My Life As…A Commuter Student


Just another day heading to class...


While every college girl shares many of the same college experiences (Procrastinating, Blue Book exams ), she also carves her own path and has her own unique adventure. Have you ever wondered what it’s like for other girls? What it’s like to be an online student? To get married?! To play an NCAA sport? Well wonder no more. Our one-of-a-kind CollegeCandy writers (and readers!) are sharing their unique experiences and opening our eyes to different college worlds.

I am a commuter student.

It’s a statement I’ve had to reiterate more times than I can count during the last four years. It’s a concept some people just can’t seem to understand. It’s something that professors don’t think about when they schedule their classes. It’s something club organizers don’t care about when they schedule their meetings. It’s something you hardly ever hear on my campus, one that’s over 70% residential. It’s a foreign concept to most college students, but not to me.

Let’s rewind a few years, back to when I was first applying to college. I made a list of what I wanted in a college, and where I wanted to go. And when it came down to it, the colleges right here in NYC, in the place I am lucky enough to live, had everything that I wanted. I applied to colleges out of state as well, but I wasn’t going to choose a college just because attending that college would or wouldn’t allow me to dorm.

So I sent out my applications and checked off that little box that indicated I was undecided about my residential status. When it came time to make my decision, I chose a college that was 20 minutes away, and while I still could have dormed, it just didn’t seem unnecessary. Was I really going to pay another $10,000 a year just to live on campus? It wasn’t like I hated living at home, and I had a car, so I wouldn’t be relying on public transportation. And 20 minutes is less time than it takes some students to walk across their campus. I simply couldn’t justify it to myself.

So I decided to give commuting a chance.

My biggest concern about living off campus was that I wouldn’t be able to be as involved on campus as I wanted to, and at first, it seemed like that was the case. Club meetings were all held late at night, and my classes usually ended by four, at the latest. I often had large gaps of time in between my classes, not enough time to head home, but just enough time to rationalize my way out of starting my reading and into Facebook stalking in the back of the library. Meeting people was more difficult as well; while everyone else was bonding with their new roommates, I did not have the same built-in social network to start with.

It was hard, but I still wanted to stick it out for a year. So instead of getting on the wait list for a dorm room, I got a job on campus. It was a job as an office assistant, a job that let me make use of those gaps in between my classes. Then, I joined the paper, despite the trip back to campus that it required. I made an effort. And as the semester went on, and I became more and more involved in the campus events that interested me, I met more and more people that shared my interests. I made friends that commuted, and friends that dormed (aka: friends that didn’t mind me crashing on their pull out couch after a late night).

Four years later, I’m on the editing staff at my school’s paper, I still work as an office assistant on campus. I’ve spent more time in my college’s library than I care to admit, and the coffee barista knows my name and my drink order on sight. The college dorm room is not a foreign concept to me and neither is the college party. But I never became a resident student and I’ve never really wanted to.

Because, honestly, although there are plenty of cons to not living on campus (Not being able to roll out of bed five minutes before class starts. Driving in a snow storm. Or a rainstorm. The price of gas. The parentals.), there are also some major perks, as well. I get home cooked meals and help with the laundry. I don’t have to share a bathroom with ten other girls, and I don’t have to share my bedroom with anyone. And there’s no dorm room drama, but there is always an excuse for being late to class (Traffic! Sorry!). There’s unlimited space on my DVR and the ability to blast my music as loud as I want. Sure, sometimes it gets annoying, (Like right now, as I sit here at a library, killing time before a club meeting that won’t start for another two hours), but I can imagine that dorm life can get annoying too.

People have told me I’m crazy. People have told me I haven’t received the “full college experience.” People have told me that I’ll regret it, that I need to live on campus in college to really “go to college.” But I disagree; I don’t think there is any one way to experience college. This was my college experience, and I wouldn’t change it.



  1. JL says:

    THANK YOU! I am a commuter student and although my school is about 50-60% commuter, I sometimes wonder if I am missing out. But like you said " I don’t think there is any one way to experience college."

    P.S. My grades are better than most resident students.

  2. CR says:

    You consider 20 minutes commuting?!

  3. Alex says:

    CR – Commuter student means that you don't live on campus, regardless of how far you drive to get there.

  4. rox says:

    I know what you mean about belonging to clubs and belonging, its really hard when you dont live in rez…

    However, small pet peeve here: it takes me 45-60 minutes to get to campus using public transportation. My part-time job, sorority, full-time classes and boyfriend, are an hour away. I know someone said that not living on campus means commuting, but 20 minutes is literally nothing… what exactly are you complaining about?

    You could go home at any time of day!

  5. Christine says:

    Thank you for bringing up commuter students! I went to a school in Boston that was only 20% commuter students and most kids that lived in the dorms didn't understand. Some students in my class even made fun of me for living with my parents ("oooooh, that must be nice to have your parents cooking for you and cleaning while you study"). Deep down, I knew some of those students were seriously jealous because they missed their homes.

  6. Shweta says:

    Its good to be a commuter student. You could go home any time. You are away from the rules and restrictions at the dorm. Should be lucky enough to have more friends in town.

  7. Kelsey says:

    I'm also a commuter student, and people don't realize the problems that come with being a day student (what commuter students are called at my school). We don't have somewhere to crash after class, missing parties is the norm because it's not worth it to drive the 60 minutes, then not be able to drink because you have to drive home. My prof's office hours are completely unconvienent as they are late at night, and it gets frustrating. But at the same time, I'm glad I'm not restricted to a 10×10 room that I have to share, and that I can still easily see friends from high school when they come home that I otherwise would be far away from. AND, my residence friends love to crash at my house on the weekends to get a home-cooked meal.

    So people can say what they want, but being a day student really is the way to go, in my opinion.

  8. Anna says:

    I'm just wondering how ready you feel to live on your own without your parents. For me, the college experience is less about living on campus and more about severing my reliance on my parents and forcing myself to take care of things myself. And while you may be very independent, its hard to believe you haven't fallen back on Mom and Dad every now and then. Because I live on campus and away from my parents, I have taught myself to cook, install bookshelves, organize my checkbook, iron, nurse a cold, etc. and I feel much more prepared for my adult life because I know I can do things on my own. I'm not saying you're not, but do you think you are?

  9. criolle johnny says:

    Rox, you CANNOT go home any time of the day because you have to find a damned place to park!
    Who-in-the-HELL decided to schedule my only T-Th class for 2:00 in the afternoon?! Did you ever try to find a parking spot in student parking at 1:30 – 1:45 in the afternoon? I’ll bet the jerk who made that schedule never did.
    Curse you, Parking Ticket Tali-bani Terrorists!

  10. Danielle says:

    I totally see your point, but you can easily learn these things at home. I learned how to cook, iron, take care of myself when i was sick, do laundry, balance a checkbook etc…in high school before I even left home for college. You can learn many life skills while living at home.

  11. Dani says:

    I'm also a commuter student and it's just dreadful to me to have to say I still live with the parentals. But with tuition it just isn't possible any other way. I feel by saying that many get the impression I'm dependent on my parents, sort of like how Anna may get that impression. It's not true though, most need that dorm experience to learn independent living, but I already lived that way before.

    It's great to see an article that doesn't make the "commuter" title so dreadful.

  12. Ashleen says:

    Nicely said! You've gotten my entire freshman year and a bit of this year covered:)

    Commuting is a unique experience and I cherish the perks I do have.

  13. Jenna says:

    You have basically described the life of 80% of all Australian university students, living at home is the norm for us.

  14. Layla says:

    Such a great article! I am a commuter and can really relate to the points you brought up. All of my club meetings are on days that I don't commute b/c I don't have classes then, my teachers assign tests on those days also, and I am constantly having to drive back and forth or sit on campus for hours waiting for something to start, but like you, I wouldn't change it for anything.

  15. Jill says:

    I'm so glad I'm not alone when it comes to finding ways to kill a few hours before meetings and other events on campus. Every single one of my friends live in University housing or in houses/apartments within 5 minutes from campus.

  16. Ashleigh says:

    Another commuter here, 30 minute drive for me. And I love when people say that I'm not learning "independence." Don't say that you're more independent than me because your parents pay for your room/board or rent! It would've been another 10K for room/board. I wasn't willing to ask that of my parents when I have a perfectly good option right here.

  17. kileyrae says:

    I went to a college 3 hours away for the first 2 1/2 years of my college career… but it just got too un-affordable for myself with student loans and my parents to help out, so i moved back home, took a semester off, and then enrolled in a commuter college… it's a lot more affordable, and i am still able to meet people and make connections, just like i was able to when i lived on campus.

  18. Christine says:

    I'd like to comment again on whether commuter students that live at home are less independent than their on-campus living counterparts. I had no choice other than commuting because of the housing costs on campus were too much for me and my parents to pay. Like some other commuters who commented on this board, I also learned how to be independent while living at home. If you don't know how to do the most basic independent activities (e.g. laundry, managing money, care for self when sick) by the time you finish high school, you're already at a disadvantage.

  19. Lucina says:

    Thank you SO much for shedding light on this and also making me feel better about being a commuter. Sometimes, I feel like I'm at a disadvantage, but you've truly made me seen that we can still live the college life we want if we put our minds to it.

  20. Michelle says:

    I'm a commuter student as well.

    The only major difference being.. I live in The Netherlands.

    Here in The NL we don't have dorm rooms on campus, so even those that live in a dorm room, will have to travel for about at least 10 minutes by bike or by bus. Thus, the idea of commuting is less foreign for most students here.

    I decided to go to University in Nijmegen, my hometown. By bus, which is free for students, it takes me about 35 to 40 minutes, depending on the time between my busses etc. By bike, I can make it in less than 30 minutes.

    I do know some people do that have to travel for at least two hours to go college (+ two hours back). That's one thing I never plan on doing though.

  21. R says:

    In New Zealand the vast majority of students live off campus. We have Halls of Residence at most of our Universities, but even then they usually aren't situated right on campus, usually at least a 15 minute walk away. Those who do live in Halls are usually only first-years or international students. The rest of us flat or live with parents. When I went to Auckland University it was a 40 minute bus trip to get to campus, and since moving to Wellington, it's been a 20 minute bus trip or 30 minute bike ride.

    On the whole, we New Zealand students find living on campus a rather bizarre thing, and find it strange that it is the norm overseas.

  22. Kirsten says:

    Hooray for commuters! I go to a commuter school in Vancouver Canada, pretty much everyone commutes (90%), to the point that we are all issued university bus passes that we pay for in our tuition. There are so many pros and mentioned there is the problem of club meetings and office hours. Plus, every semester when planning out my schedule I try to jam pack my courses into as few days as possible, to save on commute time. It takes me an hour by bus to get to school so scheduling is really important. Taking the bus in itself has many pros and cons..when winter comes around it really isn't any fun, but I find that taking the bus gives me the extra time to study. Anyhow, I do get the feeling sometimes that I'm missing out on the supposed "experience," but really, I'm saving a ton of money, and I'm probably doing much better than the partiers on campus..whatever few we do have… :P

  23. Mia says:

    IDK who in the world decided that being a commuter student meant you had to live at home with the folks…?!?!?

    I lived on campus for the first semester of my 9-yr college career (blame changing majors at the end of my junior yr to a field that REQUIRES a masters lol) and decided that I'm not missing out on anything spectacular and if I'm gonna go for the "I'm Grown Now" approach then I may as well knuckle up and do it right. I got my own spot and have been living self-sufficiently, independent of my parents since I was 17. Most people don't know that unless you live in the northern US with higher cost of living, it is cheaper to live off campus in your own spot by the time you equate rent, utilities, food and incidentals. This DOES require a thorough mastery of a budget and not living above your means, because it is YOUR means not your folks after all. I have LOVED every minute of it because in my mind you simply can't beat the privilege of freedom and privacy. I can cook spaghetti booty butt nekkid at 4am if I wanna and no one can stop me!! It has been my own reward for being so diligent in high school and getting full rides to all my colleges because I have learned about the wonderful mecca of REFUND CHECKS! It's like tax time but more than once a year lol I always find myself encouraging people to commute because honestly….at the end of my day….when I am sick to death of school….I want to be able to drive away and not have to still be at school.

  24. Angela says:

    This article almost exactly reiterates my college life, and the attitude I have about being a commuter student!

  25. Natalie says:

    Thank you for making this article I thought I was the only one that felt this way since I live at home with my parents, because of the cost of dorms at my university. Im already responsible and independent as a communter student. I iron, wash dishes, do laundry, balance my check book, and more. I've just havent found the clubs I wanna join yet, but I'm still searching, but parents can be a drag. Hopefully i should be getting my own car soon. Thank you again I feel better now since my friends keep saying I'm not getting the full college experience.

  26. Chelsea says:

    I think I love you for this. I'm a Junior and I honestly feel like I've spent the better part of three years defending my choices and actions. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I wasn't getting the full college experience, I could probably afford to live on campus! I commute over 45 minutes, but I still save more than I would if I lived on campus. I'm an adult, I don't depend on my mom to do anything for me. At this point, we're really more like roommates lol. At the end of the day, you are absolutely correct in that there is no "universal" college experience.

  27. […] every street corner. Would staying in town for college be a waste of an experience? [Ed. Note: No! Just ask our commuter student!] Should I apply to a worse school just because I don’t want to stay in my town? I mean, my […]

  28. […] Would staying in town for college be a waste of an experience? [Ed. Note: No! Just ask our commuter student!] […]

  29. Leah says:

    I am currently a freshman at college and am living on campus. I am finishing my first semester and have spent the entire time a wreck with depression, anxiety, and homesickness. I am determined to stick out the year in hopes that I get use to living away from home but I know of friends who just didn't like living on campus and opted out. Just looking for some advice if I do decide to commute for my sophomore year.. At times I feel like I will be just running back to my comfort zone. But if it makes me happy shouldn't that be how I live the next four years of my life?

  30. Valerianus says:

    Awesome article. I too, write on the commuter student lifestyle. If anyone is interested, my blog is here:

  31. Shanise M says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I'm a freshman and a commuter student and it is very hard to feel integrated into a campus that does not cater to our type of student. Like your school, my school often holds things very late at night and I am unable to drive back most of the time (I'm still 17 and we have a driving curfew here in Upstate NY). However I recently got a job on campus at the library where I get to meet new people, fill in my gaps and now I'm a apart of some clubs as well. Its great to know that my college experience is a normal one and that others have experienced it. I often feel as if I'm the odd man out among my friend from HS when we get together and they have all these wacky dorm stories to share. But I'm in a happy place about college now and I know I'll be saving lots of money in the meantime!

  32. […] housing facilities if you plan on living on campus, or the public transportation facilities if you plan on commuting. You could be taking classes on that campus for upwards of two years, so make sure you like it […]

  33. RahRoo says:

    Hey i'm a commuter too! But i live more than 1 hour and 30 minutes away from my campus :/
    but it's nice b/c my best friend goes to school with me so not as lonely i guess
    i'm still a freshmen but next year i'm really thinking about staying on campus just because the expenses for me driving so long and staying are about the same :/
    but yeah professors and clubs are a pain when it comes to timings good lord

  34. mecca says:

    Damn, this made feel so bad for living on campus for the past two years. I also live about 20 mins away and yes, living on-campus was way out of the budget at my already expensive private school but I really wanted the so-called "full college experience." I didn't feel as bad at first because even my parents wanted me to have that chance to experience the dorms. I had an awesome time in the dorms and yes it makes on campus life ALOT easier but its the reason I have the loans that I do. If I didn't live on campus then I wouldn't have to pay back all this money when I get out. Also, I have friends who commuted all 4 years and they're doing fine socially. So I guess it's all up to you and how you choose to make of your time on campus, it really doesn't matter if you live on campus or not. Anyway, I'm studying abroad in London and will have two quarters of Junior year where I'll be commuting. Let's see how it goes. :]m

  35. Rich says:

    Really great article. I had the exact same experience as everyone with people saying "You're not getting the experience" etc. My problem is that it's been 2 years since I graduated and I'm starting to think that they were right. I feel like I really did miss out on the social experience of college and dorm life. Just wanted to throw out my point of view. Good luck to everyone.

    1. Gazalle says:

      Don't feel that way…I also commuted to school and when I look back I still have fond memories! I think that the "experience" is what YOU make of it! I just graduated in June and I have nothing but good memories and great friends after 4 years of university!

  36. Debbie says:

    I support your article unanimously. I lived in a dorm my Freshman year and everything you described could go wrong did go wrong. I'm commuting from home now and I refuse to go back.
    It takes me 1.5 hours to get to school.
    2 hours if classes are in the main campus.

  37. thegreatestthing says:

    I've been a commuter for the last… god it's been five years. Also in NYC. I live over an hour away from campus, and it sucks but my family is absolutely against footing the bill for dorming. Part of the problem of being a commuter is that I need to work a LOT more to afford actually being able to get to campus and back every day, so I can't take as many classes as I want. I'm still a year away from graduating now, but it's been difficult.

    As far as feeling like you're a part of something on campus, one of the best things you can do is go Greek. It's an instant circle of people and activities that WILL make you feel like you belong. Say what you will about hazing or paying for your friends, it's all BS and needs to be examined on an individual level to prove it or not. The majority of the people and organizations are loving, caring, happy, generous and absolutely against all that nonsense. I know it helped me through college QUITE a bit.

  38. […] what it’s like for other girls? What it’s like to be an online student? To get married?! To be a commuter student?Well wonder no more. Our one-of-a-kind CollegeCandy writers (and readers!) are sharing their unique […]

  39. […] can really predict about next year is that you’ll be moving on from high school…even if you’re not moving out of your house. College is an amazing experience and we promise that you’ll be there soon […]

  40. anna says:

    For the past three years I've been going to the local community college by my house. its nice because i only live half an hour away from school and i use the quarterly bus pass the school gives out. for me personally i don't think i could have ever wanted to live in a dorm and since I'm paying for school all on my own with loans its not cheap. i know their is no way i would be able to pay rent and insurance plus pay tuition, not with 10 credits costing so much more than when i started college.

  41. Jackie says:

    More articles on commuter life! I'm just transfered to a school, and I'm a commuter student. Every lives near or on-campus. i hate that I can't afford and apartment and have to live at home (which isn't that bad). But I do miss out a lot. :(

  42. MistyWonder says:

    I can really relate to your story, Im also a commuter and its a lot harder for me to make friends. But i really love it, because i can work easily without being limited to on campus jobs (which are always taken anyway) but I obviously know the area so I can work where ever. Back when i was looking at schools i went touring, and took one look at those dorms and thought, no this isn't for me. On tv, or in in magazines dorms seem more luxurious and nice, while in real life i found they really aren't. And your right! people can't seem to comprehend a commuter concept! Even adults! I always feel like they look at me like, oh your obviously living with your parents, so your not in school. But your right it saves sooo much money. And all the pros you listed above, I agree with. So I'm happy with my college experience as well.

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  48. Taylor says:

    i'm a freshman and I only live about a 10 minute drive from my school. I decided to commute for many reasons. The first was that I had to work my ass off in high school to get the scholarships and grants for school, and I only pay about $40 a semester. If I lived on campus, I'd have to pay an extra $3,000 a semester. Also, my fiancee lives with me at my parents house. We are planning to get an apartment soon anyway. I have found ways to become socially involved on campus. I joined a sorority, and whenever I feel like I'm missing out on the experience, I just stay over in my chapter room! You just have to find out where you fit in and be able to take social opportunities as they present themselves.

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