As a high school junior, I knew what career field I wanted to pursue but the university I wanted to attend was still in question. I didn’t know if I wanted to be close or far from home, in a city or the country, I was confused and frustrated. During the first half of my senior year, I applied to schools all over the country and then three months later, I received amazing news. I was accepted into Temple University, my dream school.
My mind was set, I loved the Philadelphia area and I thought the main campus was a fit. On March 20, 2016, my father lost his job and my family was devastated. My father tried his hardest to make going away to college a possibility but revealed it wasn’t a smart financial decision. During the summer of 2016, I decided to stay local and attended a university that has shaped my professional endeavors, Montclair State University. Many people correlate staying home or off-campus to saving money but there so much more that you learn along the way.
Here are the lessons I learned being a college commuter that made me a stronger young professional:
- Early Bird Gets the Worm
Since my freshman year, I depended on public transportation to get to school. This means I had to wake up 2-3 hours before class to arrive on campus on time. This takes commitment and serious time management. What I realized through my internship experiences, the earlier you arrive or prepare for your workday the more productive you will be (at least in my field of public relations and marketing.) If you arrive early and organize your thoughts and goals for the day you will have a clear mind and your team will be impressed 🙂
2. Use Your Free Time Productively
In my experience, the train schedule determined my school schedule, but I had lots of free time in between classes and train rides. One valuable lesson I learned is it’s useful to use your gaps in between classes and train rides to help advance your professional and personal life. Most of the research I conducted about internship opportunities and networking events were in random break rooms. Next time you’re waiting for your train/bus, take some time to brainstorm and send a LinkedIn message to someone you want to connect with.
3. Always Have a Backup Plan
As a commuter, I have dealt with a great deal of canceled and delayed trains and buses. Like anything in life, things tend to change quickly especially in the workplace. You mustn’t mimic a dear in headlights, I learned to think quickly on my feet. I think all college students learn along their journey that not everything happens the way you want it to but everything does happen for a reason.
Beside the lessons I learned above, being a commuter showed me it’s essential to make the most out of your college experience, as a commuter or someone that dorms. The amount of responsibility and time management skills I’ve gained during these past four years will benefit my developing career in ways beyond thought. If you’re a current commuter or plan to be in the future, begin your journey with an open mind and you’ll also see the lessons you’ll learn along the way.