There’s no door with your name on it in the residence halls, and you don’t get to roll out of bed and shuffle to class; you’re a commuter student. Unfortunately, the commuter student is often left out of the college conversation. There’s often talk about how commuter students feel disengaged from the university population or that they’re missing out from the complete college experience, but NSU takes great pride in its large commuter student population.
Jennifer Hicks, president of the Commuter Student Organization, said, “I would say a successful commuter student would be really involved on campus. [They’d be] focused on their studies and also on getting involved, whether that be through student government or through sororities and fraternities. Just be involved in the college experience.”
Of course, this advice sometimes seems easier said than done. A commuter student may have more responsibilities at home than their residential counterpart. They may only be on campus for select days of the week and they may be unsure about what “the college experience” actually is. None of this means that commuter students are at a disadvantage or can’t enjoy this period of their life. Here are three things for the commuter student, novice, or veteran to keep in mind at the beginning of the fall semester.
Realize that there is no standard
We talk about dorm rooms and declining balances like these are the key characteristics of a college experience when, in reality, that’s not the case. Each individual student has their own ideas about what it means to be in college. For some students, it means finally getting the freedom to make their own decisions, attaining all the knowledge they can and the degree they’ve always dreamed of; for others, it means both of these things and more. Commuter students are not excluded from these common goals. They need to create an experience that suits them best, just as a residential student would.
Samantha Yorke, assistant director in the office of Undergraduate Student Success, said that the college experience is different depending on a student’s goals and involvement.
“I don’t think that there’s necessarily one ideal college experience nor do I think that there’s one definition of student success,” she said. “I don’t think you need to live on campus to have the ultimate college experience. It’s just important to be educated on what opportunities are available to you at the college you’re attending.”
Resources can help you find your niche
Though the student creates the experience, it may still be difficult to decide where to start. Speaking to organizations at WOW and SEA Thursday events may be a good start. Joining clubs or organizations allow the students to create a niche and companions.
Hicks said, “[When you’re part of a club] you get to be around other students that are kind of feeling the same way you are, and you get to be part of a group rather than being by yourself.”
Resource offices, such as Student Success or Campus Life and Student Engagement, can also connect students to programs, events and clubs that will fit their needs. The Student Success and Academic Advising offices have options for phone and Skype appointments in the event that a student is unable to make it to campus on a certain day.
The campus belongs to you too
Although it may not be realistic for a commuter to spend an entire day on campus, students shouldn’t be afraid to spend time at NSU outside of class. Whether it’s an event, study group or just some quiet time out by the lake, commuters can find solace and connections in-between their classes.
Yorke said, “I think it’s really important that [commuter students] find those spaces on campus that mean something to them. So if they do have a couple hours between classes, they know where ‘their spot’ is.”
The resources, spots, and activities on campus belong equally to commuter students and residential students. Student should feel comfortable utilizing resources and space.
“Once [the commuter students] find those connections, it should feel the same way,” Yorke said. “I think it’s important for commuter students to know that they are NSU.”
Fill your gas tanks, find your favorite parking spot and face the semester knowing that you’re equipped to take it on. Being a commuter student means that your college experience may be different, but it doesn’t mean it will be any less amazing.