I took my seat at a round table, decked out with yellow and blue balloons. Sprinkled confetti was everywhere, and loud music was blasting from the front stage. It was the mandatory freshman sleep away weekend, and I was sitting at a table by myself. I felt awkward and out of place.
So I was thankful when a girl sat down next to me a few minutes later. We got into discussion, going back and forth about the usual: names, ages, hometowns etc. We couldn’t believe we would be sharing a room that night. When the orientation came to a close, we looked around in wonder at the dorm room. But it was then that I heard those fateful words, “I actually will not be living on campus! I am going to be commuting…but you are so lucky!”
Was I lucky? Now, I was pretty bummed out by the idea. My first year of college would have been easier if I had someone I knew to dorm with, or at least live on the same floor with! But, I figured, there is an entire campus of people; I would be quite all right. Of course, I had no idea at the time that my university is very much a commuter school. And attending a commuter school is definitely not the easiest place to make friends.
But that does not mean you should not attend a commuter school. No matter how hard it may seem to be, there are always ways to make friends at a commuter school. You do have to push yourself out there. Find the students who could be your friends, whether they are commuters or not!
I have to admit it was definitely a lot harder at first. I did not have many friends in the first month or two of my freshman year, so I stayed in my room a lot more than I should have. As time passed, I settled into a routine and became more comfortable with the campus and my classes. I could have used some friends though, but it was hard to make friends in a commuter school.
A school with majority, or even 50%, commuter students means that you may see some students once only. You may bump into some students while standing in line at the cafeteria, but you may never see them again. You may find yourself connecting with students in one of your classes, but see them once or twice a week as they go home.
The RA connection
But all is not lost. If you want to make friends, you should take part in events organized by your resident advisor (RA)! My RA held events almost three times a month. The events ranged from holiday-themed parties to movies with students from your floor. There were many events, and I ended up meeting my best friends during these events. The best part is that my best friends live on the same floor, which makes it easy to hang out. All I had to do was knock on the door next to mine!
RAs are not the only ones who organize events. The student affairs department in my school also organized many events. You should take hold of these opportunities as well! Not only do they usually have free food, or free fun and games, but there are usually boatloads of students there. The events held on campus are a great way to meet students from all grades.
Connect in class
Classes are another way to connect with people. I met one of my best friends in one of my lecture halls. She was an off-campus student who is now at another school, but I still keep in touch with her. Keep in mind also that most students choose their elective class for likely the same reason you did – their interest in the subject matter. You have that in common, so it should be easier to begin a conversation with them.
Connect with commuter students
I also came to appreciate at some point that it is as hard, if not harder, for commuter students to make friends. Commuter students leave the school after classes, so they don’t even have time to hang out. I’m sure they too are looking for friends. So you could make friends with them if you extend yourself and are friendly.
The bottom line
All in all, making friends at a commuter school may be harder, but not impossible. You need to make the effort: go out, find other students, and make friends. A great way to make friends, whether you are in a commuter school or not, is to start small and build up. I first attended the events held by my RA to build up my confidence to make friends with even more people. I also didn’t limit myself to on-campus student friends. While it is easier if friends live nearby, how close you are to a friend is more important. After all, many commuter students drive so they could meet up with you. It would also be fun to take a road trip to where they live.
Ana Bishop is a college student in New York City studying Communications and Film.