Being a commuting student is a unique experience, full of challenges and opportunities.
And it is very different from being an on-campus student.
Curstin Temple, from the Student Government Assocation, recently sent out a campus-wide email inviting students to participate in a survey aimed at finding out more about the experiences of commuting students and get them more involved on campus.
“I think the fact there is a survey shows that there is a gap number one,” said Victoria Angis, assistant dean for Campus Life. “I think the purpose of the survey is to figure out where there are gaps. Students are not telling us there is a problem. If there is we’d like too know about it.”
Maria Burt was honored as the commuting student of the year in 2015, her senior year. She completed her bachelor’s degree in three years, while working part-time and being involved in the community – and she commuted the entire time.
“Being involved in campus activities was more of a challenge. I found ways to be involved in community activities as opposed to opportunities that would have been available if I’d lived on campus,” she said.
It can be difficult for commuters to attend activities on campus and feel like they are part of the on-campus community.
“I think that if I’d lived on campus that would have been more accessible or I might have had more people to attend with,” said Burt.
Librarian Sandra Duling sees a lot of commuting students spending time there. She’s noticed there’s a link between being a non-traditional and commuting student.
“Many of the commuters who hang out in the library are non-traditional students. They have families, they have jobs. So, if there’s an hour between classes they’ll come here and spend time, and they’re probably not people who are going to become involved in student activities,” she said.
Traditional or not, being a commuting student has some benefits too. For Burt, living off campus fostered a connection with the community.
“For me it was really the best option. I had the opportunity to live with my parents and work part-time as well as be familiar with my own community. I really tried my best to bridge my community with the Castleton community. That was something I really felt passionate about. It was more of a benefit for me to commute,” Burt said.
Commuting may also encourage organization and general life skills.
“They come in, they’re organized, they know what they need to do. They have study groups, or if they want to study on their own, they do that too. We really welcome commuters here. It’s a good place to hang out. The non-traditional students know what they want, they know what they need,” said Duling.
The SGA plans to use the survey data to improve the lives of commuters and try to get them more involved on campus.
“I hope students respond to it. We don’t get a lot of feedback from commuters and if the survey allows us to get some information about how they're feeling that’s fantastic,