When I think of some of my fondest college experiences, they include the cozy apartment I rented last year and all of the excitement and convenience that it brought. However, when I decided to commute to and from campus this year to save money, my experiences became slightly different. While I do miss being a part of the immediate student community living within walking distance of campus, there are perks to being a commuter too.
As a student who has experienced a variety of student lifestyles — a dorm dweller, transfer student, apartment renter and commuter — I can safely say that all have their own drawbacks and advantages. But the lifestyle that is often overlooked and receives all too much criticism is that of the commuter student.
About 75 percent of University of Minnesota students live off campus. While this theoretically includes any student who lives in non-University provided housing, most students and faculty use this term for those who do not live within walking distance of campus. Of the Big Ten conference, the University of Minnesota has the highest percentage of off-campus students who commute by foot. In a survey conducted by the Council of Undergraduate Deans, 42 percent of students considered themselves to be this type of commuter student.
According to the University Office for Student Affairs, some major issues that commuter students have are the costs of commuting and lacking a “home base” on campus. This leads to a lack of a sense of belonging on campus. The Office for Student Affairs believes that students are less likely to get involved on campus or have a steady social life when they commute. This can lead to fewer opportunities for students to build relationships with professors or fellow students.
On the contrary, even though commuter students are not in the hustle and bustle of campus every day and night, they are still able to be out and about and experience the same kinds of things that they would if they lived closer to campus. They just have to work for it a little more than other students do.
Laura Davis, a senior psychology major and commuter at the University has made the most of her experiences of traveling back and forth to campus on a daily basis. Davis has found that these challenges reap many rewards: “I choose to commute because I save so much more money than I would otherwise. When I decided to live off campus I knew that I needed to be more aggressive and outgoing in my classes to still have a connection with the livelihood of the University.”
When I spoke with Davis, she said that sometimes being a commuter makes it more frustrating to make plans on weekends. While the distance between Minneapolis and home is challenging, Laura is lucky to have friends who are willing to let her stay with them on weekends. Another perk for Davis? She now has great time-management skills because she makes the most out of her time on campus when she is there.
By commuting, Davis has learned how to organize and balance school and work while commuting. She is still able to have fun with friends and save money for paying back those hefty student loans after graduation.
Students who commute are able to get a lot out of their college experience — it’s just different from what is expected in a typical college student’s lifestyle. There are pros such as saving on the costs of living and acquiring helpful skills. Some of the cons, though, include being away from campus and not having the immediate ability to spend time with friends. No matter what the type of living situation, students just have to do what works best for them.
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