For some, the journey to Ohio State involves crossing county, state or even national lines. However, for roughly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students who commute, the university is a car ride away from home.
A commuter is classified by Off-Campus and Commuter Services as someone who lives outside of the 43201 university district ZIP code and typically uses a car or public transportation to get to campus. This differs from the roughly 17,000 students who live off campus, but are not considered commuters, who are more likely to live in the district and walk or bike to classes.
Students from Columbus and surrounding areas find the financial advantage of living at home is not without the cost of traffic problems, with feelings of disconnect from campus and missing out on the stereotypical college experience.
“I assume people who live on campus feel more at home and more connected to others there,” Cymone Rogers, a first-year commuter in exploration, said. “So I don’t really get that experience, which is fine for me but there is a difference.”
Rachel DeMooy, program manager of Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services, said commuting is different because students do not experience leaving their childhood room behind, moving away from parents or guardians and creating community in the same way others do.
Fewer opportunities to make connections outside of the classroom provide fewer strong social connections and can hinder a commuter’s sense of belonging on campus, DeMooy said.
According to Ohio State’s 2015 study “Comparing On-Campus, Off-Campus, And Commuter Students,” commuters have a 10 percent lower sense of belonging to campus than other students.
The study also found only 33 percent of commuter students were involved in student organizations as opposed to 63 percent of their on- and off-campus peers.
“It is different,” Rogers said. “It’s harder to meet people because I literally only go on campus for my classes but as soon as that’s done, I’m out.”
The reasons given for lower involvement in the study include time restraints, family and work obligations, and the inconvenience of commuting.
Kayla Phanthavong, a second-year in psychology, opted to live on campus with the hope of getting the traditional “full college experience” as a freshman. Phanthavong transitioned to commuting the fall semester of her second year but moved back into the residence hall the next semester.
When commuting, Phanthavong did not account for rush hour traffic in her schedule, which meant she sometimes woke up at 4 or 5 a.m. to beat the traffic. In the afternoons, Phanthavong’s 30-minute drive could take up to an hour and a half.
“To sum it all up, it was not what I expected at all. I’m glad I’m back in the dorm,” Phanthavong said.
Commuters can use Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Services resources such as commuter mentoring, lockers, a kitchen and a lounge, in addition to other services on its website.
To be a successful commuter student, Phanthavong suggests being realistic about your time and trying to avoid rush hour as much as possible.
Rogers also recommends getting involved and joining student organizations and group chats to stay informed about the events happening on campus.