Yes, commuters can get the full college experience

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The key to living at home and commuting to college is understanding that the situation poses two distinct issues, not one.

It's easy, especially as a first-semester freshman, to focus only on the school side of the problem. College is still big and scary to you and you've never lived anywhere besides your home, so you don't think living at home is an issue. It's understandable.

But some of the biggest conflicts are the ones you don't even realize you're in.

Working out your situation with parents and siblings is just as important as working out your schedule.

Your family still wants your time and you have less of it now than ever.

The best thing you can do is keep lines of communication open and talk about things. Go to your little brother's games. Try to get to a family dinner. Little things matter.

As for college itself, the first issue of commuting is the actual commute. While you may have your route figured out, I encourage you to try alternate routes. Leaving as little as 10 minutes sooner or later can have a huge impact on the traffic patterns you'll face, and taking different routes at different times of days also can be helpful.

As the weather begins to turn, you'll have to plan the snow into your commute. Brushing off your car and heating it up takes a few minutes, and the actual drive time will take longer, too.

(But wait, I'm a great driver in the snow! It won't take me any longer! Of course, you are. But those other drivers aren't, and they'll slow you down. Plan ahead.)

The best tip I can give to any college student is to get involved on campus, and that goes twice as much for commuters. It's hard to feel connected to your school if you go to classes for three hours a day and go back home.

Join a club. Clubs in college have sizable budgets and do a lot of cool stuff.

I encourage everyone to join their school newspaper, but if that's not for you, joining the student fan group for your athletic teams is another option that'll help you feel connected to your school.

Academic clubs are good for group studying, especially for science fields, and student government will give you a sense of ownership of your college. The benefits of club sports are twofold: Not only do they give you a sense of pride wearing school colors, but being on a team gives you a complement of friends on campus.

I've gotten this far without mentioning anything about study habits, but the bottom line there is, if you want to be successful in the classroom, you'll find a way to do it. Don't skip class. Don't fall asleep in class. The rest is on you.

If you're really in trouble, talk to your professor after class or during office hours.

If you do absolutely nothing else, at least make one friend with whom you can get coffee or study. Whatever you do, please, please do not drive in, go to class and drive right home every day. You will hate college.

From my experience, those who do nothing on campus are exponentially more likely to transfer than those who are involved.

Oh, and let me amend an earlier point: The best tip I can give any college student is learn to drink coffee. All else comes second.


Nick Veronica, an intern at the Post-Gazette, graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo this year with majors in journalism and communication studies. He made the 20-minute commute for four years. He can be reached at


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