Commuting to college

Leanna Johnson is a freelance journalist in the Chicago area. She is a graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
When she’s not writing or traveling, she enjoys Asian dramas and Bollywood dance!

As a commuter for six years of community college and university, I’ve driven, taken buses, trains, subways, and even walked to school at times. I’ve never regretted living on campus. Why?
Sure, dorm life can be fun, but whether you’re living at home or in your own place, commuting keeps you accountable as a student, encourages you to become more organized and plan ahead, and generally, prepares you for your future as a working adult.

But first things first!

If you’re planning to commute to and from school, there are a couple of basic questions you should ask yourself first:

1. Where is your college located?

Location matters! Cities often have a functional public transportation system set up with stops close to each school. Suburban transport, if it exists, tends to run less frequently. Same with rural schools. If you are considering a rural or suburban schools, you might be better off driving than relying on public transportation.

Also, remember that the location of your school matter in a different sense entirely: climate. Types of transportation available, safety, and frequency often depend on the forecast. Is it really worth waiting 45 minutes for a bus in below-zero degree weather?

2. How does your school support its commuter students?

Depending on your school’s location and size, it may offer discounted fares with local transportation, or even transport cards that are part of your tuition fee. City schools often team up with local transport services to create discounted deals for students. Suburban rural school may not have the same discounts, but look out for their parking permits!

3. Does your school offer parking?

Every school should have designated spaces for students, but they are often given on a first-come, first-served basis. However, this depends on location and parking availability. Since parking is often hard to come in crowded areas, urban schools often charge more for their parking fees than for public transportation. Out-of-town schools, however, rely on students and faculty who drive. They are more likely to have better deals on parking permits…and less expensive tickets!
4. Where do you live?

Again, location is key. Not only should you be aware of how our school is from reliable transportation, but how long of a commute you will have home each day. Living farther out can get complicated, especially if you have to take multiple buses and trains. Are you within a few miles of campus? Maybe a school bus card, or even a car isn’t your best solution. Why spend the money when you can walk, bike, scoot or skate to school instead?

5. Is commuting the best solution for you?

Once you’ve answered the first four questions, you’ll probably have a good idea of whether you should be a commuter student. But it’s not a black-and-white situation. If you have to commute, but your school doesn’t offer discounts for commuter students, start looking for deals with your local transport like bus cards, 10-rides and monthlies. Maybe carpooling, or driving is less stressful and expensive. Just remember to budget time for traffic!

Whether or not to commute is a decision every college student has to make, but with a little research and preparation, you can make the best decision for your college life!

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