Whether it’s because of financial restrictions, parental concerns, or a desire to stay connected with your family, living off-campus is an option many first-year students consider.

But before you decline residence hall space, make sure you examine the value of on-campus housing.

When students and their families weigh the costs of campus housing and a meal plan versus the costs of public transportation or gas money, parking permits and car maintenance, not to mention food at home, they might see that living on campus isn’t as expensive as they thought it would be.

If you talk about the financial reality with your family and still think commuting is right for you, then you might want to consider some of the social opportunities you’ll be missing out on before you finalize your decision.

Some other tradeoffs of commuting to consider include:

  • Limited time for meetings with professors, library work, on-campus activities, and friends.
  • Time lost commuting.
  • Hazards of transportation at night—for students who take public transportation and for tired drivers.
  • Difficulty balancing school, work, friends, and family.
  • A loss of easily available opportunities to make friends.

Although residence hall life can be a fun opportunity to grow, your first priority in college is to learn, which you can do without living on-campus. If you’re OK with trying to work through the challenges of making sure you get the complete college experience, commuting could work for you.

Some general guidelines for students who commute include:

  • Study on campus—after classes and on weekends.
  • Organize regular study groups.
  • Include time to meet with your professors in your daily schedule.
  • Work on-campus.
  • Get involved in a student club.
  • Join an intramural sport team.
  • Participate in student government.
  • Take public transportation or carpool so that you have more time to study.
  • Eat in the dining halls.
  • Make an effort to meet new people from different backgrounds, even if some of your high school friends are going to the same college.
  • Make friends who live in residence halls.