Student Life

Commuting vs. Living On-Campus

Explore the top three pros and cons for each side as well as how to survive as a commuter student or on-campus student!

Student Contributor, Jasmin Kaur

November 12, 2022

Commuting vs. Living On-Campus
What best suits your college experience? Should you be a commuter student -- or live on campus?
For the commuter who might be driving up to 50 miles per day (the maximum limit most colleges place on commuting), living on campus can seem like a dream. Vice-versa, the campus student might envy the commuter student who gets to eat homemade food and has a personal room and bathroom. However, below these surface-level pros, there are cons on both sides, from paying for gas or dorm residency to spending time driving or sharing spaces with another student. Below are the top three advantages and disadvantages for each side and advice on how to survive as a commuter or on-campus resident!

Pros and Cons of Commuting

The Advantages of Commuting:

1. You save thousands of dollars each semester by living and eating at home. College costs are steadily rising, and, after tuition, room and board fees are some of the most extensive contributors to that hefty price tag. By electing to live at home and prepare your lunch, you can finally get started on that savings account (maybe?)! However, it's not entirely cost-free. Make sure to calculate the cost of gas, car insurance, and other upkeeping/maintenance costs.
Additionally, you may also have to consider the cost of rent if you choose not to live with your parents (although most colleges require that students with 60 or fewer credits reside with a parent or guardian). Some parents might also demand a monthly fee/rent. 2. You get to avoid the dreaded dining hall food and sharing a bathroom with twenty other people. Now, that's not to say there aren't universities out there with fantastic dining halls or modern, clean dorms. However, there are some colleges with…less than stellar food experiences.
Additionally, if you’re someone who values privacy, sharing your living space with another person can be unappealing. Commuters can get the best of both worlds at times. They can be on campus for classes and social events, but go home at the end of the day and take a nice long shower without wondering if there’ll be a long line. And there's nothing like some home-cooked food to end an exhausting day with! 3. Greater independence With great independence comes great power, but it’s a nice sense of power… for the most part. With your own car (or stable access to a transportation system), there’s more flexibility with where you want to be and at what time. You don't have to worry about missing an event in the city because of transportation, or if you attend a small school and all the good study spots are taken, then you can just head off-campus to a nearby coffee shop or public library.

The Disadvantages of Commuting:

1. Fiscal and Emotional Costs Being a commuter student isn’t entirely without its costs. Gas costs can rise, and there’s also a time cost. Depending on how far you commute, you can spend anywhere from 1-3 hours stuck in traffic. Additionally, there’s an emotional cost as well. From missing out on opportunities, whether they be social events late at night or other on-campus activities, commuting can lead to a sense of exclusion from the campus community. There's also less time for homework depending on what time you have to leave the house or what time you return. One way to overcome these obstacles is creating an hourly schedule for each day to budget time, connecting with commuter groups on-campus, or hosting your own activities with friends that better fit everyone’s schedule. 2. Missing out on the “college experience" For some people, living on campus is a crucial aspect of their college experience. Whether it be creating lifelong friendships and memories or partaking in sororities and fraternities, commuting simply might not be worth it. 3. Increased responsibility As I mentioned earlier, there is a greater sense of responsibility that comes with the power of flexibility. You’ll have to make sure your car is in good shape as well as account for a weekly or biweekly budget for gas. Additionally, there is increased stress with getting to campus on time for those morning classes, especially on exam day, and hoping to avoid any major traffic jams.

Pros and Cons of Living on Campus

The Advantages of Living On-Campus:

1. You’re getting that college experience! Being on your own and learning to live in a communal environment is a crucial element of your college experience. There's a sense of freedom and responsibility, and the opportunity to make lasting friendships and memories. Proximity to classes and other events. As mentioned earlier, knowing you can walk to class within 10-15 minutes is certainly not a privilege to take for granted. Having everything within walking distance can also create a greater sense of inclusion and community. 2. Meal plan, gym access, and other amenities. Having a meal plan eliminates time spent on planning and preparation and budgeting weekly or monthly for groceries since everything is paid for beforehand. Additionally, access to the gym, doctor, and other amenities can allow for a healthier lifestyle. Other amenities such as security also make on-campus living a safe experience!

The Disadvantages of Living On-Campus:

1. It’s expensive. Meal plans, miscellaneous fees, and boarding costs all add up quickly. Living on campus at a state university can run up to at least $10,000 per year, and more than $30,000 for private schools. 2. Homesickness While a little homesickness is expected, for some individuals, the sudden lack of structure and family can be detrimental to their academic success. Many students can find it difficult to connect with the fast-paced culture of a university or new city. 3. Limited Privacy Between roommates and eking out that perfect study spot, privacy can be an issue while living on campus. There's less space to yourself and it might be hard to concentrate when there's no quiet space to be easily found. It can also be difficult to find time for things such as laundry depending on how busy the time/day is. Whether you choose to live on-campus or commute, there are going to be advantages and disadvantages to each side. If living on-campus, try to see what type of financial aid is out there to help reduce student debt, and consider getting an apartment off-campus with a roommate junior year or afterward (most colleges don't allow students to reside by themselves off-campus before that). Nonetheless, there's plenty to be grateful for, from participating in late-night or weekend events to creating memorable experiences with your friends as you all figure out the first steps to becoming an adult. Likewise, if you're a commuter, instead of thinking about what you might be missing out on, consider what you're gaining. On-campus students often miss their families and the comfort of home. While you might not be able to attend that 9 p.m. movie viewing, there are plenty of other events to go to, all while being able to head home at the end of the day. Additionally, planning ahead can allow you to better see which events fit your schedule, allowing you to pick and choose which ones to skip or attend. Whether you decide to commute or live on campus, there are plenty of benefits for both sides; it all depends on what works best for you!

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