College is a time for new experiences, new friends and new challenges. Unfortunately, some of those challenges for students commuting to college include getting to class on time, potentially spending a small fortune in fuel costs and packing onto a highway with thousands of others going to their post-college jobs.
Commuting to college can be a great way to save on campus housing costs and costly meal plans. But it has its own challenges and hassles. I recall being a regular commuter to my college in northern Virginia, sometimes loving the freedom of living off campus, away from dorm rules and regulations, and other times regretting my isolation from on-campus brethren.
Here are 10 suggestions to save money, time and headaches as a commuter.
1. Lean on your parents
Free food, emotional support and quality time with the family – there are a lot of benefits to remaining in the nest instead of living in a dorm. Try to look on the bright side of living with your parents even longer than you may have anticipated.
2. But spread your wings, too
If you commute to college, it means you are stepping out into the real world. Have the conversation with your parents about leaving behind your high school curfew, rules for living at home, etc. Work out the boundaries ahead of time to avoid conflict later.
3. Save money on gas
The AAA Mobile app can help you find the cheapest places to gas up along your route to school, and you can conserve fuel by following these guidelines: Avoid sudden starts and stops; check your tire pressure and maintain it at the car manufacturer’s recommended level; and use your air conditioner. Modern air conditioners create less drag on a car’s engine than driving with the windows open.
4. Curb your appetite
Eat before you get in the car. While you are driving, your attention needs to be on the road and the vehicles around you, not on the tasty breakfast burrito in your hand.
5. Find a study spot
No matter where you live, it can be tough to find a quiet place to study. Even if you are avoiding the social pressures and ready-made distractions of a dorm, you might have younger siblings pestering you at home. Be sure to carve out some quiet space at your local library or a coffee shop so you can hit the books in peace.
6. Reach out to classmates
Even with all the tangible benefits, it might be tough to make new friends as a commuter. You don’t have the built-in social network of a dormitory. Reach out to kids in your class and create a regular study group. Try to find a different lunch partner each day. Making friends with students in the dorms can be your lifeline to campus social life. Just because you’re off campus doesn’t mean you need to be off the party lists.
7. Build in commuting time
Figure out what will be your regular route to school and various alternate routes way before the first day of class. When school starts, there will be more traffic as school buses, teachers and fellow college commuters take to the roads. It’s helpful to figure out areas with the most congestion – and potential delays – ahead of time, too.
8. Lectures on demand
Does your college offer online classes? Perhaps you can download audio files of your professor’s lectures to listen to on your smartphone during your travels. Even if you don’t have that option, there are plenty of podcasts and free audio lessons online that can enhance any field of study.
9. Count on AAA
If you are commuting to school, odds are you don’t drive the latest sedan. AAA will be by your side if you get a flat, have a dead battery or any other car problem while you are getting to class.
10. Embrace public transportation, if possible
There’s value in taking the train. Seeing the world in a new perspective can be fun and even stimulating. You can sneak in some study time on a bus or train while someone else does the driving, and you can meet new people outside your student-centric world.
Do you have any tips for commuters? Leave them in the comments section.
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