Shockey: The college transition for freshman commuters is harder than most people realize

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"The struggles that come with trying to feel involved in campus life and expanding your social circle is hard, especially for someone who doesn’t live at Rowan." - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennesson

Editors note: The graphic for this article was credited to the wrong editor, The Whit’s Graphics Editor, Julia Quennesson, designed it, not our Multimedia Editor, Drew Peltzman.

Like all first-year college students, I too was nervous about starting college. Worrying about gaining a sense of community at Rowan as well as being content with being alone are all things freshmen, including myself, can relate to. For most of us, this is the first time in our lives we have had to live in dorms with a roommate and eat mediocre dining hall food every day. It’s the first time many of us have had to do our own laundry and live without our parents. 

All of us are forced out of our element, the bubble our hometown lives kept us in forced to pop as this new chapter of our life begins. 

However, while the stereotypical idea of what the college transition entails includes the things I listed above, many students never have to face those new realities. 

For commuters, like myself, we have luxuries that on-campus residents do not have: The ability to go home. After a long day of classes, the 65% of the Rowan student body who live off-campus, according to the U.S. News and World Education Report, get to drive home, eat a home-cooked meal, and sleep in their own beds. 

While I have to fight each and every commuter in the morning to find a parking spot, I am lucky enough to still live with my family. I don’t have to do my own laundry, and most importantly I do not get woken up by fire alarms and have to evacuate my room at 3 a.m. While being a commuter does have its perks, I’ve found that in some ways it makes the transition a harder experience than that of students who reside at Rowan. 

Not only does it increase those feelings of alienation, but it allows us to remain in our hometown bubble–making it even harder to branch out and create a new better version of ourselves.

Since I live at home while studying at Rowan, college merely became a new component of my daily schedule. I didn’t have to move out, didn’t need to quit my high school job, and I am still able to hang out with my childhood friends on the weekends, two of whom are actually freshman commuters themselves. 

On-campus freshmen are thrown into a completely new lifestyle, while my college experience is merely just an add-on to the life I had previously. Unlike those who moved here from all over the country, I am able to see and talk to the people I have known all my life and still follow the routine I’ve lived out every day for as long as I can remember, with the added responsibility of commuting to all of my classes.

Simple things like meeting new people and joining clubs become a hassle. Since commuters have to drive to attend any of these events, it discourages many from even joining in the first place. These things are so important for first-year students to participate in so they can fully embrace life at Rowan, and those freshman students living in the dorms have much easier access to these activities.

The struggles that come with trying to feel involved in campus life and expanding your social circle is hard, especially for someone who doesn’t live at Rowan. With all the constant back and forth from school, it can be hard to feel fully ingrained in a community that you aren’t fully present in all the time. Along with not living and being surrounded by unfamiliar faces, it can be harder for freshman commuters to make new friends, something that is vastly important in the first year of college.

Which leads to why so many other freshman commuters find it hard to put themselves out there. To cope with these struggles, many may end up keeping their circle small and resorting back to a life they know very well–the one they lived before college.

While I get to enjoy the luxury of feeling a sense of familiarity by being at home, going to my minimum wage job, and being surrounded by people I’ve known my whole life, it’s still important for freshman commuter students to try and get involved on campus in order to make the most out of college life. Even if you don’t feel like driving back to campus, it’ll benefit you in the long run if you become more involved in the Rowan community and meet new people along the way. 

Rowan even offers events specifically catered to commuters, including Commuter Connections meetings in the Campbell Library as well as the Commuters at Rowan organization that aims to help commuter students feel more connected to the greater Rowan community. As a college freshman, it is crucial that you get involved on campus not only to feel like a member of the Rowan family but also to better your physical and social well-being. So, while it may be a pain to get up and make another drive to campus, just think about how many opportunities you are throwing away by not being an active member of Rowan’s society.

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