Commuting vs Dorming: The Pros and Cons of Each

Determining what college to attend is stressful. Although teenagers believe this is the greatest decision they will make, choosing a major is more life-changing. Nevertheless, the college’s location affects whether they live on campus or not. For high schoolers who are unsure if they want to commute or dorm, understanding the pros and cons of each will provide knowledge that helps them make a decision.

The three types of undergrad travelers are the commuter, the dormer, and the out-of-state dormer. “How To Get Over College Homesickness,” written on this website, clarifies two of them. To cite my earlier work:

[Dormers] live ten, thirty, or sixty minutes away from their families. Local residents are encouraged to live on campus for the university experience or to gain independence. Some can go home; others cannot. These are the students who don’t travel by plane. . . . the out-of-state student made the boldest choice of university. At eighteen, they were ready to spread their wings or they wanted to get away. They picked their college for a specific reason, or their major is uncommon. These students visit their homes during semester breaks, holidays, or week-long vacations.

Then there are commuters. They travel by foot, bike, car, train, subway, bus, or shuttle every time they need to be on campus. Travel time can be a few minutes or multiple hours. I’ve met undergrads who’ve driven several hours and past state lines to be on campus every day. Time and money quickly add up. Most commuters don’t mind the drive and use this time to unwind. Here are eight productive ways to make your commute a breeze, for those who aren’t in the driver’s seat.


The Advantages

  • Travel time can be relaxing: used as free time or time to catch up on work
  • Leave school ground when you are finished with the day
  • Attend online classes from home or the local library
  • Save thousands of dollars by not dorming or investing in a large meal plan
  • Drivers get additional road experience
  • Obtain navigation skills
  • Carpooling with friends saves money and emissions
  • Freshmen have fewer uncertainties, and adjustment is more smooth
  • Prevent homesickness by living at home
  • Commuters don’t have to sacrifice family, pets, or community
  • They also get to keep their privacy and space
  • Avoid missing family gatherings and still see childhood friends during the weekend
  • The school vs. personal life balance exists because you are not surrounded by classrooms and classmates 24/7
  • Better opportunity to get a part-time job to get ahead of your career

    The Disadvantages

  • Travel time can be stressful and endless
  • Traffic and lack of parking can make you late to class or other commitments
  • Financial aid goes down, and transportation costs—car payments, gas, insurance, parking costs, public transportation—go up
  • Not to mention, many students have to pay for their transportation, pressuring them to find a job while still in school
  • Carpooling forces scholars to plan their schedules around each other
  • Some commutes require multiple modes of transportation
  • Commuters have no place to rest or be alone during long days (unless you nap in your car)
  • If you live far from campus, you may miss weekend parties, sports games, and events
  • It might feel like high school, but with the advantage of making your schedule
  • You don’t get the entire “college experience” or gain as much independence
  • Options to join a sport’s team, club, sorority, or fraternity diminish
  • Commuters have a harder time making friends
  • At mostly residential universities, commuters are less motivated, more likely to miss class, and feel less connected to classmates and the school itself
  • Dorming

    The Advantages

  • Gain independence by not being under your parents’ roof
  • Take care of yourself and live on your own
  • Learn to budget money, do laundry, cook, and clean
  • You become the head of the house or share this role equally with roommates and suitemates
  • Form long-lasting friendships with university residents
  • Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live with friends
  • Reside in another state, county, or country
  • Opportunities for off-campus housing
  • Attend every university event and party
  • Apply for a campus job or RA position
  • No commute means that you don’t have to squish all of your classes together
  • Travel time can be used to study
  • Redecorate a second bedroom
  • Take a nap or decompress in between classes
  • Share a dorm or suite with close friends
  • Options for joining a sport’s team, club, sorority, or fraternity widen

    The Disadvantages

  • Must pay for dorming, meal plan, and other fees
  • Those who cannot pay depend on loans or financial aid
  • Without a car, students are trapped on campus, even when there are no events
  • Whether they are on campus or home, students will frequently desire a clothing item, book, or belonging they don’t have
  • Homesickness (How To Get Over College Homesickness)
  • Dorm rooms are smaller more expensive than hotel rooms
  • Students often have to live with strangers
  • Share a communal bathroom with dozens of residents
  • Dwellers must share everything: study space, laundry room, exercise equipment, kitchen appliances, televisions, computers, etc.
  • Residental halls offer very little privacy, individual isolation, or tranquility
  • Sicknesses spread quickly
  • Undergrads are unable to see their family, pets, or community
  • They miss gatherings (How to Celebrate Someone’s Birthday While You Are Away At College)
  • Students must abide by universities guidelines for housing
  • Off-campus housing can be cheaper but still involves a commute and rent
  • Students who live in off-campus housing must prepare their meals


  • “What Is A Commuter School?” by University of the People
  • Five Disadvantages To Dorm Room Life” by The House Shop