Student Opinion: The Pros and Cons of Being a Commuter Student

Bernard Spragg, CC0 1.0 DEED,

LOS ANGELES — College life comes with its own set of challenges, and for many students, one of the biggest is their daily commute.

Whether it’s a two-hour train ride, an hour-long drive, or a 20-minute walk, the journey to class can significantly influence a student’s overall college experience. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of undergraduate students who commute has increased to about 85%. Not everyone can live on campus. Commuting allows students to balance school with work and family responsibilities, making it a necessary part of life for many. 

There are definite benefits to commuting. Having a car, for instance, provides students with the freedom to explore the city and maintain their independence, even while in school.

Even public transportation can be advantageous, offering commuter students extra time to study.

And, of course, the money! Commuting can save a significant amount of money that would otherwise go toward expensive on-campus housing, freeing up funds for essentials like textbooks and food.

However, commuting has its downsides. Students who commute often feel that they miss out on social events and making friends, which can lead to a disconnection between them and the rest of the student body. But this can be overcome through effective time management and making the most of the time spent on campus to build connections.

The environmental impact of commuting is also important. Increased car use contributes to pollution and reduced air quality. Even though public transportation is less harmful, it still adds to the issue. Commuters need to be aware of their environmental footprint and consider how their travel habits affect the planet.

Despite these challenges, many students find that they eventually adapt to the commuter lifestyle. Waking up early becomes routine, and the comfort of returning home at the end of the day can be a welcome relief from the stresses of college life.

Interestingly, both commuters and on-campus students often find themselves envying each other—commuters miss the social aspects of dorm life, while on-campus students long for the comforts of home.

Commuting doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Each student’s journey is unique, shaped by their personal circumstances and resources. In a city like Los Angeles, having a car can be particularly beneficial. Viewing the commute positively can help reduce stress and improve mental health, making the journey more manageable.

Every situation has its pros and cons, and commuting is no different. The key is adaptability. The skills developed through commuting—time management, responsibility, and resilience—are invaluable and often benefit students later in life.

Open discussions about the realities of commuting can help dispel myths and change preconceived notions, leading to a better understanding of this aspect of student life.

Commuting to college is a complex experience with its own set of challenges and rewards. By embracing the positives and addressing the negatives proactively, students can turn the commuter experience into a valuable opportunity for growth and learning. As society evolves, so does our understanding of the diverse paths students take to achieve their educational goals.

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