#CommuterProblems: What to Wear as a Commuter College Student

For the off-campus student who needs a little help.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you purchase through our links. Please read our full disclosure here.

woman driving car

When I started applying to colleges my senior year of high school, the thing that got me through all the stress were visions of freedom— living on my own terms, far from home, having nobody’s rules except my own (and maybe my potential RA), and being completely immersed in THE college experience. I was completely ready to experience a whole new world outside the bubble of my hometown.

Here’s what actually ended up happening: of the five schools I applied to, I received an acceptance letter from only one— Rutgers University-New Brunswick, a great school, but a school that I already lived 5 minutes away from. I was excited, but my dreams of going away from home were gone— as much as I could have had the opportunity to live on-campus, it was cheaper if I commuted to school instead.

Let’s be real here. Very few popular movies or TV shows focused on college students ever focus on commuters. If your entire perspective of college was influenced solely by the media, you probably wouldn’t even know commuters exist, when in fact commuters make up almost 86 percent of college and university students. My own school, despite being made up largely of commuters from the surrounding area, prioritizes the needs of residential students first.

In the past, CF has covered how to make friends as a commuter and some basic tips for commuting, but now we’re starting a column where we discuss a new commuter issue every month.

This month, we’re talking about a problem that seems simple enough to solve, but is actually a skill that might take a while to master: what to wear.

Getting Dressed: What to Think About

Girl standing in front of a train.

You were probably expecting a pre-made outfit, but the truth is, I can’t tell you what exactly you should be wearing. Everyone’s school is different, and often, so is the environment. Some people live a little further from campus, some live closer.

What I CAN tell you is what you should be taking into consideration when you choose what to wear every day, whether you are someone who likes to plan ahead or someone who chooses pieces on a whim. 

  • Know the weather forecast in your school’s area for that day and dress appropriately. 
  • That being said, keep in mind the kind of transportation you use to get to school. If you take a train or bus and know you’ll be waiting in cold weather for a long time, you might want to bundle up. On the other hand, you might not like feeling too restricted if you drive. 
  • If you’re prone to rushing before your commute, pick pieces that are easy to put on quickly and don’t require too much effort and time.
  • How much walking is involved? Is it a long walk from the parking lot/train station/bus stop to your classroom building? It seems like a trivial question to ask, but it’s important—if it’s hot out, but you wore a couple layers because one of your classroom buildings is cold, you might end up regretting it once you’re soaked in sweat.
  • How long will you be on campus for? If you plan on studying long after your classes end or staying the night with a friend, it helps to bring extra clothes. And if you have a shorter day, you might not need to have on more than the basics if you’re going straight home (or straight to work).
  • With that also being said, if you know the long treks will hurt your feet, plan your footwear accordingly as well. That also goes along with dressing for the weather. Too many times I’ve made the mistake of wearing woven-fabric athletic sneakers on a rainy day and ended up with soggy feet.
  • Above all, pick clothes that are comfortable. Trends and looking good don’t always matter (although it’s very possible to be both cute and comfy!). The classic collegiate crewneck-jeans-boots combination is pretty hard to beat, and on days when you’re really bumming it (I’m looking at you, midterms and finals week), a hoodie and leggings are nothing to be ashamed of!

What Do You Think?

Are you a commuter? Do you agree with these tips or have anything to add? What would you like to see me cover next? Let me know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “#CommuterProblems: What to Wear as a Commuter College Student”

  1. I have learned the hard way that when you’re dealing with rain/snow/slush, especially if you’re on the bus, you sometimes have to go with semi-cute waterproof boots for the commute and change when you get there. Last year, I bought a pair of black “chore boots” from Walmart for about $20. They’re waterproof and have non-slip soles and if you don’t look too closely could be mistaken for Tretorns at six times the price. They look cute with jeans or dresses.


Leave a Comment