During senior year of high school, everyone becomes excited for the freedom of college.
They can’t wait to have the “college experience” they see in the movies and witness on social media. But at what cost?
Salisbury University estimates the total cost of attendance for the 2018-2019 school year for undergraduate students totaled $25,000 for Maryland residents and $36,000 for out of state residents.
Focusing on Maryland residents, according to the Salisbury website, $12,000 of that $25,000 is for room and board, and around $2,000 for personal expenses and transportation.
So, for local residents of a university, is it worth it to spend half the total cost for the year and stay on campus?
The most obvious benefit of commuting to your college is the amount of money you save. This can come from not having to pay for room and board, not having a meal plan, and having to worry about the general upkeep of having a room on campus.
For me, I save even more money by packing myself a lunch each day, and not allowing myself to spend money on food when I am on campus. Another benefit can be that by not staying on campus, you can be more focused on your classes and schoolwork.
I have seen how certain people, especially in their freshman year, stay on campus and are not able to efficiently balance their schoolwork and the “college experience.” By commuting to school, you can make a clear boundary between your schoolwork and your social life. For me, the days that I am on campus, if I am not in class, I am in the Academic Commons getting school work done.
By staying on campus, you are more inclined to go back to your dorm room to be with your roommate, or have more social time with your friends, which results in you pushing your schoolwork to the side. It all depends on what type of student you are, and how well you can deal with distractions.
With commuting, there are some disadvantages that may seem too out balance the benefits of staying on campus. Depending on how far away you live from your university, you can end up spending a good amount of money on gas, especially if you have a car that does not have amazing gas mileage.
For me, I drive 45 minutes to and from school six days a week, for classes and extracurricular meetings and activities. I am lucky that I only spend $25 a week on gas because I have a fuel-efficient car, but for other people, $25 won’t get them very far based on the car that they have.
Another thing that can really suck about commuting is that it is harder for you to be involved in campus clubs and events. My freshman year, I wouldn’t even consider driving to campus more often than I needed to.
But this year, I have joined Girls on Top of the World, a service organization, and I was able to become a staff writer for Her Campus. It’s all about figuring out what can fit into your schedule, while allowing your schedule to be flexible.
Always remember that it’s nice to have a 4.0 GPA, but it also matters at the end of the day that you were involved in organizations during your college years. It is all about building up your resume.
Scheduling can also be a hassle, I like having Tuesday and Thursday classes early in the morning and into the afternoon, but I despise classes later into the evening.
You can only be so picky, and more often than not, you’re not lucky enough to have classes only two days a week.
The final disadvantage to not staying on campus is probably the biggest one, and it is that it is harder for you to make connections with people and to expand your friend group.
Salisbury University is considered the local college for where I went to high school, so I knew a handful of people my freshman year and there were maybe only two of them that I was close with. Besides that I did not really try to make other friends, which made my freshman year uneventful.
This year I am attempting to branch out and make more friends, especially through my extracurricular activities. For most of the people that I talk to, these disadvantages to commuting outweigh the advantages.
When considering staying on campus, or commuting, my biggest piece of advice is to find the balance that works for you best.
For me, I knew that if I stayed on campus, I would have a more difficult time focusing on my schoolwork because I would always be surrounded by people that I wanted to hang out with. I find the balance by commuting to school, finding other people to carpool with, and participating in clubs and organizations that have a tight bond and in a sense, force you to make friends.
Everyone’s “college experience” will be different after four years, but the last thing you want to do is graduate and realize that you have no awesome memories and that your phone has no joyous pictures, so make some memories while in college, whether you stay on campus or not.