Living on campus is such an important part of college life that it’s hard to imagine being a student without it.
The dorm. Your roommates. The football games. Those late-night study sessions (that sometimes turn into drinking games). It’s all part of the traditional college experience.
But commuter students miss out on some of those events. It can leave anyone prone to feeling like an outsider — disconnected, isolated and lonely. These aren’t just passing sentiments; they can lower one’s self-esteem, leading to depression and poor academic performance.
The commuter student has one big advantage over resident students, though: They don’t need to incorporate room and board into their college costs, especially if they live at home.
I can relate to all of the above, since I was a commuter student for all but one semester in college. If you commute to campus and feel like your car and classroom comprise your entire world, don’t give up. Here are some ways to improve your circumstances, financially and personally.
Budget for transportation expenses
Commuter students may have cheaper college costs and lower student loans since housing and dorm expenses aren’t part of the price tag — but they’ve got their cars to contend with.
Parking registration costs can range anywhere from a small fortune to an arm and a leg at many colleges and universities.
Take the UC Irvine campus: Commuter students pay $303 per semester in parking permit fees, $909 for the academic year, and $1,212 for the calendar year. That’s among the most expensive parking rates in the UC network.
Depending on how far away you live from school, you’ll need to incorporate gas, insurance, and vehicle maintenance into your budget. Don’t forget the occasional street parking meter fees when you can’t find a spot to park in the commuter lot.
If you live closer to campus, can you arrange to carpool with other commuter students, taking turns driving on certain days of the week? You might also check for nearby public transportation. Depending on the area’s infrastructure, an accessible rail or bus system can take the place of driving to class (at least every so often).
Schedule your classes strategically
Any class schedule for a resident student is going to be convenient. If you have two classes in the morning, you can walk back to your dorm and catch some zzz’s before returning later in the evening for a class after dinner.
Commuter students aren’t so lucky. Unless you want to drive home after your 10 am class just to come all the way back for your 7 pm lecture, you’ll be wasting time, energy, and gas.
Or, you can save money on transportation costs — and your own time — by scheduling your classes together two or three days a week. Stacking them in concentrated time blocks can give you at least one or two days off from driving, more time to study, and a better school-life balance.
Keep in mind that if your schedule doesn’t quite work out the way you’d like, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of your time if you’re on campus all day. Become a regular at your campus library and take advantage of the quiet atmosphere for studying or catching up on homework.
Finding a work study position or other job on campus is another way to utilize the time wisely, since it can earn you money, reduce your tuition bill, and garner valuable experience needed after graduating.
Immerse yourself in campus activities
If there’s one persistent feeling you’ll have as a commuter student, it’s a lack of connection with the campus culture.
The resident students live on campus, so they have constant opportunities to make lasting friends and live a somewhat independent, adult lifestyle. That can leave you feeling left out.
Your school has a wealth of resources to choose from. Look into joining clubs, groups, or student organizations you’re interested in and passionate about, and get involved in on-campus activities or sporting events.
Your school might even have a commuter student association, where you can meet other students who trek to campus every day. Stick with it; you may not make fast friends or hit it off with everyone, but keep tapping into the goings-on across campus and you’ll find like-minded students.
Stay realistic about developing a social life, too. Living on campus isn’t one big party, as much as you like to think it is. Even resident students who live in a dorm full of people can have a hard time fitting in and finding their niche.
As a commuter, you have the chance to step back and approach college life in a more autonomous way, but you may need to get outside of your comfort zone to avoid getting stuck in a home-commute-school cycle.
Build a rapport with mentors
As a commuter, it can be hard to connect with your professors and advisors when you’re not a resident student who can pop on over to their department whenever you like.
Budget your time and schedule meetings with your teachers. Find out when their office hours are and schedule frequent check-ins with them to start building some familiarity. Ideally, every student — resident or commuter — should do this to enable a better relationship with their professors.
When I commuted to college, I treated my journalism professors like editors and checked in with them outside of class hours regularly throughout the semester. I found this added step brought college to a more professional level and helped me succeed academically.
If you’re an underclassman, your student center may also be able to coordinate a mentor relationship, much like a resident student would have with dorm RAs. Having an older peer to talk to can help bridge the gap between commuter and resident students and make you feel more included in campus life.
Don’t forget your parents
If you’ll be commuting from home, you’ll need to devise some new living arrangements with your parents.
You and your parents should already be setting aside time to talk about the basics of college expenses and how you’ll pay for it. Use this as a chance to discuss everything from paying rent while living at home, contributing to bills, paying your own way when it comes to gas and transportation, or buying your own groceries.
Opening a dialogue with your parents sets you up for true independence when you do move out to your own apartment. Sure, you might be just a bit envious of those resident students who seem to have it so much easier, but think about how much the responsibility will pay off in the end.
Lastly, talk to your parents about the prospect of commuting as early as you can. Are you commuting out of financial necessity? Is it a personal preference? Is it feelings of homesickness? What are your expectations, and theirs?
Ultimately, these are highly personal talking points that only you and your parents can solve. Make the most of your academic experience in college, keep your grades up, and look to involve yourself in the campus culture in ways that suit you.
You’ll find that your time as a commuter student will give you unique perspectives and experiences, setting you up for post-grad success that’ll be the envy of any resident student.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
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|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|