled so loud that everyone else in the room turned to find out what was going on. I hate being the center of attention, so it was extremely awkward. And then they ask: “Do you want a snack or something?” And I’m just sitting there like, “No, I’ll grab something on my way home, thanks.” But I never do. Lesson number one when it comes to food: make time to pack a sufficient lunch in the morning. Not only does it keep you healthy, it keeps the stomach monsters away.

Pro tip: granola bars, yogurts, cheese sticks or apples are great snacks to hold you over!


  1. Not getting to school early enough.

Some college commuter lots fill up quickly. Face it, you’re gonna have to walk–and I mean half marathon distance—just to get to class sometimes. Unless, you make it there early. 7:45am to be exact. And I’m not just talking about showing up for those 8am classes. Sometimes that means leaving early, even for a 9:25 or 10:50. It’s either that or you can try squeezing into that tiny spot between the mom van and the extremely fat truck. LOL. Not fun. So, leave early for those first two or so classes or prepare to face the wrath of the full lot.

vehicle nichols

21 and Done

BY: Rebecca Messier ’19 

What is it like to be a 21-year-old senior at a private business college who’s three months away from graduation? Well, the first word I think of is panic, and then I think of the words anxious and excited. Granted, it’s a mix of emotions, every journey has a beginning. My journey came about when I first stepped on Nichols College campus for move-in weekend as a baby bison (commonly known as a freshman), afraid to let go of my parents’ hand and be my own person. Some freshmen will absolutely love the freedom because of the parties, the sports, the close friends, but I hated it. I hated change, I hated to be away from my family, I hated to leave behind my old high school friends, and I hated to be away from my dogs! Living with complete strangers was not my cup of tea either. My roommates came in and out at weird hours, I constantly felt judged for having stuffed animals on my bed, and, oh yeah, mingling at events was a whole new panic attack. I can honestly say that I would have rather starved myself than go to the dining hall because then I wouldn’t have to be on display.

I lasted one semester in the dorms; you have to give me some credit. Everyone tells you that you should dorm for at least a year in order to get a taste of that “college experience,” but I didn’t need it. I tried it and, instead of making my life miserable for a full four years, I chose to move off campus back into my parent’s house. There is no shame in making personal decisions on your own.

This was the first moment I realized I was changing. I could stick up for myself and say “No. This isn’t what I want to be doing.” A year and a half later, I met a guy I really liked and shortly after we were moved in together. It seemed like within two seconds I went from being a miserable robot to suddenly rebooting my system and gaining a sense of self. When you’re living on your own, you learn a lot of adult lessons really quick, one of which is paying rent. As a college student, what this essentially means is working 35+ hours between two or more part-time jobs while balancing courses and maintaining some sort of social connection just to give away money you’ll never see again. What a bargain!! When you break it down, you can see why us commuters, or any college student, would be drained. But, being an adult is necessary. Sorry kids.

What the experience of living on my own and continuing my path toward a Bachelor’s Degree has taught me is that “thick skin” comes with experience. Because I chose to move off campus, I decided to get a job, and because I had a stable job, I decided to move away to my own apartment. My current job as Service Manager at a Pet & Wild Bird Supply/Home & Garden Center has taught me the most important lesson so far: people aren’t scary. They are approachable and they help you if you’re nice and show a little ambition.

This fact helped me in my college career at Nichols, especially in my second semester course—event management. For this class, our professor paired us in groups and partnered us with a local non-profit organization. My group was assigned the Blessed Backpack Brigade, who takes care of the Dudley, Oxford, and Webster, MA areas. Our task was to plan and design an event that would accomplish the organization’s desired goals; for example, raising $3,600 for a new building addition to house the homeless, which we did! Immediately after the first assignment, I saw myself emerge as the group leader. I was shocked. People were actually coming to me for advice and support on areas I probably didn’t know much more than them about, but at least I was getting recognized for my effort. Whether it was comprising a budget, creating marketing material, or organizing weekly meetings, I could do it! This is what Nichols wants its students to be accomplishing. Their slogan is literally Learn. Lead. Succeed. and I was doing it! The old Becky never would have been able to step up to the plate and lead a team for a project, let alone talk about a bowl of noodles. But, because of all of my past experiences and my newfound willingness to open up and try new things, I was able to refocus and motivate a team in order to host one of the best events in class history. It was a pure case of being bold, yet vulnerable; something I am still getting used to.


All of these experiences, I now recognize, have molded me into an individual with intense grit. No matter where you are in your journey, you can always overcome the doubt you experience. So, here I am now, a senior in college about to go into the workforce; although I’m not the most confident, I feel prepared. There are a million more obstacles I know I can tackle that will help me grow in my career and beyond. I no longer fear public speaking, I no longer fear saying “no,” and I no longer fear getting that perfect job. Today, I know who I am, and I know where I’m hoping to go. Do you?


Produced by the Bison for the Nichols College Community