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A Commute to Boot: The Pros and Cons of Commuting to College

By Alyssa Seidman

It’s that time of year when college co-eds begin making moves into their dorm rooms before the new semester begins. Wholesale stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are packed with students making last minute purchases; the hallways of residence buildings are accumulated with weeping parents; and newbies are settling in to their home away for home for the school year.

But what if you’re a bird who has opted out of flying the coop for college? According to U.S. News, “on average, about 19 percent of freshmen commuted or lived off campus in fall of 2013.”

Photo by Kristen Linsalata
Photo by Kristen Linsalata

Having lived both on and off campus during my college years, I’ve realized there are significant advantages to taking the drive as opposed to paying the pied financial advisor. On the flipside, there is something very liberating about waking up just five minutes before class starts. Listed below are some of the pros and cons of commuting to college:

1. Pro: You have access to a sustainable meal plan.

There are two places on this earth that I am regretful to say I’ve eaten at: Sleepaway camp and Winnick. When I lived on campus as a sophomore, I longed for my mom’s home cooked meals. Not only was home food more enjoyable to eat, but it was also healthier than the grub served up at school. I evaded the “freshman fifteen” because I wasn’t eating spoonfuls of Nutella in my dorm at two in the morning (I’m not proud of this). It was this past semester living on campus that I packed on the pounds – I found myself eating out more and binging at Wendy’s more nights than I could count, all to avoid the unsatisfying school food. Being a commuter offers you opportunities to vary your diet since you’re not limited to a less-than-good-for-you meal plan.
2. Con: Waking up hours before class.

One of the things I’ll miss most about living at school is the thrill of sleeping in. As a commuter, if I had class at 9:30 in the morning, I’d set my alarm for 7 a.m. to give me ample time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and set off on my thirty-minute commute. On campus, I would wake up 20 minutes before my first class and get there, on time, without the hassle of running into random traffic delays. Another damper about driving is dealing with the weather, especially during the winter months, which are far from wonderful in our area. In times of inclement weather, commuter students are often at odds when receiving cancellation updates from administration. One special case at Post involved a student making it all the way to campus in a snowstorm only to find out upon arrival that classes had been cancelled that day. On-campus living warrants no worry of having to drive through hazardous conditions, or finding a decent parking spot (don’t even get me started on this one).
3. Pro: Quiet hours last all-day.

Aside from my undeniable dedication to schoolwork, my 4.0 se- mester was a result of living at home the first year. Without the distraction of floormates, getting work done was a breeze. When I lived on campus I would shack up in the school’s library, or plug in my headphones to block out my roommate’s obsession with the E! Network, but nothing boosted my work productivity more than sitting in my own room, or in my neighborhood library. The familiarity of those spaces somehow honed in my focus, and thus produced A-worthy assignments. Living in a college dorm room can mess with your priorities, like how you would skip that much-needed study session to attend the rager in your residence hall. 4. Con: FOMO is a living, breathing thing.

The hardest part about commuting your first year is feeling like you’re missing out on “the freshman experience.” You know, attending parties where you don’t know anyone but are then immortalized when you complete a five-minute keg stand? Kidding aside, if you’re commuting to school this fall, you will feel this sense of un-fulfillment for the first couple of weeks. Facebook and Instagram, your social media safe havens, will soon become your worst enemies – their feeds will flood with your friends’ on-campus revelries, and you will soon regret staying home. Don’t let this deter you from making the most of your freshman year.

5. Pro: You have much more of a reason to get involved.

To continue the point I made in number four, the most important thing to do at college is to enjoy yourself. Commuters by reputation are expected to drive to school, go to class, and then drive home; this is not the case. Any aspect of your college experience, whether academic or social, is determined by one person: you. This can be done by joining clubs, Greek life, playing a sport, or just hanging around the commons. What saved me from transferring out my first semester was writing for The Pioneer – it was something that kept me engaged in student life, allowing me to network with all the diverse groups on campus. As cheesy as it sounds, it also helped me make a couple friends along the way. So I say unto all my fellow commuters today: break the stigma – stay on campus after class; there might be more going on than you think. 6. Con: Flying under the radar is tough if you’re living under their roof.

When I moved onto campus, I found myself staying out way past my bedtime, not having to clue in mom and dad of where I was or who I was with, something that often happened when I lived at home. What’s even more liberating than waking up seconds before class is going to a private beach with your best friends at midnight on a Monday. These sort of serendipitous adventures only took place while I was taking up residency at school, which leads me to believe that dormers have more fun. You think things will change since you’re “in college,” but that doesn’t mean the saying “my roof, my rules” is null and void.

7. Pro: Money and comfort – you can have it all.

Last but not least, commuting to college saves you and your family the burden of shelling out extra cash for room and board. I was very lucky to have received free housing during my year as a resident, but the going rate of housing (sans meal plan) is a whopping $12,000 per academic year. And in my experience, the residency facilities are simply not worth the coin. Commuting not only keeps your wallet happy, but also eases your overall being. Nothing kills a shower more than having to wear flips flops, or finding used Band-Aids and strands of hair all over the stalls. Along with taking showers in all their rejuvenating glory, living at home means you still sleep in your own bed! Huzzah!

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