On a bright day in September, the first week of the semester is coming to a close. You know where all your classes are, you finally memorized the names of all your professors, and you’re relatively confident you can find at least three places to eat on campus. College is new and exciting, and you’re finally settling in. But are you dorming or commuting?
But how does your day start? Do you wake up in the residence hall and tiptoe out past your sleeping roommate? Or do you wake up in your bed at home and pick up coffee and your favorite donut on your way to campus?
To dorm or not to dorm, that is the question. Whether or not to live on campus is a big decision and a significant investment. Though many opt to live on campus in search of the full “college experience,” commuting offers many benefits and can be a better option for some students. Ultimately the decision is about comfort and putting yourself in a positive environment. To help you decide, we’ve rounded up four key factors to consider:
Proximity to Campus
Depending on the size of your campus, getting to class or other events from a residence hall typically involves little more than a short walk or a quick shuttle ride (if you’re attending a large university). Many colleges restrict access to vehicles on campus, especially for freshmen, so you’ll likely spend a lot of time walking or taking public transportation if you feel like adventuring off campus.
On the flip side, living a driveable distance from campus gives you the freedom to come and go as you please, along with access to all of the resources offered to residential students. And with flexible parking options available for commuter students, you can spend your days on campus from dawn until dusk.
Every year, more students are choosing to attend school locally and commute for a wide variety of reasons. With this in mind, including commuter students in the campus community has become a top priority for many colleges. Whether you live on campus or at home, schools are making their resources, including computer labs, libraries, student centers and gyms, available to all of their enrolled students.
It’s never been easier to be involved as a commuter student, and thanks to social media and other digital tools like video chatting with Skype or live streaming via Twitch, physical distance is becoming less of a barrier to being connected to campus life.
One of the most important factors to consider is the lifestyle you imagine for yourself during college. Online classes and night classes make it easy for students to attend class on their schedule. For students expecting a lot of late nights in the art studio, being within walking distance might be worthwhile. But if you plan on pursuing internships, or working part or full time, living at home and taking evening or online classes can make it possible. And if you are considering living on campus, make sure you visit the residence halls during your campus tour. Find out what dorm life is like by asking about hall activities, overnight guest policies and quiet hours.
Cost of Living
Though all the factors on this list are important to consider, often the decision whether to live on campus or commute from home comes down to finances. It’s not uncommon for the cost of room and board to be equivalent to, or even higher than, college tuition.
Fortunately, some schools offer grants and scholarships for out-of-state students looking to live on campus, and the university’s Student Accounts or Financial Aid offices can help navigate the payment process and discuss options. Flexible meal plans and different housing options can make living on campus more affordable.