Not everyone decides to live on campus when they head to college, and you don't need to in order to get the full college experience. However, some students who commute can find it hard to stay connected and find things going on.
"I would say there's two ways to be involved, like a student organization, particularly in their major or in their area of interest, or to just come to activities and events," says Jean Ann Miller, director of the Center for Student Activities and Leadership Development at Oakland University, where approximately 84 percent of students commute.
Miller warns students not to get in the routine of driving to school, going to class, and going back to their car. Extracurricular experiences give students an opportunity to better themselves, as well as communication and leadership skills, which will be useful when they market themselves for an internship or job.
Here are just a few ideas of how to get the full college experience, even if you are a commuter:
Go to welcome week events
Start out the year by attending welcome week, typically held the first week that students are back on campus before classes start. U-M has a "Go Blue Mix!" at Michigan Stadium, and MSU has their annual "U-Fest" with activities at the Union. Henry Ford College hosts their "Welcome Back Days!" with live music, while U-M-Dearborn offers free ice cream with their "Welcome Back With SAB" event. Make sure to check your college or university's calendar for more events.
Join a fraternity or sorority
Just because you don't live on campus doesn't mean you can't join in on Greek Life. Rush week is one of the biggest events on college campuses at the start of each semester. If you are looking to make lifelong friends, join a sorority or fraternity. They have events year-round so you will never feel like you are missing out on anything.
Join a club
One of the best ways to join a club at any college around Michigan is to attend the club fair at the beginning of the year.
"For our returning students we have this thing called Grizzfest," Miller says. "Grizzfest is student organizations, businesses, volunteer opportunities within the local community where they can come, have fun, and meet and greet their peers, meet and greet people in different departments, to find out what is available to them on campus."
"Sparticipation" at Michigan State and "Festifall" at Wayne State University are similar events that offer students a chance to join any club or organization on campus. Once you find a club you want to join, go to events and meetings to stay involved.
Join an intramural sport team
Intramural sports are really popular for people who want to continue doing what they love, but at a more laid-back pace than a varsity team. (Plus, it's a great way to stay in shape.) A lot of colleges offer a wide variety of sports from basketball to sand volleyball and ultimate Frisbee.
Find a job on campus
Most colleges and universities offer jobs on campus to students that work around your class schedule — plus, your coworkers could become your closest friends.
Talk to people in your classes
You sit next to new people in your classes every day, so why not introduce yourself? This is one of the easiest ways to make friends, and definitely a great way to meet people around campus. Maybe you'll even meet a fellow commuter. Ask them to grab a coffee or to go to the library to study for an exam coming up.
Join Facebook groups
If you don't see anything interesting on your college's website, look no further than social media. Check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see what events are coming up. Plenty of college campuses have social media accounts that let their students know what is available to them. From fun social events to job fairs and events specific to your major, you can always find something to attend.
Go to sporting events
If you love sports, why not go support your college team? Even if your college doesn't have a football team (or they aren't very good), other sporting events such as volleyball, basketball, or soccer games are also fun to attend. Take a risk and go by yourself — it's a great way to meet new people because you will have at least one thing in common with whoever you sit next to.
Emily Lovasz is an editorial intern at Metro Times.