a guide to connecting on campus (for commuters)

A potential Sun Devil should have no problem finding resources that will give them a solid idea of what college life is like for someone living in the dorms. For those who choose to attend a university, dorm living is the default lifestyle that incoming freshman are bombarded with information about. There are so many amazing benefits to living on campus: connecting with fellow Sun Devils is much easier and can occur much more quickly, everything you need is within walking distance of your place of residence, and you’re closer to every event that takes place on campus.

But what about those of us who choose to live off-campus and commute to school? While this does include those students who live in apartments or houses close to campus, this post will be slightly more directed at those of us who live rather far away. However, these tips can apply to anyone, anywhere. As a sophomore student who has lived at home since the beginning of freshman year, I’ve navigated through the difficulties of commuting from far off campus. I’ve been through the frustrating traffic, long travels, and time commitment it takes to drive to and from school every day. However, I’ve been able to manage it well and even enjoy it. And I’m not the only one who has chosen to do this. According to a recent article by Brett Johnson in “The Daily Iowan”, “A July 2009 survey by the National Retail Foundation found the number of college students planning to or considering living at home increased from slightly fewer than 50 percent in 2007 to 59.3 percent during the 2009-10 school year”. Students have many reasons for living at home, but regardless of the reason, living at home is not an uncommon phenomenon, and it’s important to address ways that off-campus Sun Devils can get connected to our vibrant and influential community.

I’m not going to ignore the fact that it’s harder to get involved on campus when you don’t live here. It can be a little difficult. There are many people that will overwhelm us home-dwellers with statements like “you won’t be able to meet as many people if you don’t live in the dorms” or “you’ll miss a lot of networking opportunities” or “you won’t be as successful at building relationships and being social.” There are parts of these points that are somewhat valid, but letting them overwhelm you is unnecessary. It is hard, but it is far from impossible.

The key to getting connected on campus is making the decision early on that you are going to find ways to get connected despite the distance. Admittedly, I wasn’t as involved on campus my first semester as I should have been. This wasn’t too bad, because it gave me a little more time to get acclimated to college studies and start off strong in my classes, but I do wish I had done more. This year, I decided that I would find some way to get involved. Believe me when I say that there are so many involvement opportunities that you will always be able to find some that fit into your schedule. You first have to take the time to seek out those opportunities and consciously choose to involve them in your schedule. The fact of the matter is that your life after college won’t always consist of activities that only occur within your super close community. Your career will require you to travel around and make time in your schedule to participate in things regardless of where you live. Commuting to university activities is just good practice for your future, when distance won’t be an excuse for you to be uninvolved.

This year, I happened to stumble upon a club called HBSA (Hispanic Business Students Association), whose meetings and events just so happened to fit perfectly into my schedule. Becoming a member of HBSA has already been such an incredible opportunity for personal growth and networking, and I’m so happy I took the time to commit to this organization. You can do the same thing if you take the time to look for organizations like this. Eventually you will find one that fits perfectly with your schedule and allows you to grow and get connected despite how far away from campus you live.

Another thing to remember is that “getting involved” doesn’t have to mean physically coming to campus. I’m a student blogger for W. P. Carey and for an organization called Be A Leader Foundation, and neither of those require me to drive all the way to campus to write. I consider myself connected to two very important communities through these blogs, and neither of them are activities that are hard for me to do while living at home.  I’m not saying that you have to become a blogger, but I am sure that there are other ways to involve yourself with the ASU community without ever necessarily having to go anywhere.

And as for the social aspect of college: living away from campus shouldn’t affect the quality or quantity of relationships you build at ASU. If you put effort into getting to know people in your classes and around campus, you will find some amazing friends and connections. I’ve met plenty of truly incredible people at this school of ours, and I have had no problem keeping in touch with them.

Every piece of advice I’ve given you really comes down to the one major key to connecting as a commuter: effort. If you put effort into finding clubs that fit your schedule, into seeking opportunities to indirectly connect with the community, and into building relationships when you are on campus, getting involved at ASU shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your college experience isn’t defined by logistics. Your college experience is whatever you make of it.

Hope this helps!


Your friend and fellow Sun Devil,

Celina J.