The Basic Guide to Commuting at Rutgers
It sucks and it’s miserable but here’s how to make it easier
So you're going to be commuting to school this year. And maybe the next, and maybe the next. Maybe you're happy about the money you'll save, and maybe you're dreading it because you're afraid you won't have any friends.
Well, as a commuter student going into her third year, I'm here to tell you that whatever it is about commuting that bothers you or makes you want to rip your hair out, you're not alone. In fact, according to RU stats from 2012, over 50 percent of all the undergrads here at RU commute, whether it's by car, bus or train, or even walking, if you live in off-campus housing or near enough to the campuses. That's a little over 17,000 students.
But despite there being that many commuter students, a lot of people don't take advantage of the services that Rutgers provides for off-campus and commuter students. In addition to that, they don't make the effort to find a way to make it bearable. And although I could name off all the ways commuting is a pain in the ass, it's probably more productive to tell you how to work with it. So here's how to make life so much easier for you as a commuter student.
Schedule your classes around your commute
It seems obvious but there are people who don't take this into account. This can be hard when a class that you're required to take only meets at the most inconvenient times for you, but if you can do it, do it. If you know it takes an hour to get to campus (give or take some traffic), and you also know that you're not a morning person, you should probably try to avoid 8am classes. If your commute is an hour and you know that you don't like night driving, maybe don't give yourself a class that ends at 9pm. And even if your commute is a 5 to 10 minute drive like mine, don't underestimate how long the bus ride might be from your parking lot to your class.
Prepare yourself for delays
If you value showing up to class on time at all, have some foresight. If you drive, check the traffic and weather report so you can figure out the route that's best for you. If you take public transportation, having the NJ Transit app and checking their Twitter account and the news will keep you in the know in case there are any changes in the schedule due to construction or weather. You won't find an app for this, but it's also good to know when the commuter parking lots will be the least full if you hate driving around looking for a spot or if you hate walking long distances just to get to the nearest bus stop (I'm looking at you, Yellow Lot).
Just buy the damn parking permit
Yes, I know they cost $150 to $300 and we're broke college students. But while it is possible to finesse the system, we aren't all as lucky. One of my friends refused to buy a parking permit and parked anywhere and everywhere on campus and earned a grand total of 7 tickets from RUPD. Tickets can cost anywhere from $50 to $75, and if you do the math, a permit for the Yellow Lot on Livi (around $154) costs less than all of those tickets combined. Be smart and plan ahead so you can avoid getting a financial hold on your name.
Make the effort to be social
For the most part, commuting means that people won't always gravitate toward you. You don't have a roommate you could potentially always be hanging out with, or people on your floor you'll always have to interact with somehow. There could be days you spend with yourself when you first start out, and it can be discouraging. But if you find organizations that you really care about, you can also find people you really hit it off with. You'll also find opportunities for leadership which can look great on a resume. Keep an eye out on Facebook because there are always free events happening where you can find some cool people. If you made friends during orientation or find that you always talk to a certain person during class (when you can), make the effort to hang out during the semester. I can't guarantee you'll be best friends forever, but if they live on campus you now have a place to crash if you're too tired to go home and someone to study or go out to eat with. Remember that human interaction is a two-way street.
Take advantage of what Rutgers offers
Sometimes it seems like Rutgers doesn't really care about commuters – and that might be true, who knows – but they do offer helpful resources for us. Bike lockers and bike rentals are available for all students, and if you're a fan of bringing your own food to campus there are microwaves available in various cafes, convenience stores, and lounges on every campus. Here's a complete list of amenities for commuters provided by the Rutgers.
RCSA, or the Rutgers Commuter Student Association, seems kind of lame at first in your first year, but they're probably one of only organizations that meets at a reasonable time for people who need to drive or catch a train or bus home, and they have their own lounges specifically for commuter students. Plus everyone there has the same general goal – be around people who understand the struggle and don't look at you with pity when they ask you what campus you live on and you reply that you commute. Even if you don't become a regularly-attending member, going to at least one of their events can help you feel social and can also be a productive way to voice your concerns about being a commuter.
This is by no means the end-all, be-all guide to commuting. There are just some things that you learn by actually doing it. But trust me when I say that taking these things into account can really make or break your experience at Rutgers, so take notes, friends.