As I’ve said many times before on this site, I commuted to college rather than going away to school. After spending four years as a college commuter, I learned a few things, one being that commuting can be very isolating and lonely (if you let it be) and two being that commuting takes a lot more effort than you think it does.
Throughout college, I found myself in many commuting disaster situations: locking my keys in my car, locking my keys in my car while my car was running, missing class due to the fact that there were no parking spots left, missing class because of weather-related issues, missing class because I forgot to get gas… you get it. My point is, there are plenty of ways to make your commuting experience miserable. But why would you want to do that? You wouldn’t, obviously.
If you’re starting college this year as a commuter, there are some tips and tricks you need to be aware of in order to make your experience the best it can possibly be. Trust me on these – you won’t regret reading them.
Plan Your Schedule CarefullyMy first semester of college, I put almost no thought into my schedule. I had a class on Fridays and had a three hour break between classes two days of the week. My second semester, I planned a schedule in advance, then forgot to go online at the right time and half of those classes were filled, leaving me scrambling. My point? Plan your schedule carefully as a commuter. You don't have the luxury of a dorm room waiting for you to hang out in until your next class. Your school will most likely be just too far to go home in between things. Try not to have long breaks. If you hate waking up early, you better make your classes later because you also don't have the luxury to wake up 10 minutes before class starts. If you want to go to school as little as possible, try making all of your classes on the same days. Avoid Friday classes. Plan your schedule before it's time to make it, then get your butt online at the right time so you don't miss anything. Trust me. Source: ShutterStock
Build In Time For ParkingParking might be the worst thing about commuting. There were some days where I would drive around for up to an hour searching for a parking spot. To try and make this better, explore every parking lot on campus. Sometimes it takes time, but eventually you'll figure out which lots are emptier at which times and you'll be able to plan your schedule around that. If you know your class is at a busy time, always get to school early to search for a spot. If you end up getting lucky and have time to spare, whatever! It's worth it. Oh, and get comfortable stalking people to the cars and asking if they're leaving - you need to snatch up a spot before someone else does. It gets ruthless out there. Source: ShutterStock
Consider A Commuter Meal Plan Or Make Your Own LunchColleges always offer meal plans to students living on campus, but usually these are too expensive to be worth it for a commuter, who typically only needs to get 1 or 2 meals a few days a week. Most colleges also offer commuter meal plans - check your school out to see if they have one, then do the math. I know that, for me, my school's commuter meal plan wasn't worth the money. I always tried to make my own lunches and bring my own snacks so I didn't have to spend a lot of money on food. Source: ShutterStock
Keep A Spare Set Of Keys On YouAs I mentioned before, there were way too many times during my college life that I locked my keys in my car. It was a disaster. My dad or mom would have to drive completely out of their way to give me my spare set and they basically hated me. Anyway, you can avoid this, because it will happen - when you're running late for class, it's easy to forget about your keys. I started keeping a spare set in my handbag, constantly carrying it around just in case. They came in handy! Source: ShutterStock
Take Advantage Of Group Projects And Clubs To Make FriendsMaking friends as a commuter can be difficult. Since you don't live on campus and you only see these people during class, it's hard to find a BFF. In order to make friends, you need to be proactive. Take advantage of every group project you have and make friends with the people you work with - this is exactly how I made any college friend I had. You should also find at least one club to join. Joining a club not only helps you find friends, but it also makes you feel more involved with your school. And it's something fun to do! Source: ShutterStock
Know An Alternate Route To SchoolOf course, you'll have a main way to get to your college that works for you. But it's always helpful to know alternate routes in case there is an accident or a ton of traffic or anything like that that will mess up your commute. And, as you'll find out, anything that messes up your commute also ruins your day. Figure out at least one or two different ways to get to and from school in case of an emergency, that way you're not scrambling around the minute it happens. Source: ShutterStock
Search The School To Find Your SpotBy "your" spot, I mean an area of the school you really like where you can chill and hang out in between classes. I had a few different spots at my college that I always went to when I had down time. I know it's tempting to always run back to your car when you have breaks, but take advantage of your campus and try to be a little more social. My school had a gorgeous campus and I loved doing my homework outside on the grass when it was nice out. It's fun to find little spots you can call your own. Just don't get all Rory Gilmore on anyone and flip out if you see someone steal it, okay? Source: ShutterStock
Bring Something To Keep You BusySometimes no matter how much you plan ahead with your schedule, you end up with long breaks in between classes. One semester, there were two days a week that I had a four hour break. That's a long time! I always made sure I brought a good book with me or, the more responsible thing, my school books to get homework and studying done. If you don't bring anything with you, you're going to be too tempted to leave for the day. Even if you don't have breaks, always bring something to keep yourself entertained, like a book or magazine - sometimes, classes are unexpectedly cancelled and you have to wait around for your next one. Source: ShutterStock
Know Your Car Is Great For NapsUnfortunately, colleges don't have nap rooms (although they totally should), so if you're a sleepy commuter with a long break between classes and no friends with dorm rooms, you're kind of screwed. It's okay - every single commuter I've ever known as napped in his or her car at some point. It's cool to do this, but please, please be careful. Only nap in your car in a crowded parking lot (not a deserted side street). Don't fall asleep with the car running, keep your windows cracked a little for air but not enough for someone to be able to reach their hand in and don't sleep for too long. I used to take 20 minute power naps in my car because sometimes they were necessary. Please your discretion though - this can be dangerous if you're in a bad area. Source: ShutterStock
Get A Part-Time JobWhen you live at school, it's hard to get a part-time job off-campus because there are so many other things going on. But as a commuter, I think you should definitely get one. As a commuter, I sometimes felt very out of the loop - but with my part-time job as a waitress, I felt a sense of community with my co-workers that replaced what I would have felt had I lived at school. Plus, you make money! Source: ShutterStock
Do you commute to school? Are you going to in the future? If you do commute, what are some tips that I missed? Tell me in the comments.