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The Pros and Cons of a Commuter School: What to Know

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A commuter school is a college to which a student commutes for classes, rather than living on or off the actual college campus. Instead, the student typically continues to live at home while commuting to school just as one would commute to a job or other commitment.


There are many reasons that a student might need to attend a commuter school. Sometimes, finances might dictate that a student continue living at home. Other times personal circumstances might mean it’s necessary to stay home, or perhaps you simply aren’t ready to live on your own. Maybe, though, you don’t actually need to attend a commuter school, but instead are considering it as one of several different options.


Commuter schools can be a practical choice that allows you to continue living at home while attending college, but they aren’t without their drawbacks either. To learn more about the pros and cons of attending a commuter college, keep reading.


What are the disadvantages of attending a commuter school?

Of course, as is the case for any college you might choose to attend, commuter schools are not without their faults. One of the primary disadvantages of attending a commuter school is the decreased freedom and independence that you’re likely to have as a result. If you continue living at home, even if you have parents who allow you to come and go freely, you still won’t experience the independence that can only come from living on your own for the first time since you’ll always have the safety net of your parents there.


In addition, you might have trouble making friends. It is harder to meet people when you’re not living on campus, and your weekends are likely to be less structured. On-campus living usually includes structured outings, clubs, and activities, but if you are living at home, you will have to seek out your own opportunities.


Further, you might feel isolated socially even if you do make some good friends. When you live on campus, you naturally form groups of friends who spend significant amounts of time together outside of class. Living at home makes late-night study groups, midnight runs for burgers and fries, and dining hall breakfasts in your slippers all a lot less likely, and these can be fun, important bonding experiences.



What are the advantages of attending a commuter school?

One primary advantage of attending a commuter school is usually the financial aspect. By continuing to live at home, you can save on housing and food expenses. Commuter schools also offer a level of convenience in that you can continue to use the same resources as you did in high school, like laundry, a job, and Internet access. In addition, not having to move can be more convenient simply in terms of the logistics of packing and travel.


Another advantage of the commuter school is keeping your support system intact. Because you are still living in the same place, you can rely on the same people to support you, except perhaps for friends who have chosen to go away for college. Aside from them, though, you’ll still have your parents, other friends, and trusted mentors to lend a hand when you need it.


Socially, attending a commuter school doesn’t have to be difficult. You may still have high school friends who are living nearby. If not, you will find new friends based on personal interests through the activities in which you participate. Perhaps you will make new friends on the club volleyball team or volunteering at a local animal shelter. In these ways, your friendships will be based on common interests so you’ll know you always have something in common. Though you might have to work harder to establish your friendships, they may ultimately be stronger as a result of this.


Is a commuter school right for me?

There’s no cookie-cutter answer to whether or not a commuter school is a good choice for you. Rather, the answer will boil down to how you personally weigh the pros and cons above, and whether or not there are other factors impacting your decision. Sometimes, a commuter school is a necessity and in these cases, it shouldn’t be a bad thing. In other cases, a commuter school is a practical choice made after careful consideration.


For students who don’t want to go far away to college, commuter schools provide another layer of security and convenience.


To learn more about going away to college and whether it’s the right choice for you, read these CollegeVine posts:



Sometimes, a commuter school can even be a good starting-off point for you to establish yourself academically before transferring to another college. It allows you time to build your grades and to settle into college-level work while you’re still in the comforts of your own home.


To learn more about transferring, check out these CollegeVine posts:



Remember that the college you go to straight out of high school isn’t a binding decision. You can use a commuter school as a stepping stone, or it can be a perfectly viable option on its own if you find that the situation suits you well.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.