With students from all walks of life attending college in today’s society, universities everywhere are catering to the demand for accessibility. Online courses, studying abroad, and night and weekend classes are all examples of opportunities for individuals seeking the chance to fit a vibrant yet attainable education into their lives. Particularly for the full time student just out of high school (when the world is still perceived as the metaphorical oyster), one of the college decisions has remained a relatively difficult one: commuting.
For some, the decision is a no brainer. “There’s no point to college if you aren’t going away,” is typically the mantra of the high school senior. But with exorbitant dorm prices and the equally exorbitant student loan interest rate, commuting is becoming an ever more viable option. If you’re on the fence, or just curious, there are some specific pros and cons to consider when mulling over the possibility of being a commuter.
Con: you will not get the coveted “college experience” if you’re a commuter student.
College is synonymous with all things new – a new place, new friends, andmaybe even a new you entirely. This feeling of discovery is due to the fact that an individual away at college has escaped all things considered to be a part of the old them. Unfortunately, there is no way for the commuter student to get the same sense of full immersion into a new life. There are ways to try to make up for this, like joining a club or getting a job on campus, but the truth is, without the escapism of dorm life, the experience simply falls short. Speaking from experience, it feels just like going to high school (but with better hours and much more work).
Pro: being a commuter student saves money.
A lot of money. The best way to prove this is through the facts. According to collegedata.com, the average cost of college dorming is approximately $11,000, and this number varies greatly depending on the location and reputation of your school. If you plan on being in school for four years, the chance to save yourself forty grand is nothing to scoff at, especially considering average student loan interest rates are 5%, according to credible.com. The money you save by commuting could even lead to equally amazing experiences, like traveling.
Con: no matter how much money you can save by living at home, you are still living at home.
Your parents might be the coolest people on the planet, but it’s still easy to feel left behind in the maturity department when you aren’t living without them. However, there could be a plus side to this.
Pro: money saved while living at home allows you to move out earlier than others.
When dormers return home after graduation, many are hit with the reality that they cannot afford apartments, and subsequently remain home. After tasting the freedom of having your own place, being home can seem unbearable. Not only are commuters used to staying home (so needing to stay longer is nothing different), but the money they saved staying home could move them out sooner rather than later.
Con: commutes can be time consuming.
Admittedly, this con isn’t a big deal, but still worth mentioning. When I was in school, I met people traveling from upwards of an hour away to get to campus. You may live in an area where all destinations are spaced far apart. Maybe the school that’s further is better for your major or has a cheaper tuition; whatever the reason, be prepared for your commute to cut into your study or activity time.
Pro: potentially being able to afford a car.
Now I know you might be considering the cost of a car as an expensive factor to commuting, but the estimated average price of a new car in April 2015 was $33,560, according to usatoday.com. Not only is that still cheaper than dorming, but that is a brand new car. I don’t know about you, but I was perfectly happy with my used car that was $20,000 cheaper. Not to mention you can keep a car way after college!
Since we’re on the topic of cars, it’s also important to note the incredible freedom they give you when in school. I remember once visiting a friend away at college, and while it was an adorable town that this campus was in, that town was literally it. Being from a busier area, I couldn’t fathom staying in just that town for the extended amount of time it would take to complete a college degree. Since many colleges are built in distant areas and small towns are built up around them (and most colleges don’t allow freshmen to keep their cars on campus) traveling far from home, just to be in a college town, might be something to reconsider. Of course, you may opt to attend a school in a more active area, but be aware that the tuition and housing of these areas are substantially higher.
What the decision to commute or dorm comes down to is what feels right to you. A potential commuter student should weigh all sides of the argument to get a feel for what is important to them when experiencing college. At the end of it all, both boarding and commuting will get you the same degree, so be true to yourself and what you want out of your school, and make the most out of either experience.