Author: Commuter Crystal

Sacrificing Your Summer for School

As the spring semester comes to a close, many college students are focused on that great summer break until late August or September. For some students, though, they are focused on those couple weeks they have off before classes resume again. Yes, there are really people out there crazy enough to take summer classes.

Summer School

There is a negative connotation around taking summer classes because of what it meant in high school: you failed and this is the only solution to passing on. That is not the case in college. Taking some credits during summer semesters means you have less of a workload during regular semesters, or you could graduate early. The classes are typically smaller, so you have a chance to connect with your fellow classmates and get more one-on-one with a professor. Many students can be afraid of professors because of their busy schedules in the regular semesters. During summer semesters, they are there to focus on you and fewer students than in other semesters. Starting to sound pretty good, isn’t it?

Of course, there are some drawbacks, as with anything in life. Taking summer courses means your summer break is interrupted. Some days you will have class all day, meaning you can’t go swimming or the heat will be sweltering. Some days you will have a night course, which means all your socializing has to be done during the day. In addition, many summer semesters are very shortened versions of regular semesters. This means longer class times and shorter periods of time to complete assignments, not to mention more things you have to learn in a day. The drawbacks do certainly put a damper on things, but every con should be compared with a pro.

For many, summer school just seems like an absurd option. For some, it’s a great chance. What do you think? Leave your opinions below!

Off-Campus Involvement: Giving Back to Your Community

Get Involved

Whether you’re a commuter or an on-campus student, many universities want you to get involved in any way possible. This can range from attending professors’ office hours, attending a campus event or getting involved in a student organization. What some fail to realize is there are ways to get involved in the community off campus, too! Now that summer break has began many on-campus clubs and activities are finished meeting until the fall, but there are plenty of other ways to keep busy. Here are a few suggestions for you to keep in mind:

1. Volunteer at a local senior citizen home. Most residents love telling their stories to visitors, and unfortunately, many of them don’t get visitors. Volunteer! Ask them about their lives, their favorite colors, their favorite objects. If one lady likes blue and loves sweaters, get her a blue sweater. If one man loves drawing and made a life of it, get him high quality colored pencils. Bringing a smile to someone else’s face is a rewarding experience. Don’t miss out on it!

2. Hold your own fundraiser for a cause of your choice. There’s many organizations out there in need of money and/or food. Hold a bake sale to raise money for the local humane society or the WWF. Get a group of friends together and have a food or book drive for the local food pantry or for underprivileged children. Little acts of kindness go a long way, and that can be especially true in this case.

3. Volunteer at a local church or outside organization. Many places have Habitat for Humanity branches on and off campus. Get involved off campus! Volunteer at a church and offer to hold dinners for the homeless. Many campuses also provide a service that will let you find the volunteer group that’s just right for you. Be proactive and find a group that you can help.

While being involved on campus is valuable, it is important to realize that we will eventually leave our college and be a part of a larger community.  Whether you’re visiting with the elderly or volunteering with a local group, it feels great to become an active member of the community. With so many different opportunities and ways to participate there is no reason not to. Don’t delay any longer!

Do you have any other suggestions for getting involved? Leave a comment below, or talk about your own experience in off-campus involvement.

Why Being a Commuter Student Pays Off

Many students choose to go away to college once they graduate high school, while others decide to stay at home and commute. I happen to be one of those commuter students (hence the name “Commuter Crystal”), and I have found many perks to this decision.

Going away for college usually means higher expenses, and I’m not talking about minor living expenses like food and gas. I’m talking about tuition and housing. Take the University of Pittsburgh, for example. If you’re going to the main campus and are an in-state resident, you’re paying anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 extra to attend compared to a branch campus, and that all depends on your major. For housing, it can be anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to be housed on the main campus compared to housing on a branch campus closer to your home. Should you be an out-of-state resident,  you could be faced with an additional $20,000 a year. Commuting from home can allow you to pay a minimal amount of rent to your parents or do chores in lieu of rent. Staying close to home isn’t looking so bad, is it? Commuting to Campus

After tuition and housing, you have to think about other costs associated with college. Meal plans are expensive, and buying your own food to live in an apartment off campus can rack up a hefty total too! If you live at home, you can buy food and make it yourself, but chances are your folks or a sibling will cook for you. You won’t have to stick to Ramen noodles every night, or cook things in bulk and freeze it for later. As for gas, everyone knows how the economy is today. Living away from home means driving back home for holidays among other things. While this could be great for your highway gas mileage, it racks up a big bill. If you stay at home, you may only have to drive to campus and back to your home.

While there are many benefits to living at home, there are also numerous drawbacks. For starters, you’re living with your parents or other family members. You’re not part of the dorm life, or out on your own and truly independent like you might want to be. Also, you have to travel in bad weather to and from campus. I live in a place where it seems like there’s no fall or spring, just summer and winter. Traveling to campus in the winter is a treacherous drive, and extremely dangerous. In addition, you have to worry about parking on campus. At my university, resident students are allowed to park in commuter lots. If you don’t leave early enough, you can’t find a spot near the buildings. While it saves money, living at home presents other hassles.

Living at home isn’t for everyone, but it is an option that is often overlooked. While you may have to make a few aggravating drives and sacrifice some privacy, you will save tons of money tuition-wise, housing-wise, and living expense-wise. My point isn’t to convince you that being a commuter student is the best option, because quite frankly it may not be for your circumstance. I would just encourage students to weigh all the options before making the decision to move away for school.

What are your thoughts? Are there any major perks or drawbacks that I missed?