Tips & Tricks for College Commuting

Being a commuter student can be tricky and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. We share our best tips for commuters in college.

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College commuting tips and tricks for college commuter students

Have you ever been late to class? I know I have, especially since I commute.

When most people talk about college life, commuter students are often overlooked. Of course, it does depend on your campus – some have more commuters than others. But many students that regularly live on campus even commute from time to time. 

If you commute, you know that it can often be difficult. From unexpected traffic to that one extra hit of the snooze button, so many things can make you late for class!

Whether you travel by bus, car, bike, or some other way, use these tips and tricks to make college commuting easier.

Plan Ahead

  • We all know that picking an outfit can take forever. If you lay out your clothes the night before, you don’t have to worry about figuring things out in a rush. Be sure to check the weather, too!
  • You’re likely to forget planning ahead from time to time, in which case, creating a backup outfit is extremely beneficial. Have at least two go-to ensembles in mind for those busy mornings.
  • Get your books and other things ready in your bag the night before to prevent that last-minute panic when you’re in a time crunch. By keeping your bag together, you’ve got a portion of your college commuting life under control before you even get out of bed in the morning.
  • Always keep your supplies and books in the same places in order to prevent confusion.
  • You can even put your bag and keys together by the door.

Wake Up on Time

Alarm clock - tips for college commuting success and getting up early
  • Learn how to time your sleep! Generally, sleep cycles are about 90 minutes long, and include stages of lighter and deeper sleep. Using a tool like bedtime calculator (or the iPhone’s bedtime suggestion feature) can help you figure out the best time to hit the sheets to wake up refreshed, not groggy. This is my top tip for college commuting success!
  • If you’re a deep sleeper like me, it takes a lot to wake you up. If so, it’s extremely helpful to set multiple alarms.
  • If you still have problems getting out of bed, consider buying an alarm that would force you out of bed, like the Clocky.
  • Make your alarm the most annoying sound ever. You’ll want to turn it off then! This especially works if your alarm clock is across the room, which would force you to get up and turn it off.

Quickly Get Ready

  • Consider showering at night to prevent a rush in the morning.
  • If you wake up and your hair looks dirty, spray on some dry shampoo! This is every college commuting student’s best beauty friend.
  • If you’re getting short on time and can’t spend a ton of time on your makeup, use a quick, multi-use product such as NARS The Multiple along with a tinted moisturizer and mascara.
  • Don’t have much time to style your hair? Try these easy and fast hairstyles. (Also, try searching Pinterest for “easy hairstyle” – tons of good ones there!)

Beat Traffic

  • Check your local traffic before leaving to make sure which roads to avoid. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in an unexpected traffic jam before a test.
  • If you have a smartphone, use an app such as Waze to aid you in finding the quickest and best route.
  • Make sure you also consider the weather. Even rain can interfere with your commute time!
  • Sometimes, it also helps just knowing your driving route, as well as a few extra routes just in case. With bad weather, some roads can be closed for safety concerns, and you might not always have data to Google Maps your way.
  • Alternatively, carpool with friends! This helps reduce the cost of your gas while giving you company, and has the massive benefit of being an environmentally friendly choice.
  • If you don’t have any friends you know need to leave at the same time, try checking Facebook groups to find people to carpool with in your area.

Remember: Safe driving is more important than being on time. Avoid phone calls, texting, and studying while on the road.

Enjoy Your Commute!

Commuter student - tips and tricks for college commuting
  • Podcasts are a college commuter student’s BFF. Don’t waste time flipping through radio stations or scrolling through Instagram (if you take the train). A podcast is a much better choice for spending your time productively and learning something on your commute.
  • There are so many great podcasts to choose from! If you’re interested in complex studies of the law, try out Serial. Or for something lighter, Hello From the Magic Tavern is an improvised comedy.
  • For more ideas, see our lists of the best female-led podcasts and the best podcasts for millennial women.
  • Alternatively, audio books can be a great choice for your commute. Pro tip: Many libraries offer audio books on loan now, so you don’t have to pay for an expensive subscription!

What are your best tips for college commuting?

Are you a commuter? Have you ever had to commute, even for a day? What’s your opinion on commuting? Do you have any tips and tricks to share? I’d love to know!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2012; it was completely updated and revamped in 2019 with new photos and information.

3 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks for College Commuting”

  1. Memorize parking rules around campus and find the “hidden” spots where people don’t think or look to park for those days when class starts in 20 minutes and all the lots are full. Love the SpotAngels community based parking app!

  2. Look into subway or commuter rail as well as buses. MBTA’s commuter rail offers free wifi, and you can purchase your tickets on a cellphone. When you board, just activate the ticket, show the conductor….TA-DA!


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