Do you have a need for speed? A crave to save? Commuting is a non-traditional way of going to college, and for those who like driving and saving money, it can be a useful option. I chose to be a commuter for a semester while I went to school part time.
Barring special circumstances, students at Houghton who want to commute must do so from a family member’s home. My house is about 40 minutes away from Houghton, and my classes were only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Below I will share some of my experiences and my personal opinion on the pros and cons of commuting.
Driven to Commute?
The first step is asking whether it makes sense to commute from your family’s home! If you live too far away, it might be cheaper in the long run to pay for on-campus housing. I had to carefully plan out my semester so that I only had Tuesday/Thursday classes, in order to cut down on the cost of gas. However, those who live closer to campus might not need to worry about this as much.
Some commuters don’t feel as independent when they still live at home instead of on their own. I didn’t have that experience because I was rarely ever home—I worked and went to school, and was only home to sleep. I had also lived on campus for a year and a half before I commuted. In my opinion, if you can, it’s good to at least try living on campus for a bit, so you can be immersed in the experience of college, and start learning how to live on your own. However, commuting definitely doesn’t mean you’re not adulting—you might even feel more independent if you do it.
Some Challenges with Commuting
Driving itself offers some challenges. First, it takes time out of your day. If you’re like me, you consider driving as an amazing gift that helps you clear your mind. But maybe that’s not you! For some people, driving can be very stressful and time-consuming.
Speaking of stressful: weather is an important factor to consider. When you live on campus, you can walk to your classes no matter how crazy nature decides to be. It can be difficult sometimes to traverse through the Western New York weather conditions, especially during the winter. My commute to Houghton during the winter included a couple of scary incidents, and one time I had to turn around and tell my professors I couldn’t make it to class. Thankfully, professors are very understanding, and sometimes even they can’t make it to class!
Commuters sometimes face some social barriers because they are not on campus as much as other students. It was hard for me to participate in many of the social activities I wanted to, simply because I had to drive to campus if I wanted to attend an event. However, if you take advantage of the guest policies at the dorms, you can stay over in a friend’s room for the weekend (or even during the week, though make sure you get your homework done!), allowing you to get in some fun time with your peers.
Commuting: Is It for You?
Commuting is a good choice for those who want to save money, and who enjoy being at home. For those who decide to do it, just be aware of the challenges you may face, and be proactive in trying to combat them. Leave early for school in case of any roadblocks or weather problems. Make a point to spend a little extra time on campus, so you can grow friendships. Participate in as many events as you can, and become involved in extracurricular activities so you don’t feel excluded from college life.
College is a great way to transition to adulthood, but commuting doesn’t mean your freedom goes away. It may feel like you’re living in two different worlds sometimes, but if you’re okay with that, there’s no harm in trying it out!
Mikalah is an English and communication major at Houghton College, and a member of the Class of 2020.