Checklist for Commuter Students

Checklist for Commuter Students

Everyone says that starting college is a very exciting part of your life but no one really talks about the stress that comes with preparing for college. There are things you need to figure out such as: will you be living on campus or with family? How will you get to and from school? When thinking of commuting you need to take in consideration a checklist that would make your commuting experience more enjoyable. Here are some tips to make your commute easier:

Staying Safe

Whether you are commuting by public transportation or by your own vehicle, one of the most important things is staying safe. Sometimes you may stay in school very late and by the time you head home it is dark or you may need to leave home very early in the morning. No matter the time, here are some tips on staying safe:Commuter Students | Dean of Students | Providence College

  • Tools*

Pepper spray, taser and emergency car kit are all helpful tools that can be used during an emergency. Read the instructions on how to properly use these tools and only use them for emergencies. 

  • Emergency SOS programs

Android and Apple have an emergency mode on smartphones to help during difficult situations. Depending on the company, these programs allow you to add emergency contacts, call emergency services and put your phone on ultra power saving mode. 

More information for apple users, samsung, and android users.


Sometimes you are running late and forget to make yourself breakfast or maybe you did not pack lunch. One way to avoid this is by meal planning! There are many ways to meal plan, it is done according to your lifestyle. If you have never meal planned before, here is a some tips for beginners:

 When meal planning, it is important to save on produce! Here are some guides to CalFreshSNAP, and food banks that may be available near you. 


Have a long commute? One of the discouraging things about having a long commute is knowing how to fill in the time. 

  • Listening to a podcast, music, or audiobook  

Student discounts for Apple Music and Spotify

  • Studying

If you have an exam that day, you can review your notes or study guides on the way to school. This is helpful because you are briefly reviewing your notes before your exam to make sure you don’t forget some last minute details. 

Discounted Bus Passes for Students

If you will be taking public transportation to get to and from school, you will need a bus pass. The cost for a bus pass can accumulate but luckily there are programs that offer discounts for students! Additionally, these offers have unlimited rides for your semester/quarter.**What to Know as a Commuter Student | Best Colleges | U.S. News

  • Orange County and Irvine Students
  • Bay Area Students
    • Clipper Card 
      • Will be able to use on Caltrain Golden Gate Transit, Marin Transit, Muni, SamTrans, etc… Check the FAQ for more information
      • Must have an income level below $89,320

*keep in mind some places do not allow pepper spray, tasers or anything sharp inside their perimeters 

**rules may vary, visit websites for more information

The Commuter Student Experience & Advocating for Accessible Transportation

The Commuter Student Experience & Advocating for Accessible Transportation

Commuter students are an incredibly diverse group of students. They consist of full-time students living at home, part-time students who live off campus in apartments, or even parents who commute for night classes. Commuter students often have to use various modes of transportation in order to get to school, which includes their own car, bus, or even Uber. A commuter student might have to make sacrifices in order to attend school, which makes it important for colleges to have flexibility for their students. Despite this, there are several benefits for commuter students, as well as disadvantages. 


  1. Saving on tuition – Commuter students tend to live at home with their parents or even in apartments in the city. This is usually much cheaper than paying for housing on campus, with funds going up to even $40,000 a school year. 
  2. More control in schedule – Being a commuter student allows more flexibility in your schedule, you are able to have a job and set your own times for your activities and school work. 
  3. Ensured privacy – Privacy goes out the door once you get a roommate in college. You see each other’s way of living and some boundaries will eventually be broken. Living at home or somewhere else as a commuter student allows you to be fully comfortable in your surroundings.
  4. Comfort and stability – College can be a big step for many students and a big step that not everyone is ready to take. If you still live with your parents you can still have access to comfort and stability central home can provide. This can grant you the confidence in your school life knowing you have a sense of stability at home. 


  1. Traffic – Accessible transportation is often a huge challenge for commuter students, and traffic in transportation is a problem. The lack of routes can often lead to huge traffic when getting to and from school. 
  2. More effort in making connections/friendships/social life – When you live on campus, you automatically get opportunities to make friends and meet new people. Whether it’s your roommates or the people across the hall, you eventually get to know everyone. However, once you’re commuting, you have to put in more effort to make friends. Folks involved in organizations and clubs usually live on campus, so the lack of a social life is a challenge for commuter students. 
  3. Effect on academic performance – the stress and time it takes to commute can take a toll on a student. Often, a commuter student will start to skip class because of the lack of accessible transportation or because they don’t think it’s worth it. This eventually leads to a negative impact on their academic performance. 
  4. Can sometimes be exhausting – Commuting can sometimes be exhausting. Depending on the time of your commute, traffic of your commute, or your mode of transportation. Commuting can take from 30 minutes to 3 hours for some students. Waking up early to get to school and leaving school really late in the day can really put a tax on your mental/ physical state and add excess stress to your school life.


While being a commuter student can make higher education cheaper and more flexible, a prominent barrier that many commuters face is accessible transportation. Convenient and reliable transportation helps commuter students remain in control of their academics without having to worry about getting to class on time. Whether it be public transportation costs or parking permit rates, colleges should acknowledge the barriers commuter students face compared to their on-campus living counterparts. Removing transportation barriers builds a more inclusive and supportive environment for all students regardless of their circumstances. If university officials do not prioritize basic needs such as accessible transportation for their students, it may be up to the public and students alike to advocate for themselves until their needs are met. 


The topic of advocacy may be overwhelming for some. However, there are many opportunities available, some unique to each university and some more applicable to the public, that can help individuals begin to advocate for accessible transportation in their own communities. 

  1. Get involved in commuter support clubs on campus – Joining clubs/organizations tailored towards commuters can help students meet new people with similar situations and expose more opportunities for advocacy directly within their university.
  2. Utilizing public transportation in your city – By using public transportation more often, individuals can help build a support system for the local public transportation programs and this may lead leaders to recognize the public transport demand and improve the current state of public transportation.  
  3. Expressing support for advancing public transportation – Participating in public transportation campaigns and signing petitions concerning the progression in the accessibility and quality of public transportation systems can be an effective way to promote increases in funding and attention towards this objective.  

Commuter student resources:

American Public Transportation Association: LINK

Off-Campus Costs

Off-Campus Costs

Living in an off-campus apartment is a big adult move! There are lots of opportunities for growth and learning; a skill that is really mastered is knowing how to manage your living expenses. Living on your off-campus requires that you be extra cognizant of your costs. Read below for some helpful tips!

  1. Know all the fees involved

Rental spaces often require other payments besides rent. Some extra costs include, but are not limited to:

  • Application fees. You may be charged for applying to space.  
  • Security deposits. At the beginning of your lease, rental spaces will often ask that you give about one month’s rent worth of money to them in addition to your first month’s rent. 
  • Parking fees. If you own a vehicle, your landlord may sometimes rent out a parking space for an additional fee. Do not always assume that parking is included in your rent price.
  • Plan for furniture and household items

Some rental spaces may come furnished already, but most do not. Before you move, plan costs for items that are necessary. You may need to provide yourself with a bed, desk, dining table, kitchen tools, and more.

2. Be aware of your rental contract length

Not all leases are one year long. Some contracts are only six months long, while others may last up to 14 months. Verify how long your lease will be; this way, you will know how long you’ll have to pay for rent.

3. Keep track of utilities 

Your rental contract will specify what utilities the space does and does not provide. In some cases, your space may provide all utilities to you. In other cases, your space may provide none of the utilities, leaving you to pay for services such as water, gas, trash, and electricity. Be aware of what you will be responsible for paying.  

4. Track your food expenses

First, make sure that you are aware of CalFresh, and how the program can help you pay for groceries. If you do not qualify for CalFresh, however, know that you will need to plan for enough healthy meals.

5. Familiarize yourself with the commute

Know how much money you will be wasting on transportation. If you have to drive to campus, have an idea of how much money your gas will be. If you will ride public transportation, remember to include the fares in your budgeting. 

Of course, seeing your costs listed out may be terrifying! Remember to make the best financial decision for you. Compare your costs to on-campus housing. Make sure that you know you are ready to take on the challenge. We believe in you!