As a commuter student, you might be able to lower your college costs significantly, especially if you live at home with your parents. Although your transportation costs will likely go up, you won’t have to worry about paying for room and board on campus.
At the same time, you might feel like you’re missing out on some traditional college experiences, like dorm parties and football games. This reality could make some students feel disconnected and lonely, perhaps even leading to college commuter student depression or poor academic performance.
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 socially:
- Budget for transportation expenses
- Schedule your classes strategically
- Immerse yourself in campus activities
- Build a rapport with mentors
- Don’t forget your parents
Commuter students may have cheaper college costs and lower student loans since housing and dorm expenses aren’t added to the price tag – but they’ve got their cars to contend with.
Parking registration costs can cost a small fortune at some colleges and universities.
Take the UC Irvine campus: Commuter students pay $75 to $94 per month in parking permit fees in 2020-2021. Assuming nine months of commuting to campus, that would add up to $675 to $846 per year.
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, find out if you can 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 replace driving a car to class, at least on occasion.
Any class schedule configuration for a resident student is naturally going to be more convenient. If you have two classes in the morning, you can walk back to your dorm and catch some z’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 a.m. class just to come all the way back for your 7 p.m. 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 jobs on campus is another way to utilize the time wisely, since it can earn you money, reduce your tuition bill and possibly garner valuable experience needed after graduating.
If there’s one common complaint of a commuter student, it’s the lack of connection with the campus culture.
The resident students live on campus, so they have many opportunities to form friendships and live a somewhat independent, adult lifestyle. Conversely, commuter students can experience major “FOMO”, the recently coined colloquialism for the “fear of missing out”.
Fortunately, 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 engaging in campus events 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 and repeat cycle.
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 foster a better relationship with their professors.
If you’re an undergrad, 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.
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 can rival that of any resident student.
Plus, the money you save on room and board could mean way less student loan debt after graduation.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of August 11, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term, 3.30% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.69% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 3.94% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.98% (with autopay) to 6.90% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of June 26, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.18%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.18% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.18% per year to 3.66% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.41% per year to 4.30% per year for a 12-year term, 3.18% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.54% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term, or 4.43% per year to 7.02% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Variable APRs and amounts subject to increase or decrease. Variable rates are indexed to the one-month LIBOR rate. The following Variable Rate examples are based on a $10,000 loan amount. Repayment examples are for illustrative purposes only. All student loan rates below are shown without the autopay discount (.25%). There are no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 2.18% per year for a 5-year term would be $176.07. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.00% for a 7-year term would be $136.69. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 2.18% for a 8-year term would be $113.61. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 4.25% for a 10-year term would be $102.44. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 2.41% for a 12-year term would be $80.04. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 3.18% for a 15-year term would be $69.93. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.54% for a 20-year term would be from $63.48. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.43% for a 25-year term would be from $55.19.
2 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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% 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 July 31, 2020, 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 7/31/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 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.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of August 10, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.18% effective July 10, 2020.