When I graduated from high school in 2009, I was given the option of commuting to campus and getting a car, or staying in a dorm. I quickly chose to commute. I was turning 18 that fall and not a lot of my friends had cars. I had my own little mini-apartment built in my parents basement as well. What else could go wrong?
During my freshman year of college, I must say that I was on campus more than I thought I would be. On top of that, to commute I was racking up nearly $200 a month just in transportation. Not to mention that I had to pay for a parking decal to park in the parking lot at school. That was $107, and parking was not always guaranteed.
Freshman year was great. I had classes every day, I was meeting new people, but I felt left out. There were a lot of events on campus that I felt I missed out on because they too late. I had a 30 minute commute back home from campus and I didn't like crashing in my friends dorm all the time.
My parents were nice enough to buy my car as a graduation present and put me under their insurance, but if something was wrong with the car I had to pay for it. The worst part, I only had a work study job.
I think being a commuter over being a resident student makes you have to grow up faster. For those who are not as lucky as I was to have a car to commute to school, they have to commute using public transportation. A bus pass is not cheap either. There seems to be more responsibility when being a commuter and there's a bit more pressure.
After my freshman year, I signed up to stay on campus. That was until I realized how much that was going to cost and how many more in loans I had to take out. Despite my transportation costs, I could afford that opposed to over $10,000 a year in for residential housing.
I finally saved up enough to move out of my parents house and closer to campus. Regardless of whether you live at home, have your own apartment, etc. as a commuter you have to budget more. When you're a residential student you have more flexibility and do not have to worry about next month's rent, gas for your car, or food to eat. As a commuter it was always a challenge juggling my priorities and necessities over what I wanted to splurge on.
It took some time, but I think I've finally figured it out. Now I have friends that are resident students figuring out what their next step is after leaving college. Being a commuter has in a way put me ahead of a lot of my peers as far as budgeting, housing, etc.
I am graduating May 23rd and I am proud to say that I have my own place. Aside from having a stack of monthly bills, I am independent. Of course I have help, but don't all college students? Commuting has helped me to be more self-sufficient and I am thankful I changed my mind that summer before my sophomore year.