10 tips from a college commuter
The average cost of college room and board is over $10,000 a year. That’s the next largest college expense after tuition. If you’re looking for ways to lower your need for student loans, commuting may be the answer. In two years, I've saved over $20,000 by living at home! Here are 10 tips to help make the commuter life work for you.
1. See if you’re eligible
Call your school or check their website to find out the eligibility requirements for commuting students. If you qualify, contact admissions and apply for college commuter status.
2. Parking pass or pay
Before the school year starts, apply for a parking pass. It may sound like an unnecessary expense, but when you’re rushing to class, it’s easy to park in the wrong spot or forget to feed the meter — and parking tickets can pile up quickly. If you get a parking pass, you can save money — and stress! — in the long run.
3. Practice makes perfect
Practice driving to school a few times before your first day of class. It will help you get used to your route ... and determine how long you can sleep in and still make it to class on time. Look for alternate routes, too. Is there a faster way? What if there’s construction on your usual route? Knowing your way will give you one less thing to worry about.
4. Finding the sweet spot
Finding a parking space can take a lot of time and make you late for class. Once you know your routes to school, take time to find commuter-friendly parking spots close to your classes, and have a list of back-ups in mind in case your ideal spots are full. Always give yourself some extra time for parking, even if it means leaving 15 minutes early. It will make your life happier.
5. Be a planner
Planning ahead is important when you’re a commuter because you can’t just roll out of bed five minutes before lecture. Give yourself enough time in the morning, and account for traffic, construction, stopping for gas, and parking. Remember, it’s always better to be early! For the first few weeks of class, leave an extra 15 minutes early. You can always grab a coffee or stop by the library!
6. Be prepared
Always have a little bit of money on you. You never know when you’ll need to stop for gas, food, or a caffeine boost.
Keep in mind who you would call if your car broke down, like your car insurance provider, AAA, or a friend on campus who has a car.
Also, you should know the weather forecast for the day — or even the week — because rain and snow can affect drive time and safety.
7. Stock up
Keep a bag or box in your trunk filled with your favorite snacks and a change of clothes in case you want to take off on a spontaneous adventure after class. An extra T-shirt and jeans, hoodie, towel, or blanket can be your best friends when someone unexpectedly invites you on a hike or a trip to the beach.
8. All the food
Some colleges require all students to purchase a meal plan (even commuters!), while others offer a smaller plan for commuters because they know you’ll mostly be eating at home (why pass up mom’s famous spaghetti and meatballs, right?). So, make sure you ask if a plan is required.
9. Jump in the carpool lane
Ask your school if there is a carpool network and find out if there are students in your area who want to share rides. You’ll get to school faster in the carpool lane, save on gas, help the environment, and meet new people.
10. GET INVOLVED!
Just because you don’t live on campus doesn’t mean you can’t be part of campus life. Many students make lifelong friends in college. Join clubs, sports, and other activities. Your school may even have a commuter club. Make the effort to meet new people. Ask your friends who live on campus to keep you updated on events and get involved! After college, making new friends gets harder.
College isn’t only about getting your degree and taking classes, but also about building friendships and making memories. It’s one of the most special times of your life. Make the most of it!
About the author
Noelle is a Communication Disorders major at Geneva College. She likes reading and writing, and is a preschool ballet teacher.