Advice from a commuter


Alex Nally | Staff Photographer

By Jordan Drischler | For The Pitt News

College move-in day: a sense of apprehension about being dropped off mixed with the excitement of meeting your roommate and settling into your new home. 

With a feeling of newfound independence, you quickly ease into the college atmosphere and cannot imagine living anywhere else. This was my story and one shared by thousands of first-year students. 

Buts the semesters went by and it came time to select housing for my senior year, I decided to do something I’d never imagined.

I decided to move back home to the South Hills of Pittsburgh. In order to save money, I — like three percent of first years last year, according to the Pitt Fact Book ±— chose to commute. 

I was not a first year, but I was preparing to experience college like never before. Now, having commuted to school for two semesters, I’ve learned the advantages, drawbacks and all the caveats to life as a commuter.

While the benefits of commuting — cost saving, being with family, maintaining the stability of life at home — are valuable, there are numerous unforeseen disadvantages as well, and some of them have to do with the way Pitt’s resources for commuters are lacking.

One of the most significant yet unexpected hurdles to commuting was the cost. While overall savings on rent and utilities make living at home worthwhile, do not expect it to be outright cheap. I knew I would have to pay for parking and gas, but I never anticipated how quickly these costs would accumulate — especially when parking costs $2 per hour around Pitt’s campus.

Commuters: be sure to budget your money to include extra costs, rather than solely focusing on all the money you’re saving on rent and food.

Remember that time is money, too. Depending on how far you live from campus, traveling back and forth can take up a substantial portion of the day. I commute from a farther distance than most being from Monongahela — about 45 minutes away. This will inevitably cut into time used for studying, not to mention sleeping, if you don’t budget your schedule correctly.

In fact, the key to overall success is to establish a set schedule.

Plan out an agenda in advance for homework and for studying — especially if assignments require you to use university equipment such as the computer labs. Remember that as a commuter, you cannot afford to “wing it” as much as someone who has a dorm or apartment to go back to. Devise a plan of attack for the day, and execute it thoroughly. 

In addition to being aware of the time and money commitment of commuting, I wish I had known earlier about the programs and facilities — or lack thereof — that the University provides to commuting students.

Pitt offers a variety of programs and resources for students who find themselves making the trek to campus everyday. Because I’m going on my fifth year at Pitt, I didn’t take advantage of events, including monthly movie nights, or use the commuter lounge in Nordy’s Place for a quiet study spot.

Even so, there are areas where the University is behind when it comes to commuters’ needs. Parking is by far the biggest problem area. I’ve been unsuccessful in obtaining a commuter parking pass because too few are available, which has posed a significant inconvenience and increased the cost of commuting.

If the University doled out parking spaces — which we would pay for, of course — in accordance with the number of commuter students, this problem could be easily avoided.

And while Nordy’s Place is a great, central location for a commuter lounge, it’s one of only a few options, and there’s no restrictions on who can enter, so non-commuter students could be taking up space in the room as well. I would like to see the University add more commuter lounges with spots for commuters to lie down, as not having a place to rest has been an unforeseen challenge of commuting.   

It is very possible for Pitt to resolve these challenges by taking student suggestions and working with students not working through the “typical college experience.”

Commuting comes with a distinct set of obstacles, but with a meticulous schedule, a hearty set of time-management skills and a dedication to maintaining your involvement on campus, it can be an enriching experience for many students. I suggest that you recognize the gaps in Pitt’s commuter options before settling in.

Encourage the University that, since according to the Pitt Fact Book, more than half of Pitt students live off campus and some of those students are commuters, it should recognize and adapt to the needs of its student population.   

On your end, potential commuter, make sure to heed my advice, snag a parking permit early and find a nap-worthy spot on campus, and commuting will be an enjoyable and beneficial experience.

Write to Jordan at [email protected]

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