Tips for starting college

Alyssa Morris is a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She received her Bachelors in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communications in May 2014. Alyssa is currently employed by Education Inc, as a home tutor.

After four painstakingly long years of high school, seniors are beyond excited to move on to the next stage of their lives; college. By the time we graduate, our heads are filled with all kinds of ideas about the new, parentless freedom. Look at movies like “Legally Blonde,” “Sydney White,” or “Accepted.” Heck even “Monster’s University” gives us some expectations about college. It’s full of crazy parties, late night antics with best friends, sleeping until noon, and let’s not forget huge dorm rooms! At least that’s what college was supposed to be like. After a while, those unrealistic expectations disappear and the harsh reality of 8AM classes hits.

While a majority of people go on to experience dorm life, there’s a portion that decide living on campus isn’t for them. And thus, the commuter was born.

I chose to commute all four years because honestly dorms freaked me out. I’m not the biggest fan of change, so the idea of trading my bedroom for a cramped double and a floor wide, bathroom wasn’t for me. Though I will admit, I wish I lived on campus for brutal snow storms, gross weather, or for the days I just didn’t want to get out of bed and drive to school.

But over the years, I’ve learned a few tips that I’m sure could help other commuter students out there. Here are a few important tips:

1. The obvious. You already know this, but you’re driving to class. As a commuter other drivers, bad weather, construction, and general traffic are your biggest enemies. Sometimes it will feel like they’re all working together to make you late for class. I find it best to leave no less than an hour before your class starts, depending on how long your commute may be. For me, I would leave roughly two hours before my classes started, just because I liked being able to get to campus early and get settled.
2. Making your class schedule. Try as hard as humanly possible to make a schedule with as little gaps as possible. Don’t get me wrong, breaks are great! There’s no better feeling than being able to complete homework or get a chance to relax before classes. However, the longer the break, the more likely you’ll want to skip you last few classes and head home early for the day. Not that I have any personal experience with that…
3. Make it worth your while. My drive to school was roughly a 40 minute highway trip. On top of that, I drive an SUV which completely guzzles gas. As you can imagine filling up my tank at least twice a week took its toll on my poor, college kid budget. If this sounds like you, I would definitely recommend trying to be on campus fewer days a week. But of course, that decision is based on personal preference and how much mileage your car gets.
4. Investments. I suggest investing in a car charger as well as an additional phone charger. There’s no worse feeling than having your phone die as you’re waiting for classes. Also, it never hurts to buy a few pairs of headphones. You won’t have to listen to the eerie silence of a study area, or those loud, obnoxious students that don’t care you’re trying to get reading done for a class.
5. Hungry? Bring a snack! Typically there are plenty of places where you can buy food, whether you want a full meal or just a snack. It’s always good to have cash handy for vending machines. However, I find that it’s easier to load your backpack with snacks. I usually had a good variety of trail mix and protein bars, that way I wouldn’t be spending a lot of money on overpriced candies and chips.
6. Making Friends. I’m not going to lie, sometimes making friend as a commuter is the biggest challenge. Since you don’t live in the dorms, you obviously miss out on forming friendships with your roommate or people on your floor. But don’t worry; classes are neutral territory for commuters and residents. Learn to love the people in your major early on in your education. Not only will you be stuck with them for four years, but some of them will grow to be your best friends.

I’m sure this list could go on forever. I’ll probably think of more tips to add as soon as I finish typing this article. But for now, I believe these six tips are the most beneficial to survive the challenge of commuting to and from school.

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