By Andrea VegaSpecial to the Chronicle
Every year, thousands of high school juniors and seniors relish the thought of going to college and finally living in a dorm with their peers. The tradition of dorming on campus during the college years has become as associated with higher education as are ramen noodle dinners. But unfortunately, this belief frames the option of commuting to school as an unwanted alternative not allied with “the college experience.”
The truth of the matter is that there is no set college experience that makes one a true college student. There are positives to residential life, but the benefits of commuting are not to be overlooked.
Further, the benefits are not worth spending thousands of dollars only to live in a residence hall in which the air conditioning is cranked up in the dead of winter.
Some commuting students live with their parents, with roommates or even alone. Some own cars, and some do not. But one thing that all commuters have in common is that they are not in their school’s protective bubble.
Many residential students never leave Hofstra’s campus and are still too intimidated to learn how to maneuver the New York City subway system. Campus facilities and services are not easily accessed once off Hofstra grounds, and the comfort of having your RA tuck you in at night or calling Public Safety when you forget or lose your keys is not on the agenda.
Commuters know the area they are in, plan alternative routes to school in case of traffic and/or transit issues and understand the flow of the New York region for both work and entertainment purposes. They are totally in charge of their lives and develop strong time management skills as they rely on themselves for structure and balance.
It is easy to complete schoolwork when the library is a hop, skip, and a jump away from your dorm. Commuters must depend on proper scheduling to make sure that their work actually gets completed in an allotted time period.
Though not for the faint of heart, commuting creates independent and innovative problem solvers. It requires a sort of ferocity of independence that may not be fostered in a dorm setting.
Commuting accelerates the process of maturity and self-awareness that, for students who dorm all four years of college, will not develop until after graduation. While important for the social growth of many students, dorming creates a sense of perpetual coddling and nurturing, but that is nothing like the real world after graduation. Commuters do not need to worry about the real world; they are living in it.
Commuting is a step toward becoming a grown-up – not a stuffy grown-up with important meetings, but a grown-up in the sense of taking control of your own life and choices. It is taking a step away from being constantly supervised and protected.
Remember: just because the option to dorm is available to you does not mean that you need to take it.