Money Hacks: Campus living vs. commuting to school

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Did you know that commuting to college doesn’t mean missing out on the college experience?

When I started college, I decided to live at home for the first two years.

It might not have been the exotic dorm or on-campus apartment life that I had dreamt about or seen sensationalized in movies and on TV, but, it was a great way to begin my college career. I was less distracted from my homework and studies, which helped me excel in my classes and better balance the increased workload as compared to high school.

Get Involved

Halfway through my freshman year, I felt like something was missing — I craved more student interaction. So, I decided to become more engaged in on-campus activities and clubs. I wasn’t going to let living at home prevent me from having the college experience I’d always wanted.

Many of my high school friends spent thousands of dollars a semester to live on campus, so I let them lead the way and joined some of the same clubs and organizations.

Although Greek life isn’t for everyone, joining a sorority was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. Not only did I meet a ton of great people with similar hobbies and interests, but I was also able to participate in philanthropy and community service events.

Keep Your Grades Up

Many of my friends would talk about studying at the on-campus library only for it to turn into a hangout session where little-to-no studying was actually accomplished. Although this always sounded like fun, I was lucky to be able to have uninterrupted study time at home.

School is expensive enough without the added risk of having to retake a class because I didn’t take it seriously enough the first time around. Unfortunately, this is a lesson a few of my friends had to learn the hard way.

If you have a trusted friend or two you know you can study with, it’s great to have a little extra help. Otherwise, consider yourself lucky to avoid distractions when you really need to get work done. 

Avoid the Dreaded “Freshman 15”

Many joke about the “freshman 15”… there’s no way it’s real, right? Wrong!

Most dorms are equipped with only a tiny shared refrigerator and a microwave, which means, most college students live off of Ramen Noodles and Mac-n-Cheese. They’re cheap and easy to make in the small space.

College living also means you can have ice cream for dinner and Doritos for breakfast. Without a parental figure to there to make sure you eat healthy— the possibilities are endless.

One of the benefits of living at home and commuting is having a full-sized kitchen and the ability to cook well-balanced healthy meals.

Making the Decision

Is campus living a great experience? I am sure it is. Did I feel like I missed out? Absolutely not.  But don’t take my word for it. Although the decision to commute was best for me, it might not be for you.

Some (of the many) things to consider if you’re trying to decide whether to live on or off-campus:

  •       If you aren’t awarded enough financial aid, can you or your family afford to pay for on-campus housing?
  •       Do you have a reliable vehicle to get you to and from school?
  •       Are you able to balance your studies and social life? (without your parent or guardian reminding you every day)
  •       How important is it for you to have the “quintessential college experience”?
  •       How well do you handle change?

Commuting to school offers some great benefits that you might miss out on or overlook. It allows you to be independent and teaches you that there are consequences, like traffic, if you sleep in too late!

Everyone’s situation is unique, but if you are planning on staying local for your schooling, it might be a good idea to live at home and commute for the first year. It’s a great way to acclimate to college life while also saving some money!