Battling commuter student stereotypes


Getting to class for commuter students involves more than just traipsing across campus every day – it also means allowing time for travel, parking, and the occasional traffic jam.

Steven Schoenwald, Running on Fumes

One of the main criticisms I hear about commuters is that they don’t get to participate in the “college experience.” The claim is based upon the idea that by living on campus, students mature by learning to be self sufficient. Purchasing food, washing clothes, responsible partying, and other residential mainstays support improved time management and social skills. While the benefits gained through these experiences are undeniable, the suggestion that commuters are any less mature or self sufficient than the average campus resident is nothing short of absurd. In actuality, commuting students likely are more street smart and practical than their on-campus counterparts

First, commuters must travel to and from campus. Depending on the relative location of a commuter’s home to the university, the daily grind can take over an hour to drive each way. Appropriate time management is clearly paramount for these students, especially those who must prepare for early morning classes. Commuting by bus or rapid transit also helps to train street smarts and common sense by navigating through the city via public transportation.

One of the biggest motivators for students to live on or near campus is the opportunity to get away from their parents. Conversely, most commuters live with their parents or guardians and continue to take on responsibility for family matters. If there is landscaping, harvesting, or general maintenance that needs to be done on a family-owned property, oftentimes the stay-at-home college student is involved in the process. Family emergencies have immediate repercussions for commuters as usual responsibilities are magnified. Another factor that tends to affect commuters more than residential students is the work scene. While most residential students tend to rely on work study programs sponsored by the university, commuters tend to look for local jobs outside of the university. This requires additional time and interview skills not necessarily required to get a work-study job.

Campus residents and commuting students both have hardships they must cope with. Through each group’s daily experiences may differ, the level of maturity gained by each group is comparable. If you know someone who is thinking about commuting to CWRU or another university, you can rest easy – just because they’re commuting to school doesn’t mean they’ll turn into the stereotypical guy living with his parents until he’s 30.