Commuting vs. Living on Campus

By Haley Rey, Editor in Chief

Photos from Riley Riess, Hailey Price, and Phoebe McCutcheon

Living on campus and commuting to campus from home offer two rather different lifestyles for the typical McKendree student. The school rules for commuting indicate that the person must live within a 30-minute radius from the campus. Riley Riess, a transfer student, commutes every day to attend classes and events for class assignments. 

“It’s a 20 minute drive for me to get to campus,” says Riess. “I like that I live with my family because I wasn’t ready to move out. I also like that I don’t have to pay for housing and that I can eat with my family. I dislike that I have to leave 30 minutes before my class starts because of the commuting time and getting to the class. Parking isn’t very good on campus.”

McKendree does not have very many commuting students that live outside of Lebanon. There are many students that live off-campus but still close by, such as at Bearcat Den, Dee Street, or in one of the rentable houses around town. Those that live so close still have advantages of proximity over people who commute from further distances away. If you’re not in town, you miss out on a lot and may struggle to stay connected. 

One aspect that is difficult for new, commuting students at McKendree is completing tasks for classes that involve their attendance at campus events. For example, many UNI 101 classes require students to go to Hett events, sporting events, and other campus events like Brown Bags or Social Justice and Equity Committee discussions. 

Riley Riess

“For UNI 101, it was kind of difficult because I had to figure out when to get to campus to do the homework for the course,” says Riess. “The schedules of the games were confusing to me, so it was difficult to figure out when to come.”

How well do campus residents like it here? Some people may wish they could commute to save money, but others thrive in the experience of being close to other students. Hailey Price, a freshman, really enjoys living on campus. 

Price shares, “I live in the traditional dorms, and I absolutely love it! I like it so much because I get to meet new people every day. One aspect that I love is getting to hang out with my friends all day and night. I stay the night a lot at my friend’s place, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I lived off campus. I do miss being home, but being here with everyone definitely makes up for it.”

One of the biggest disadvantages to living on campus, aside from potential financial strain, is homesickness. However, there is plenty of community offered—especially at a small school—that can help you to feel like you’re simply at a home away from home. 

The ability to make connections, in general, is a vast difference between commuting students and on-campus students. The difference in time spent on campus correlates to the ease of connections made between the student and the rest of the campus. 

“I’ve made some connections in the form of texting people in my classes and talking about the coursework,” Riess explains. “Other than that, I haven’t really made any connections outside of class; I’m not around people on campus constantly. I could go to more school events, but it’s harder because of my commute. For people who live on campus, it’s easier because they just have to walk over to the field or wherever.”

Hailey Price

The convenience of being in the right place at the right time is not present with commuting students, who would have to stick around each day just in case something interesting happened in order to not miss out. Commuting students have to plan in advance in order to be a part of something happening on campus, while campus-residing students can just join in on anything within minutes of hearing about it.

“I definitely feel that living on campus makes it easier to make friends because I’m able to relate to people more,” says Price. “I do attend a lot of campus activities. I have gone to several Hett events and I always go up to the tables set up in the quad.”

Whether a commuter or an on-campus student, it’s interesting to think about the ways your life might be different if you swapped living styles.

Riess shares, “I think I would have more connections on campus if I lived there. I would also attend more events. However, I have anxiety and struggle to pull myself away from my schoolwork, so it’s better for me to live at home because my family reminds me to do things other than school and homework.”

Price also considered the differences. “If I lived off campus, everything would be different,” she says. “I wouldn’t have made the connections I have and I most likely wouldn’t have as many connections with my professors.”

What accommodations can be made to connect commuting students with the campus more, should they be interested in doing so? Perhaps on-campus students could reach out to them more and invite them to spend time doing campus activities. If events—even small ones—are planned more in advance and communication tactics are improved upon, then commuters can join in on the fun a bit more. Regarding accommodations, perhaps classes could make exceptions for commuters when it comes to assignments that involve being on campus. The convenience just isn’t there, and it costs both time and gas money to do what other students can do so easily. 

There is no right answer for which style of living is better for an undergraduate student. Each individual student knows what is best for them, whether the decision involves personal preference, health, financial status, distance from home, and so much more. It’s most important for McKendree to do its job of making both commuters and campus students feel like they’re a part of the family.

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