The transition from high school to college can be a difficult one, but when you’re commuting from the house you grew up in and not living in the dorms, feeling like you belong can be even harder.
A 2007 study in the College Student Journal found that 65 percent of students who lived off campus were involved in campus activities, compared to 93 percent of those who lived in resident halls. According to 2010 research from California State Sacramento, those who were less involved on campus were more likely to drop out of school.
David Husch, Binghamton University’s director of Off Campus College, was a local commuter himself when he attended SUNY Fredonia and is interested in creating a more welcoming environment for BU students in the same position.
“We want to make [local commuter students] feel at home, as much as students who live on campus,” Husch said.
According to Husch, there are anywhere from 600 to 800 local commuter students any given year, but because there is no formal network it may feel like fewer.
While he admits that his initiatives are a work in progress, the first step was establishing a lounge for local students last year — located in the New University Union behind M&T Bank.
“Our goal was to create a place students could go while they’re at school,” Husch explained.
The lounge provides coffee, a refrigerator and a place to relax or study for students who grew up in the area and Husch hopes both commuters and those who live on campus utilize the space to allow them to meet new people.
Husch would also like to implement a mentoring program and create a special listserv for local commuters within the next few years.
Though Husch makes a point of approaching local commuters at summer orientation, he said it doesn’t account for the large number of students who transfer from Broome Community College.
Jena Dean, a senior in the Decker School of Nursing from Vestal, transferred from BCC last year.
While she felt the transition was not a shock, she said she wasn’t interested in becoming involved in the “typical BU experience,” going to fraternity parties and frequenting State Street.
“I don’t feel like it’s something I want to be involved in,” Dean explained.
While she is a member of the Nursing Student Association on campus, she said she spends most of her weekends hanging out with her family and her boyfriend.
“As most nursing students know, we don’t have a lot of extra time,” she said.
Talia Orband, a junior double-majoring in sociology and human development, grew up in Endwell and attended Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton. She came to BU her freshman year and decided to live on campus instead of commuting.
“I just wanted the college experience,” Orband explained.
She joined the cheer team freshman year and is currently a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority. According to Orband, she knew a few classmates from high school that decided to commute instead of live on campus.
“They still hang out with the same group of people from high school. I know one girl who transferred out,” Orband said. “It’s definitely harder [to not live on campus]. I would’ve hated Binghamton if I commuted.”
Liz Bucci, a senior majoring in anthropology, grew up in Binghamton and attended BCC for two years before transferring to BU.
Bucci, who is graduating in January, said that being a transfer might have hindered her decision to become involved. Looking back, Bucci admitted that she may not have made the right choice.
“Since I was a transfer student, I unfortunately didn’t get involved in any student groups. I started an internship last spring with the Media and Public relations office here at BU and since then I have covered many events and different organizations,” Bucci said. “I do regret not being as involved as I could have been.”