There's no such thing as "the quintessential college experience."
With all the generic portrayals of college in the media, it may sometimes seem that the only way to experience the “Best Four Years of Your Life” is by living on-campus. Luckily, you can be a commuter and still make the most of the years spent earning your degree! Here are a few tips I found quite helpful, especially when I was just starting out:
Join a club
Ever feel like this is the only thing you hear from college grads trying to bestow their wisdom on you? Well, it’s probably because it’s the best and quickest advice you can give that could potentially change the trajectory of a student’s college career. Once you find the one (or several) organization that fits, you’ll be introduced to a network of other fun and ambitious students like you looking to make the most of their four years at school. Finding your crew is the easiest way to find friends who are always willing to hunt down free food, get the inside scoop on events (while perhaps planning a few of your own), and who can help you grow your experience with leadership positions. Not to mention, most clubs have their own offices, so now you’ll have a place to keep some of your things you don’t want to keep lugging around campus all day! Visit your school’s Club Fair or Office of Student Life to get a list of active clubs.
Get an on-campus job
Being a student can get tough, but luckily your school has your back. Whether or not you have Federal Work-Study, you can search for a job and earn some extra money without ever needing to leave campus, all while benefiting from the additional perks they come with as well. Working on campus can make it easier for you to meet with professors and academic advisers without the need for an appointment (and standing on a crazy line), give you extra knowledge of on-campus resources, or simply provide the opportunity to work with other students! Some campuses may also offer jobs specifically for international students. The first step to building your resume is learning your options; check out your Office of Leadership Development or Career Services to start your job hunt.
Explore your whole campus
One of the most solid pieces of advice I give to students, especially first-years, is to spend some time exploring every inch of campus. In most cases, you can find study areas you never knew about, whether more comfy, quiet, or private. Some schools can house special rooms that are hidden on random floors, like photography dark rooms or piano areas. Discovering your campus could also lead you to new opponents to challenge in the game room, or just new places to relax. Awaken your inner explorer and get to know your new second home.
Redesign your schedule
Most likely your schedule was chosen for you your first semester, but after that, you’ll have complete control over what classes you take and when you’re on campus. Surely there are some limits to this with course requirements for graduation (make sure to meet with your adviser!), but there’s still freedom to customize your schedule. In most cases, colleges have set scheduling practices, such as having classes meet Mondays & Wednesdays or Tuesdays & Thursdays. This means you could potentially only have to commute to school twice a week! By doing so, you’ll be able to better balance other responsibilities like a job or your assignments. You can even think about taking hybrid or online courses, which meet even less, such as once a week or a couple of times a semester. Still, remember to schedule classes on the days most events are held on -- you don’t want to miss out on all the fun on campus!
Being a commuter student can be difficult and draining, especially at times when you feel like you actually DO live on campus with the hours you spend at school. However, these are still your college years -- take advantage of everything your campus has to offer and make the most of “the best years of your life.” The experience you have is totally up to you!
Emilia is a senior at Baruch College studying marketing management and minoring in philosophy. She spends as much time on-campus as she can, usually planning for the yearbook or hunting down the next free giveaway.
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