Most students live on campus for their freshman year (and many stay there longer). Some schools even require that you live on campus for a specific amount of time. Not all colleges are this way, though, and this means that you may find yourself as a commuter student, driving from home (or maybe your own apartment, if it’s not right across the street) to class every day.
Students have many different reasons for not wanting to live on campus. Some can save money by living at home, with their parents. Others may want to live on their own, but not right next to campus—maybe they found a good deal on an apartment a little farther away. The reasons vary, but many students find themselves driving (or riding their bikes, or taking the subway or the bus) to school.
Finding the best mode of transportation is key to having a successful year as a commuter student. If you live really close to campus, you can walk. A little farther out, riding your bike is a good idea—not only will you save a bunch of gas money, but it’ll help keep you in shape, too! And if you’re really serious about it, you can ride your bike all year (this is easier if you don’t live in a state that gets a lot of snow, but it’s possible everywhere). If you’re close to mass transit, you can hop a bus or a train to get close to campus—you can often get student passes that can save you a lot of money on this type of transportation. Keep in mind that when you’re taking mass transit, you’re not putting miles on your car, and not only will you not have to pay for gas as often, but you’ll cut down on maintenance as well. But, of course, sometimes driving is the only option. And that’s how it is for a lot of people.
I strongly encourage all commuter students to spend as much time on campus as possible. Get involved with some groups—sports, intramurals, honor societies, language clubs, and study groups are all good ways to meet people. Maintaining social connections with campus can be tough when you don’t live there, but it’s certainly possible, and it’s important to meet people outside of class as well. Go to your school’s sporting games, and theater productions, and social gatherings, like outdoor movie nights and dances. Staying connected is important.
Many schools have organized commuter student centers or groups, as well—see if your college offers special resources for commuter students that you can take advantage of (see NYU’s for a good example). It can be a good way to meet people, and you may find that there are many valuable resources that a commuter center has to offer.