Most colleges have two types of students: commuters and residents.
For the residents, their home is campus. It’s a walk away from the gym, dining hall, class, library and friends. They have 24/7 access to sports teams, clubs, organizations, and Greek life. For commuters, it’s a completely different ballgame.
“I know my aunt lives down here in Columbus so I thought it would be a great opportunity to go to college for cheap by living at her house instead of on campus,” Dan Messersmith, sophomore, said. He looked forward to saving money while still enjoying school.
Messersmith shed light on some of the hidden policies for commuters. He got an email before school started that he wasn’t eligible for an S lot parking pass. According to the Capital Student Handbook, there is a policy against commuters living with outside family such as an aunt or an uncle’s house. It must be with a parent or guardian.
“Capital was trying to charge me for a room, an ultimate meal plan, and other on-campus expenses,” he said. The only way they would approve him for off-campus housing was for him to have to explain his blood disorder and go through the process of signing all of the disability papers for that. According to the Capital Student Handbook, having specific disabilities allowed for certain students to be a commuter.
While he did get approved for housing eventually, he found life as a commuter to be difficult.
“Commuter life isn’t easy. I never feel like I have much of a place on campus, and I spend long days at Capital. It definitely makes me feel lonely sometimes,” Messersmith said.
Some days, Messersmith ends up being on campus for 13 hours. Many days, he’s on campus from 7 a.m. to about 7–8 p.m. because of traffic. In addition, he does not have a meal plan so he tries to pack enough food for the day.
However, he is grateful for all of his gift cards and Cap Cupboard. His friends have also helped him by letting him hang out in their dorms in between classes and letting him use their guest passes for the MDR.
Overall, he thinks the financial benefit makes it all worth it.
“Is it worth the cheaper bills? I think so. I am grateful to be able to live down here with my aunt as I have a big room with A/C and a kitchen with my own fridge,” Messersmith said.
Jenna Moore, commuter sophomore, also shared her perspective.
“Commuter life is a great thing, but it is also super crappy at times,” Jenna Moore said.
She enjoys not sharing a bathroom with other girls and getting to see her dogs. However, most times, she does not feel a part of campus. A lot of times the activities that occur on campus and when her friends hang out are late at night when she is already at home.
She has tried to join organizations to try and prevent that feeling, but it still remains hard for her. Moore believes that the university could do more in making the campus commuter friendly.
Her suggestion for the university is that they could provide a commuters Facebook page or group, so that commuters can talk with each other and hang out.
“I have only met two commuters this semester and I find that really sad,” Moore said.
Like Messersmith, Moore believes the parking situation could be improved for commuters as well.
Connor Ryan, senior, gives insight as someone who went from living on campus, to living on Sheridan Avenue, to now commuting a couple of miles away.
To him, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to commuter living. However, there are still cons. When something breaks, it is on him to try to fix it as opposed to putting in a work order to facilities at the university.
He misses the convenience of dorm life. Because he is a lacrosse player, it was convenient for him to get to practice from the dorm. As a leading member of Kappa Sigma, he also has to drive to and from campus for his chapter meetings at 9 p.m., after being at school all day.
Another inconvenience to him, along with others, is the parking situation coming to campus everyday.
Despite the few cons of commuting, he enjoys it more than living on campus or on Sheridan. Since Ryan is a senior, he embraces the adult life. He believes living off campus helps enhance that maturity.
Abby Righter with Student Residence Life and Abbey Rutschilling with The Office of Student and Community Engagement, discussed ways for commuters to stay involved. The SCE office has interns who are able to meet with commuters about their interests, and help them find relatable opportunities on campus. In addition, to back up Moore, there are multiple commuter common spaces. The library has two study areas, there are two coffee shops on campus, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the commuter lounges that Moore discussed. The SCE office also puts on a few programs a semester specifically for commuter students to help them connect with other commuters. Commuters can also stay involved by being a part of greek-life.
There are a few ways for commuters to stay “in the know” about campus events. Stall Talks are used as a tool to communicate with all students about the events on campus. Commuters can use this as a way to connect with other students. The SCE also sends out emails well in advance about upcoming community engagement opportunities off and off-campus. The different social media that they have is another way to stay involved, such as the Engage and Corq app. Engage is an online website and platform that showcases the student organizations on campus and informs the students of upcoming events. All one needs to do is log in with their student ID.
The last few ways for commuters to stay involved is apply for a campus job for extra money. They can do this by visiting Career Development for more information. In addition, becoming an RA is a way to stay involved on campus, along with a way to save money.
From the words of the commuter, commuter life has its pros and cons. To some, it’s a breath of fresh air, but to others, more could be done to make them feel more welcome.
Righter and Rutschilling invite commuters to send further suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.