I commuted to college for 3 years. On most days, it took 15 minutes to drive to campus and another 20-30 minutes to find a place to park before hiking to my classes. I got a lot of parking tickets.
Researching this topic, the opinions from students varied greatly. But after reading dozens of posts, blogs and forums there was a clear distance that most college students do not want to exceed.
How far should you live from campus? The average time students are willing to commute is 25 minutes. Some are willing to travel more than one hour. Others need to live within walking or biking distance.
There are a lot of factors that can influence your decision though, as having a much longer commute is not always that bad.
How far is too far to commute to college?
What may be right for one student is not necessarily right for everyone. Several variables will determine if living far from your college campus is a good idea for you.
Many schools require underclassmen to live on campus. But once a student is given a choice, living away from the college is a symbol of independence.
For many undergrads, living with fellow students, participating in on campus activities, and hanging out at the student center or campus coffee shop are part of the college experience.
While the time you spend on campus during these four years is precious, the idea of living from home, and saving money may be worth forfeiting a little extra time mingling with your buddies.
If the time it takes for you to get to an off campus rental takes away from your college experience, then maybe you should live a little closer.
If you have already graduated from college and are continuing your education, your needs are likely to be different from the younger crowd.
For starters, you may only need to be on campus for 1-2 days per week. So traveling a bit further is not going to be as daunting if it is not every day.
Older students may also have less desire to participate in on campus activities, sports and clubs that keep many undergrads at college all day.
Some students felt that living far from campus was toughest on days when they had only one class. Make sure you have the willpower to get to class every day even if it is just for 1-2 hours.
Lots of colleges and universities have a huge campus in the middle of a rural town. In this case there is no typical off campus. You may live within an hour or so of the college, or find an apartment in a small neighboring town, but if this is the only option, you really have to consider if this is the right college for you and why you want to live so far away.
Students who continue their education in an urban area will have the most options to consider. There are likely to be more accommodations that are far away but still within reach of the college. You will be much more likely to have access to public transportation. However, with so many options, you should not have to move so far from campus.
Let’s take a look at what a day in the life of a long distance commuter may be like.
- 7:00 -7:30 AM – Get up and get ready for school (I thought when I went to college, I did not have to set my alarm clock any more!)
- 7:30 – 8:30 AM – Travel to campus
- 8:30 – 9:00 AM – Walk to class
- 9:00 – 11:00 AM – Attend a 2-hr class
- 11:00 -11:30 AM – Walk to next class
- 11:30 – 1:30 PM – Attend a 2-hr class
- 1:30 – 2:30 PM – Lunch
- 2:30 – 3:00 PM – Walk to next class
- 3:00 – 4:00 PM – Attend 1-hr class/lab
- 4:00 – 4:30 PM – Hop campus bus to sport, club or study group
- 4:30-6:30 PM – Participate in your activity
- 6:30 – 7:30 PM – Travel home
This is an example of a one-hour commute to campus. You can change the times to meet your commute. In college, everyday will be different. You may only have one class, or you may have three.
Reasons students may want to live far from campus:
Everyone has their own reason to live a bit further away. Here are some of the more popular motives:
Costs – The primary reason most students live far from campus is to save money. Often colleges and universities are in the heart of a downtown area where it can cost big bucks to rent a room. Living on the outskirts of the city can offer significant savings.
Live at home – Many young adults are not ready to venture off to college and prefer to live at home. Or, there may be a need to take care of a parent or sibling.
Safety / crime – While the college campus may be safe, just outside the borders may not be. It may be safer to live in a neighboring town or further away.
Closer to job – Some folks who are extending their education are working full time or part time and need to balance the distance between their job and the campus.
Nicer apartments – A lot of communities are building newer apartments with upscale features that are affordable for students. The homes are just a bit further from campus.
Quieter than downtown – In particular for the post-grad crowd, they may want to flee the hustle of the college “scene” for more serene quarters a little distance from campus.
Keep in mind, just because you live far from campus doesn’t mean the time can’t be productive. If you are riding public transportation you might be able to study or complete assignments. Others can listen to podcasts or audio books.
Commuting to college will also give a student a taste of what life is like for many people when they graduate.
Issues with living far from college:
Living far from college will certainly come with challenges.
Parking – Perhaps the most frustrating thing to deal with after a long ride from home to campus is finding a place to park your car. Even schools with lots of parking can take a while to find a spot. If your college or university doesn’t have ample parking be sure to allocate extra time to find a space.
Car breaks down – It happens to everyone. But, when you are on your way to class and you can’t get your car started, you won’t likely be able to walk when you live far away.
Inconsistent travel time – You can’t control the traffic. Some days will just be worse than others. So you may need to pad your travel time and get to campus early most days.
Transportation schedules – If your off campus housing is near public transportation, great. Make sure you study the schedules as they may require you to leave significantly earlier than you would prefer, in order to make it to class on time. Also, some transportation modes end early in the evening, so if you plan to stay late, arrange an alternate way home.
Time and cost of maintaining a car, public transportation, parking permits – Although your apartment may be cheaper, it doesn’t mean there are no other expenses. Keep in mind the cost of maintaining a car, riding public transportation and other fees.
Bike theft and parking – Biking is an awesome alternative to driving or riding a bus. Just make sure you have a lock and a place to securely leave your ride on campus.
Social life – Most colleges offer hundreds of clubs, sports and activities for their students. This is the time for you to try something new, make new friends and build your network. Sometimes going for coffee or pizza helps to build a new relationship. If you are constantly on the road, these opportunities will be missed.
No place for downtime between classes – Life of a long distance commuter will surely include lots of time alone, waiting for your next class. Hopefully you can find a special place to veg-out for a while.
Weather – If your mode of transportation to campus is walking or biking, weather will certainly come into play. Have you ever tried to bike in the snow?
Leave something behind – When you are a long distance commuter, be sure to gather all of your stuff before making the trek home!
How far you should live from campus will be different for everyone. While the average student is willing to live 35 minutes from college, your commute may be longer or shorter. Just be sure to evaluate the pros and cons so you are prepared and can make the most of your college years.