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Commuting to College

If you live within commuting distance of your college, you might be asking yourself, “Should I commute to college or live on campus?” While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, there are a few things to consider before you make the decision. Time, money, and extracurricular activities will all play a factor as to whether it makes sense to commute.

Commuter Student vs Commuter College

Students chatting at tablesSo, what is a commuter school? Also informally called ‘suitcase campuses ’ – a commuter school is any college at which most of the student body commutes to class from off-campus housing. This could be anything from technical and community colleges to four-year campuses, especially those without on-campus housing.

A commuter student, on the other hand, is a student who chooses to commute to classes from off-campus housing, even if there is on-campus housing available. The percentage of commuter students at any given college or university can vary widely based on several factors, but your college doesn’t have to dictate whether you commute – it’s really a matter of personal preference.

Does it Make Financial Sense?

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When you’re calculating your cost of attendance, be sure to factor in more than just your tuition costs. Deciding whether to live on or off-campus can influence your total education price tag. Depending on where you’d like to attend college, living off-campus and commuting may be more cost-friendly than paying room and board to the school.

Be careful when you do the math! Make sure to add in estimated costs of gas, routine car maintenance, rent, utilities, and any other costs associated with living off-campus. Anything that you wouldn’t have to pay for if you lived on-campus should be added to your calculations.

Do You Have the Time?

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Cost alone may not paint a clear enough picture for you when deciding whether to commute. So next, let’s talk about time. How do you like to spend your time outside of class? Are you someone who loves a good nap? Like to exercise? Do you study best at home in your bed or in the library? Will you have the time to do these things on or off-campus?

If you’re considering commuting to college, think about if you would have to run back and forth between campus and home to do the things you enjoy! If you like to study in your room or take a power nap before your 2 p.m. class, living off-campus may make it a little more difficult than if you were living on campus. If you don’t mind studying in the library between classes or working out in the fitness center on campus, living off-campus may not be an issue. You just have to find the best use of your time.


Sometimes when choosing whether to live on or off-campus, students worry about how they’ll connect to the greater campus community – and that’s a fair concern! There are many ways to stay involved as a commuter student, so don’t let it weigh too heavily on your decision. Whatever option is right for you, make the most of that college experience!

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Alexandra Campion answers common college questions for students learning about higher education. She breaks down industry jargon. As a Marketing and Communications Recruitment Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, her goals include eliminating barriers for first-generation and/or minority students as they embark on their higher education journey.