When you think of the quintessential college experience, you think of football games, long study sessions in the library, Greek life and miniature shoebox dorm rooms.
But the latter hasn’t applied for more than half of students attending college during 2012. According to new reports conducted by Sallie Mae, 51% of students chose to live at home with their parents, an 9% increase from the number of commuter students in 2011.
The debate between living at home, off campus or in a dorm is a major decision for college students. Reasons to forgo the dorm can vary from financial restriction to the desire to live completely on your own sans campus security or familial obligations.
But before you order your monthly train pass, send in your parking permit deposit or determine the best bus route, examine the pros and cons of skipping the traditional dorm experience.
At first glance, choosing not to “dorm” may make college seem like an extension of high school. You simply wake up, leave your house, go to class, come back home, do your homework, go to sleep and repeat. Not the case.
Commuter students are those who typically live at home or with their parents and commute to campus on a daily basis. Off-campus students, on the other hand, may have dormed at one point or live in housing not owned and operated by the university.
Most colleges offer resources for students who either commute or live off campus to help them acclimate to the commuter and university-wide community.
“The central purpose of commuter and off-campus student programs is to have a positive effect on the quality of life for commuters,” said Michael Dunckley, program administrator of Commuter and Off-Campus Student Services at New York University. “Through various programs that focus on community building, leadership development, peer-mentorship, academic support, campus resources and our collaboration with other offices within the university, we can provide the support services and programs needed to meet the needs of commuter students.”
The university’s Student Resource Center offers students numerous support systems to grow accustomed to university life. All first-year undergraduate commuter students are assigned a commuter assistant who acts as a peer mentor during their first year, and students are encouraged to attend an overnight retreat orientation the summer before freshman year. Many schools also offer resources for commuter students to find off-campus rentals or potential roommates who have also never lived on campus.
While these sources may seem handy, not directly living on campus may make some students feel detached from the heart of university community. Though colleges and universities do not restrict off-campus students from joining clubs or activities, many organizations hold their meetings at inconvenient times for students who do not live in immediate proximity to campus.
The Commuter Student Council (CSC) at New York University is an organization that strives to give voice, community and opportunities to commuter and off-campus students through advocacy, programs and philanthropy.
“The CSC serves as a bridge between commuter [and] off-campus students and the university as a whole by bringing to the university’s attention any issues affecting the commuter community,” said Rosario Giarrantana, CSC’s student liaison.
Organizations like the council are vital for commuter students to become a part of the larger on-campus community without feeling restricted or limited.
Living off campus can be an extremely rewarding experience for many students. Even if you live at home or with a relative or roommate, there is never someone to “hold your hand” during the college experience. By forgoing the dorm experience, college students are forced to mature quicker. They have to plan out their commute and budget their time better. They have to prioritize and only participate in activities in which they are the most passionate about. And they have to love being on campus and attending their university even if it means going a little bit more out of their way to make it to class every day.
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