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How to Successfully Commute to College

Updated on October 16, 2011

The traditional image of college life involves wild parties, dorm rooms, and a lot of studying. But the first thing you learn in college is that the experience differs for everyone. If you have a living situation that cuts the cost of dorm living, or simply value your independence, one of the biggest decisions you will make is whether to live on campus or off. While it can be rewarding to not be tied to the campus at all times, it also presents a unique set of challenges. Here are the key strategies to successfully commute to college without losing your grades and your mind in the process.

Be Organized

It can be easy to turn off 'college-mode' once you are home for the day, but remember that school is your first priority. Plan out what you will do during the week, on a day by day basis, so as to not fall behind in your studies. Keep your papers filed neatly in a cabinet, and check your assignments daily. This is essential for every student, not just commuters. I would recommend a two hour block of time each night during the week and three hours a day on weekends devoted to homework and studying. You may need more or less, depending on the courses you're taking, but that i a good schedule to start with.

Stay Motivated

For a lot of people, college is just a means to an end. And, in the meantime, it can seem like a major drag. You will start to ask yourself if college will ever be over so you can begin the rest of your life. Do yourself a favor, don't fall into the trap of thinking of college as a chore. This is especially true for commuters, whose lives don't revolve around campus. It may not be fun to wake up every morning, drive into college, find parking, and then sit through courses before driving home again, but it is all for a much bigger purpose. If you ever find yourself getting frustrated, remember that college will be over before you know it, and that failing a course will just prolong your time spent studying.

Be Active on Campus

The easiest way to stay motivated is to build connections on campus. You do not have the luxury of a dorm throwing you into a social circle, so you will need to work harder to make friends and find your place at the school. Do not be the person who goes to class and then heads straight home. Hang out, grab lunch, join a club. Not only is it good for your emotional health, but it builds a support network you can turn to when things inevitably go wrong.

Keep Your Car Running

You can't do well in school if you can't get there! If you are within walking distance, it's not so big an issue. But if you are forced to drive, make sure your car stays in excellent shape. Invest a bit more up front for a newer car with less issues. Change your oil and replace your tires regularly. Do not wait for any minor sounds or smells to blow up on you. Your car is your lifeline, treat it like an extension of yourself.

Balance College and the Outside World

I don't want to sound like college should be the beginning and the end of your life for four years. Having the freedom to leave campus is a wonderful thing. Get a job, explore the town, make friends. Take up a hobby in the community. Just never forget that you are a student, first and foremost. There's plenty of time later to do whatever you want.

A lot of high school students come into a university thinking it will be a test of their intelligence. But that's a misconception. College is a test of your ability to handle challenges and meet deadlines. Hiring companies don't care so much what you learned, but they do care that you persisted long enough to earn that degree. Commuting can make this much harder, but you will emerge a stronger individual because of it. Hopefully, with these tips in mind, your career as a student will be both trauma-free (unlike mine), and rewarding!


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