Commuter students are juggling a lot, including making a place for themselves academically, socially and involvement-wise on campus. Connecting to campus life can be challenging, and if not successfully addressed, leave a commuter student feeling isolated from the rest of campus. However, campus life is not just for residential students. It's for commuters and their families, too.
You can help your student find their place and get the most out of college life by trying the following:
- Encourage involvement: Studies show that students who are more engaged on campus tend to stay and finish their degrees while those who feel on the fringes may not. So, encourage your student to attend that rally during lunch or to attend an interest meeting for the school newspaper. Trying things outside the classroom can help your student feel more a part of campus life.
- Don't expect to see a lot of your student. Chances are that your student has a full plate with school, work and other involvements. So, if your student doesn't come home for dinner, maybe it's because a classmate invited them to the dining hall that night. You may miss your student, but it's important that they're making these campus connections.
- Consider adapting current household rules If your student lives at home, consider collaboratively determining new household rules for them. Adapting rules related to curfew, chores, meals and visitors might afford them more freedom to stay longer on campus to study, catch dinner with a friend or bring a study group home.
- Promote an on-campus job. If your student currently has a job, or is looking for one, you might encourage them to consider an on-campus job. It will ensure regular engagement with staff and students; involve them in the campus communication loop; and create a natural and safe "home" for them on campus.
- Provide a quiet, comfortable study space. College studies require much more time and effort than high school studies ever did. So, your student may be spending several hours of study time for every hour that they are in class—that's what most professors suggest. They'll need time and space to study effectively, without interruptions.
- Suggest that your student connect with another adult on campus. If your student can find an adult mentor, whether it's a coach, advisor, professor or some other campus administrator, she'll feel much more connected to campus.
- Stay involved. Get to know more about the campus where your student is spending a good deal of their time. Read the literature that comes from campus. Show your support and get involved by attending events and activities that are important to them.