Six Tips for Surviving as a Commuter Student

While moving hours from home into a dorm room for a semester with someone you have never met is exciting for many, it’s not for everyone—and it’s totally okay. An untraditional campus, or a commuter campus as we’ll call it in this article, has plenty of advantages and gives just as a fulfilling and educational experience.  Here are some things to think about when attending a commuter campus:

Scheduling Classes
Will you be working?  How close will you live? If you live further away or prefer to work more day hours, consider scheduling classes for specific days of the week, such as Monday and Wednesdays or Tuesday and Thursdays, depending on how the school sets up classes.

A jam-packed in one day type of schedule isn’t for everyone either, so take the time and plan for what’s best for you. (This is your experience, so be selfish about it! College is one of those times where it is okay for it to be all about you!) Also, if you notice your schedule isn’t working, you’re struggling in a class or just having issues, always remember that it’s okay to drop. It’s always better to drop a course instead of failing it.

Don’t underestimate parking.  It plays a huge roll on all campuses, especially commuter ones because people are constantly coming and going.  You must learn and become accustomed to learning the campus’ traffic patterns and peak class times—which will immediately make sense to you once you start school.  Until you’re confident that you know how they work, arrive early.  And by arriving early, it doesn’t mean by 10 or 15 minutes before class either.

Many times, especially for the first month or two, especially during peak class hours, it may be optimal to arrive at least 30 to 45 minutes before class starts. This probably wasn’t what you were thinking about when you chose to go to college, but it can really make or break your day if you can’t get a parking spot in time. Think of it this way, you can always find something to do if you find a spot right away and have 45 minutes to kill. It isn’t going to look so well if you are 15 minutes late because you couldn’t find a parking spot.  It gets old to teachers very quickly—they’ve heard it all.

City Perks
Attending a commuter campus in the city has tremendous perks that can help you find internships, jobs, networking opportunities and more.  Also, attending a commuter campus in the city also helps you become accustomed to what life could be like post-graduation as you’re constantly in the hustle and bustle of things.

Going back to networking, it’s extremely important to network both in and out of school.   Being in the city will enable you go to several different events on and off campus where you can meet people.  Knowing the right people really does help down the road. Take advantage of every networking opportunity you can get! It might land you a job later on.

Living Out Of Your Car or Backpack
Being a student on a commuter campus means you won’t have the dorm room to drop off and pick up what you need for class, and you might be using your car or backpack as a “locker”. 

If you will be spending long days at school, most campuses have locker rental for the semester.  But perhaps the school doesn’t have lockers, you aren’t interested in renting one or they are out of the way—be sure to schedule your day so you aren’t toting around heavy books for hours on end across campus.   You may think it’s easy until you take that first 20-minute-walk with 60 pounds on your back.

To help carrying around a heavy book load, plan breaks during the day and keep some books in your car.  To avoid any theft issues, many students keep books in their trunk and switch out between classes.  Be very careful doing this to avoid theft.  And never, ever, leave expensive belongings such as your purse, laptop, wallet, etc. in your car.  Safety is always an issue, so always be aware of your surroundings, learn about the campus police and how to contact them in the case of an emergency.

Hard Drive
On the other spectrum of “toting work around,” most schools are using computers for everything, from typing papers to huge presentations and assignments.  What’s even better for you (and the environment) is that many professors are allowing students to use laptops for note taking and turning in assignments.  Some professors even use electronic books, which alleviates toting pounds and pounds with you all day.

While some can get pricey, a portable hard drive is something to invest in. It works like a flash drive, which is a great choice too.  Hard drives typically have more space compared to flash drives, which gives you the peace of mind that you’ll never run out of space. 

Portable hard drives range in price from $20-$100+. They can be found in most places that sell electronics from Walmart to Best Buy.  Your campus bookstore may have them as well, but they may be cheaper at a department store.

Being a student on a commuter campus gives a different experience than a traditional one, but it’s just as fulfilling. On top of becoming educated in whatever your major is, being a student on a commuter campus will also teach you many great life lessons and provide plenty of internship and networking opportunities.

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