6 Essential Tips for Commuter Students

6 Essential Tips for Commuter Students
portrait of Adreon Patterson
By Adreon Patterson

Published on August 18, 2021

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College is filled with many challenges — like finding financial aid, registering on time, and choosing a major. One way that some students try to ease the challenges of attending college is to live on campus in a dorm or apartment. But what happens when you forgo on-campus living for other arrangements?

You may live off campus to save money, or because you have children or other dependents. Whatever the reason, having to travel from home to campus multiple times a week can introduce a whole new set of challenges for college students.

Here are six key tips that commuter college students can use to make the most of their college experience.

Prep Ahead of Time

Keeping track of everything as a commuter student can be hard. Worrying about whether you've packed your backpack with all the things you need shouldn't be one of them. In most cases, packing the night before is the best solution.

Here are some basic school supplies every commuter will need:

When it comes to electronics, let them charge overnight and place them and their accessories right next to your backpack or bookbag for easy packing in the morning. Keeping your student ID in your wallet is a good way to make sure you don't forget it at home. You may also want to bring some personal necessities, like a water bottle, snacks, and headphones.

Also think about meal prep. You can save time and money by preparing well-balanced meals before the start of each week. Simply thinking ahead of time about what food you will need each day and having a plan can save you stress throughout the week.

Plan How You'll Get to and From Campus

For many commuter students, getting a car is best; however, that option comes with expenses related to vehicle maintenance, gas, parking, and possibly even road tolls. Taking public transportation may work better for you depending on your area and how close you live to campus. Just make sure you know how to access your transit schedule.

Carpooling is another option. You may want to find or start a group in which commuter students from the same area can take turns driving one another.

Find Ways to Stay Productive During Your Commutes

Commuting to and from school can get boring and feel like a time suck, so try to find fun or productive activities to pass the time. If you're taking public transit or carpooling, studying can be a great option. Going over notes or presentations during your commute time can reinforce previous material. You could also watch assigned videos or read the assigned text depending on your mode of transit.

Listening to audiobooks or podcasts is another relaxing way to pass the commute time, even if you're driving. You may be able to find some of your class texts in audio format, too.

Tailor Your Class Schedule to Suit Your Lifestyle

Creating the best class schedule for your needs is important for any commuter student. Your schedule may include employment or family commitments. If your commitments are more daytime-focused, you may be able to schedule classes in the afternoon or evening.

Just remember to factor in your commute time when figuring out the best times for certain classes. Also, think about heavy traffic times and public transportation schedules.

Build an On-Campus Presence

Participating in clubs and other activities can help provide you with a sense of attachment to campus, even if you live off campus. Many campuses hold student activities fairs where you can sign up for clubs and organizations geared toward certain majors or student identities.

Getting an on-campus job or work-study position is another great option for connecting with other students and faculty.

Other ways you can build relationships with people on campus include volunteering for departmental activities, organizing study groups, and setting up off-campus outings.

Take Advantage of Commuter Amenities

Colleges want their commuter students to feel like part of the community, so you'll often find facilities and programs set up specifically for these learners.

The volume and size of commuter amenities will vary depending on the campus. Commuter centers can provide a space for you to relax between classes and squeeze in some extra studying before or after your commute. Some campuses may even offer lockers to securely store items during classes.


Feature Image: kate_sept2004 / E+ / Getty Images

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