The “college experience” has been shaped over the years through stories of past students and movies, or other media outlets. The general idea surrounding college is that students move away from home and live in a dorm on campus, entering the first stages of adulthood and independence. The idea of commuting to school has been around for a long time, but it seems it has become even more popular over the years. Despite the growing popularity, there are still misconceptions about why students are commuting instead of dorming, and even about the students themselves. Here are six misconceptions commuters face.
1. They're too scared to leave home.
A popular misconception about students who commute is that they were all too scared or unprepared to leave home. While that may be a reason for some, many students choose to commute because the best school for them happened to be local or within commuting distance. Why should a student go to another state just to have the experience of living in a dorm when the best match for them is only three miles away? Also, some students may have wanted to leave home initially but couldn’t because it was too much to pay for a dorm or apartment.
2. They can’t afford an out of state school.
Now I know this may seem like a contradiction to how I just ended the remark above this one. However, while some students commute to school because they can’t afford to pay for a dorm, that isn’t a reason for everyone. For example, an out of state school with dorm costs may total up to be exactly the same as an in-state school without dorm costs. Commuting doesn't always happen because schools in other states are more expensive than the one students are commuting to. If that were true, a student from New York wouldn’t go to the same school as me in New Jersey, because the tuition would be too high. For some reason, people think staying home is automatically cheaper than leaving.
3. All commuters stay in-state.
A popular generalization is that anyone who commutes goes to a school in the state they live in. While most commuters do stay in their home state a good portion of them also go out of state. For example, I have a former classmate who lives in New Jersey but commutes to school in New York City every day because it’s actually more convenient than commuting to another New Jersey school that fit all of her needs.
4. Still stuck in high school.
I’ve had a few people tell me that by not living on campus, I’m choosing to relive high school, or they tell me that I’m stuck in high school and its ways. I don’t completely understand how that came to be, considering the only difference between me and a student who lives on campus is that I leave at the end of the day. Everything else is the same; I take the same amount of classes, I still participate in extracurriculars and I’m learning the ropes of a new lifestyle. As a society, we get so caught up in our version of “normal” that we forget about those who do things differently. For example, someone may have gone to a boarding school in high school so they choose to commute to college; even though they’re switching their routine around, others might assume they are still stuck in the “old ways” of high school.
5. They don’t want to be involved in campus life.
Just because I leave campus when I’m done with my day does not mean I’m also leaving behind the opportunity to join clubs, teams, Greek life, attend parties or simply attend school-sponsored events. I’m just like a student who goes off campus once in awhile for a meal or goes back to their dorm until their night time activity. I may leave campus for a few hours and go back at night for an event or club meeting, but I’m still involved in campus. Not all students who commute only focus on their classes and leave, just like not all students who live on campus are involved in anything and everything.
6. Students who commute have parents who bought them a car.
There are a few reasons why this misconception doesn’t make sense when it comes to the generalization of commuters. First, not everyone who commutes even drives. They may take public transportation, like me. Or maybe they carpool with some other students who they even have similar schedules as them. I even know a couple of people who have their parents drive them. Second, if so many people believe that students who commute can’t afford to dorm, why do they think their parents can all of a sudden afford to buy another car, add it to the insurance and pay for gas and upkeep? It doesn’t add up. Also, if a student does drive their own car to school, they may have spent years working and saving money to buy their own; that’s what most of my friends had to do. And let's say their parents did buy them a car: why does that even matter?
I do not speak for all commuting students when I write about my experiences or those of someone I have spoken to. However, the misconceptions I did bring up I have heard from more than one person, making them popular to me. If you’re someone who believed these generalizations about all student commuters, I hope this cleared up some misguided details up for you. If you’re a student who commutes, I hope these experiences were relatable... but not too much!
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