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How to make the most of your time at university as a commuter student

By Talya Honebeek• Last updated: Nov 8, 2023
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More and more students are choosing to live off campus

From just 8% 30 years ago to around 21% in 2018-19.

But what is a commuter student?

Commuter students are those who choose not to live on or near campus, and instead travel to university.

There are lots of reasons for this increase in commuter students. 

If you live close to a great university, don’t rule it out just because you think you’ll be missing out on the authentic student life if you stay and commute.

Everyone is different, but you can definitely still have just as good an experience whilst living off-campus, with a bit more money too!

Here are 5 tips for commuter students in universities, wanting to make the most of their time.

How to make the most of your time at university as a commuter student

  1. Join societies
  2. Stay on campus outside of classes
  3. Find other commuter students
  4. Use your commute wisely
  5. Make the most of the perks

1. Join societies

The easiest way to meet loads of like-minded people is to join societies

Whether your passion is netball, board games or learning French, there is likely to be a society for you (and if there isn’t, you can make one!)

Societies are great for both making new friends and adding more structure to your week as it means you have something to do at university after your lectures finish. 

If you have time, joining a couple of societies will make you feel like you’re getting the full campus experience. As well as weekly meetings and matches, most societies regularly organise social nights and even trips away that you could get involved in.

2. Stay on campus outside of classes

Depending on your chosen degree subject, you may find that when you receive your timetable, you’re only at university for a couple of hours, or not at all some days. 

If you always go home straight after your lectures then it can be more challenging to meet people. Instead of leaving campus the moment your classes finish, try hanging around a little longer.

There are so many opportunities to meet new people at university, such as:

  • Talking to the people next to you in lecture theatres.
  • Making study groups with people in your seminars.
  • Even the time spent waiting outside a class is time you could be chatting to someone new.


Suggest going for a coffee after class, or if a few people are going to the library to study, then ask if you can go with them and stay for a few extra hours. 

It sounds obvious, but spending more time at university is the key to making the most of your time there. The more on-campus activities you can get involved with the better!

3. Find other commuter students

It shouldn’t take too much digging to find a network of other commuter students at your university. 

Many universities have events and societies specifically for local and commuting students, especially during freshers’ week. 

It is also worth looking on your university’s website or on Facebook freshers groups to see if any commuting students group chats have been set up. If you can’t find any, post on the page to see if anyone wants to start one with you. It’s highly likely that there will be others waiting for someone else to suggest it!

These pages and chats can be a great resource for meeting people in the same boat as you. Arrange to meet up with some of them, share your experiences or even arrange to car share with them or travel together if you have similar timetables.

These groups also great spaces to find previous graduates or students who have been through a similar experience and can offer you some advice.

4. Use your commute wisely

One of the hardest things about commuting to university is having to motivate yourself to set off for uni sometimes hours before your classmates will even wake up.

Whether you drive or use public transport, your daily commute is a set block of time that you just can’t avoid. It doesn’t have to be dead time though. Make the most of your commuting time by setting little tasks for yourself during this time. 

For example:

  • If you drive in, listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to catch up on. 
  • If you use the train, take a book to read.
  • Finish off a bit of work before getting to uni (just don’t let that become a habit!)

5. Make the most of the perks

Everyone has their own personal reasons for choosing to stay at home whilst studying. 

Whether you live with family, a partner or by yourself, try to see the positive side of being a commuter student. 

For some it represents a great opportunity to save money, whilst for others it allows them to keep a healthier balance between studying and socialising. 

Though it can sometimes be hard to feel motivated and connected as a commuter student, remember you have the best of both worlds. You can still see all of your ‘home friends’ whilst also impressing your university friends with your knowledge of all the best spots your city has to offer. 

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Meet Talya, a part-time journalism master's student hailing from North Yorkshire. With a knack for assisting students in...Read More

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