Every day, Monday through Thursday, I found myself waking up at 6 a.m. to the piercing sound of my alarm clock as I slammed on the snooze button at least three more times. I found it almost painful to get up out of bed and head out to an 8:30 a.m. class, only to learn about the importance of marginal cost, or why poetry is relevant in today’s society. The difference that sets me apart from the typical, living-away-from-home college student, is that I commute.
I do not have the luxury of waking up five minutes before class starts, and just walking over to the next hall in my pajamas. By the time I wake up, brush my teeth, put on some make-up, eat breakfast (on good days), drive to school and find parking, I find myself still feeling rushed and burdened by the hassles of commuting. Although I constantly remind myself that I am debt-free and not paying the ridiculous costs of a dorm and meal plan, I sometimes think that it would be way easier to just live on campus. Along with the other students that commute, I constantly weigh the burdens against the benefits.
Luckily, I did not have to take out any student loans for my first year at Montclair State and therefore “saved” the estimated $11,000 cost of living on campus. On most days, I feel relieved to have a few extra dollars in my pocket, no debt and the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal. But factoring in gas, car expenses, a parking pass, weather and traffic, it’s almost daunting even to get in my car and drive to school.
On most days, I leave an hour and a half early just to find parking in one of the six commuter lots Montclair State offers. I purposely scheduled all of my classes early in the day, even subjecting myself to a 7:45 a.m. math class, just because commuter parking is one of the biggest hardships of them all.
Like me, fellow freshman and commuter Savina Sisco also understands the burdens and benefits of being a non-resident student on campus.
“I honestly enjoy commuting,” said Sisco. “It is more convenient for me to commute since I live in Bloomfield, which is very close.”
Ultimately, having the freedom to come and go on campus is a big benefit for commuters. But, when you drive a car, you have to deal with commuter parking.
“Commuting can be such a hassle sometimes when it comes to getting up early and parking,” said Sisco. “I usually get here around 7:30 a.m. which makes parking easier.”
Although finding parking at Montclair State is quite the struggle for most commuters, including me, the school does offer programs and services to better the parking situation. The Parker App allows students to view the open spaces in the lots before they arrive on campus. But you may just want to avoid Car Parc Diem entirely, unless you love traffic, congestion and the occasional fender bender. Montclair State University Parking Services also has its own Twitter, @MSUParking, where students can ask questions, be reminded of important dates and more.
Out of all the commuter students, a select few do not own a car. Aside from driving to school, there are a few different options, such as taking the public bus, the train or even an Uber. Public transportation is usually reliable, but not all of the time, as freshman Kristina Iacovone noted.
“As for the downside to commuting, I would say actually getting to the school [is the biggest challenge],” said Iacovone. “I don’t drive and I take public transportation, which isn’t the most reliable. The commute isn’t bad as long as everything is on time.”
Since driving to school can be tiresome at times, there are public transportation buses that constantly run through Montclair State. For example, the 191-Newark Monday through Friday bus runs every two hours from 9:45 a.m. to 8:42 p.m. If the bus looks a little too crowded, Montclair State also has a train station both by the university’s main entrance and across from the Village. So, if driving sounds like a bit of a burden, don’t forget to weigh the options.
Many students who choose to commute to Montclair State have saved thousands of dollars. Pushing aside the hassles of finding parking and physically getting to school, commuters consider themselves pretty savvy when it comes to saving money for the future.
“I decided to commute because it is much cheaper than living on campus. I’d rather save the money for the future,” Iacovone said. “[I] am able to go home at the end of the day and do homework somewhere I am comfortable.”
Eliminating college debt and saving money for the future is a very logical way to think in today’s society. For most students that find themselves dropping over a $100 for just one access code, college is obviously very expensive. Even though commuters may not share the same luxuries of living on campus, I feel rather relieved to be able to leave school after and long day and find myself not drowning in college debt.
Saving for a one-way ticket out of my parent’s basement once I graduate seems quite attainable thanks to commuting. There are times when commuting gets rough, especially in the winter, but accepting the burdens and benefits of it is just one challenge to overcome while attending Montclair State.