Not every student is able (or has the desire) to live on res when they head off to college or university. If you’re planning on commuting to class, here are some things you should know about the realities of being an off-campus student.
1. Getting Involved Is Key
It can be difficult to establish friendships right off the bat as an off-campus student (a.k.a. an OC kid), especially compared to residence students (whose roomies become automatic besties). An awesome way to make friends with similar interests is to get involved with campus clubs! Clubs and committees can help you occupy your time between classes when you don’t have the option to go home. Plus, they’re super fun.
2. Make Friends On and Off Campus
It’s a good idea to make friends with people who live both on and off campus. Other off-campus students will relate to you right away—they’re in the same situation as you! On-campus friends are also an asset to you, since they have their own networks of friends to introduce you to. Plus, they know all the awesome hidden areas on campus, and they can keep you in the loop about activities in the area. It’s always handy to have a buddy nearby to visit and a back-up place to crash when commuting is not ideal.
3. Commuting Isn’t Always Fun
Like I said, commuting isn’t always ideal and it certainly isn’t always fun (looking at you, rush hour traffic). When you live outside your school city, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to commuting. If you’re driving yourself to class, parking can take a huge toll on your wallet and sanity. Make sure you pick convenient and cheap areas to park that will allow you to get to class on time. Speaking of time, give yourself lots of it to not only arrive safely, but also to never rush home at night with a tired brain.
4. Carpool. Just do it!
First and foremost, gas ain’t cheap. If you have a fellow OC buddy to carpool with, it will definitely save you some money on gas and parking. It can make your drive a little less boring, and it’ll also ensure you never fall asleep driving with your trusty shotgun-rider as your disposal. Also worth noting that it’s way more environmentally friendly!
5. Ain’t Nobody Got Time (for That)
If you’re carpooling—which you are, since you love Mother Earth—use the time you have during your commute to catch up on some studying. If studying in the car just isn’t your thing, take advantage of the breaks you’ll have between classes and extracurriculars to tackle those readings and catch up on assignments. That way, you can use your time at home for more important things. Like sleeping. And Netflix.
6. Get to Know Your Campus
Given that you don’t live there, you may not know your campus as well as you should. Get to really know it. Make friends with it. Your school is your home away from home, and you should explore it! Find out the best places to study, park, and eat or buy lunch. (Campus Guides can help with this.) Know where the bathrooms and your on-campus security are (we’re really stressing that last one). Keep in mind that every city is different, so take the time to learn its by-laws and know your overall surroundings. Since you aren’t a resident, you should get to know every nook and cranny—you’ll be spending lots of time there.
7. Always Check the Weather
This seems like an obvious one, but I’ll admit it’s something I didn’t necessarily do every day. “What do you mean it’s snowing? It’s still fall!” Those are many an unprepared student’s last words. Make sure you check the weather every day. It may seem sunny and warm in the morning, but having a mini umbrella or a pocket-sized rain poncho in your bag can save your life. Lugging around a change of clothes or a winter coat and boots may seem like a hassle, so store it in your car or at a friend’s dorm. You will thank yourself for it. Don’t forget to follow your school’s social media accounts to find out when (or if) your classes are ever cancelled. Yay, snow days!
8. Pack Your Bag Strategically
Now that you know how to strategically plan your outfit for the weather, you can plan how to pack for the day. First off, be sure to pack enough food and snacks; there’s nothing worse than being hungry between classes and having to buy some over-priced, unappealing pizza. You’ll save money by packing your own snacks and avoid feeling gross from eating junk food. Make sure you include your essentials to get you through the day, like your phone or computer chargers, and some things to keep you occupied. Don’t forget to pack little things like hand sanitizer, tissues, and deodorant. You just never know.
9. Join an Off-Campus Student Group
If you’re fortunate enough to have an off-campus group at your school, totally join it. Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. You’ll have your own awesome network of OC friends and be able to help each other learn about and navigate your new surroundings. These people will be essential to your school experience and you could even find your bestie. If your school doesn’t offer an OC group, create one yourself!
10. Be Thankful!
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to be thankful that you’ve made it to school and are an off-campus student. Although it can seem like res students have it made, being OC can have its own advantages. You don’t have to deal with noisy roomies or distractions from studying or sleeping, which is a huge bonus. You also don’t have to worry about typical residence issues, like internet problems, hot water shortages, and countless fire alarms. And even though commuting has its expenses, residence is far pricier in the long run.
There are a multitude of other reasons students choose to live off-campus. No matter your reasons for being OC, always remember to make the most of your school experience. Because OC is love. OC is life.
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.