Hi again, Bears! I have returned once again for another blog post. Another fun thing to know about me is that I happen to be a commuter student, so I live off-campus. This semester was actually my first semester of being a commuter, and I can easily say that I’ve learned a lot about the differences between living in the residence halls on campus and living off-campus. With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about my new knowledge, especially since some students may be experiencing (or getting ready to experience) new housing changes. Like I said before, there are a lot of differences between living on and off-campus, but most notably, it’s a lot harder to stay engaged with campus and feel like a part of the community when you don’t live there. So, with that in mind, I’m here to share my best tips for how to stay engaged with campus when you’re living off-campus.
How to Stay Engaged as a Commuter Student
Set up your schedule in a way that works best for you.
One thing that students don’t always realize until after they start living off campus is that coming to school or going to class feels and is completely different. It can be a lot harder to be motivated to come to class when you have to physically drive or otherwise transport yourself to campus, especially compared to students who live on-campus and have class just a short walk away. 8 a.m. classes, for example, aren’t as realistic for commuter students, especially if they’re coming to campus from further away. When creating your schedule, make sure it’s realistic. Give yourself time to get to class in the morning, as well as extra time to be on campus, whether that time is used for sitting in the library doing school work, eating in the dining center with friends, or campus involvement. Speaking of campus involvement, that leads me right into my next tip!
Get involved on campus.
In order to stay engaged with campus, you’ll need a reason to be on campus outside of classes! Getting involved in something outside of your academics can help you meet new people and become a part of the community on campus. While students typically associate campus involvement with student organizations, your involvement on campus can look different! There are endless ways for students to get involved on campus, whether that be a student job, an academic club, a big organization, or just attending campus events. There’s always a wide variety of things happening—sports games, music concerts, lectures, movie screenings, you name it—and most of them are free for students! Even if none of those things sound appealing, there is something for everyone to enjoy and get involved in, and it will greatly enhance your college experience.
Find a balance between school and life.
As a commuter student, you’re not nearly as connected to campus compared to a student who lives in the residence halls—and that can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it’s a lot easier to disconnect from the stress that school causes, and your home can become more of a safe space that isn’t directly associated with campus and homework. On the other hand, you also disconnect from campus as a whole, and it gets a lot harder to stay involved or see friends. Living off campus can be lonely, especially if it’s further away. To ensure that your off-campus experience is mostly similar to that first scenario, you have to find balance between your school work and your life outside of campus. A good way to do this is to make sure you’re doing things outside of campus, and giving yourself time for self-care. One of the many benefits of being a commuter student who lives off-campus is that you’re more likely to be able to explore Springfield (or wherever you’re living) depending on how much access you have to transportation. Make plans during your free time to do things, whether that be in town with friends, or at home playing your favorite video game. Prioritization of self-care is essential to a school/work and life balance!
I hope this information was helpful for all of you commuter students out there, or anyone thinking about or getting ready to live off-campus. It certainly changes your college experience, and it can be an intimidating thought, but there are also many perks to living off-campus that many college students enjoy.
We are almost done with the semester, so keep working hard! Remember, if you’re struggling and need help, or you just want to talk to someone, we have some amazing Peer Mentors and Success Coaches in the CAST office that you can request a meeting with through our Student Request Form. The MSU Counseling Center is a great resource too! In the meantime, be on the lookout for more blog posts every week. I’ll see you again soon, and as always, Go Bears!
(Bio: I’m a sophomore out-of-state student studying Philosophy with a minor in Creative Writing.)