Navigating the Commuting Experience at York College
Commuters make up about one-third of York College’s undergraduate students. There are specific resources available to them, but some students are not familiar with all that the College has to offer. Two current commuter students, faculty, and staff talk about commuting experiences, as well as the resources commuter students can take advantage of.
Sarah Noel ’24 has been a commuter throughout her entire college career, and she will continue to be one until graduation in May 2024.
The senior Biology major, who is from York, PA, enjoys the opportunities commuting affords her. She gets to go home every night and see her dog and cook her own meals, for example.
“Being a commuter has also given me the opportunity to continue working at my previous jobs,” she adds.
In addition to her coursework, she’s involved with the Excel dance team, and will serve as captain this year.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 5 years old and competing since I was 13. This gives me an opportunity to meet other people and make friends, since I don’t live on campus,” Sarah says.
Despite enjoying commuting, there are a few challenges she faces. One of the biggest ones is parking, she says.
“My advice is to get there way earlier than your scheduled class time to find a good parking spot. Sometimes you have to park farther, and it takes longer to get in and out of the parking areas.”
She also wishes other students understood that it’s not as easy for her to meet up after class or later at night.
“I usually leave after I’m done with class. It’s a struggle sometimes going back and forth multiple times a day,” she explains.
Megan Holtzinger ’26 is no stranger to getting involved.
The sophomore Supply Chain Operations Management major, who is from Hampton, PA, is also a commuter student. She planned to join a few clubs and organizations once she started at York, but instead, she’s become completely “immersed” in the Spartan lifestyle and experience.
“I am currently an Eisenhart Scholar*, a Project Coordinator for the Spartan Volunteer Network, a Student Representative for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, a First-Year Seminar Fellow, a Student Ambassador, an Orientation Leader, Secretary of our Club Volleyball team, and Vice President of our Club Softball team...somehow this list just keeps on growing!” she says. “I am in the process of joining our YCP Student Senate as well as YCP's Association for Supply Chain Management Chapter for this upcoming fall and cannot wait to see what other opportunities present themselves as I navigate these next few years of college.”
For Megan, becoming involved in so many activities as a commuter has given her the ability to meet the many different kinds of student who attend YCP.
“I would say that as a commuter student, joining a wide variety of clubs and organizations, both of academic and athletic roots, has allowed me to integrate myself within a diverse population of students, making the distinction between commuter and resident student on campus almost indistinguishable, because we interact with one another both in and outside of the classroom, at all hours of the day,” she explains. “These clubs and organizations have allowed me to build on my communication and teambuilding skills, have opened other doors for different opportunities, and overall have given me countless memories and friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Megan has also been a commuter for her entire YCP experience and plans on commuting to campus for the remainder of her academic career. Her favorite thing about commuting, she says, is getting to show resident students the local community.
“One thing I enjoy about being a commuter is the ability to "adopt" many of the resident students who are not from the area but wish to learn more about it,” she says. “I love being able to immerse these students in the "York lifestyle" by exposing them to many of our unique downtown locations and unveiling the hidden gems York has to offer that perhaps they may have otherwise not known about.”
Like Sarah, travel to and from campus has been a challenge Megan has faced and has had to learn to navigate.
“One challenge I faced this past year was learning how to properly manage my time in terms of travel, to ensure I would not be late to class,” she explains. “As a commuter, so many unforeseen events can occur, whether it be traffic, construction, or other weather-related issues that can inhibit a student’s ability to get to class on time. While completely out of my control, this was a great way for me to learn time management and problem-solving skills.”
Overall, Megan does not perceive a huge difference between commuter and resident student populations. There are plenty of opportunities for all students to become involved and be successful, she says.
“Although we have a 70% residential population, once you are on campus it becomes hard to distinguish who lives on campus and who commutes. These two groups of students seamlessly blend together and create a community of accepting and supportive students,” she adds. “Commuters have the same opportunities to become involved and be successful as residential students do!”
Tips for commuters
The best way for any student —but especially commuters — to find their place on campus is to become involved, according to Associate Director of Student Activities and Orientation and Commuter Relations Tamah Amrom.
“As with any student, the number one recommendation is to find ways to get involved on campus. Having a sense of belonging greatly impacts a student’s overall experience and opens up an immense amount of opportunities,” she explains. “Plan to spend time on campus beyond your scheduled class times. You will need to build in time for group projects and socializing. There are many things to do in the evenings and on the weekends. All of these add to the college experience.”
In addition to becoming involved, there are several events currently being planned by the Office of Student Activities and Orientation (OSAO) to specifically celebrate commuter students.
“We have planned several events each month with our commuters in mind. These will be located in heavily trafficked areas and during the daytime hours with the goal of encouraging commuters to take advantage of campus opportunities.” Amrom says. “So far this year, we have hosted Stuff-a-Critter, Kid-for-a-Day, and Sidewalk Chalk Art. Coming up, we have more craft activities and relaxation events such as Terreraphy (DIY terrariums), and more!”
“In the lower level of the Student Union, there is a dedicated lounge area for commuter students. This is conveniently placed next to Spart’s Den, allowing students the opportunity to kick back and relax or grab a snack instead of going home between classes,” Megan says. “By encouraging commuter students to stay on campus, it becomes even easier for them to become involved in different clubs and organizations as well.”
For the first time, there’s also a section of this fall’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) specifically for commuter students.
Myra Toms, Undeclared Academic Advisor and FYS faculty member, is teaching the course. Toms’ goal for the course, Spartan Strong: Commuter Edition, is “to add another layer of support for our YCP commuter students and to help them navigate their first semester of college considering their unique experience as a commuter,” she says.
Students will spend the semester analyzing research conducted on commuter college students, reflecting on how that research might apply to their own experiences, and developing a strong sense of community among their commuting peers, according to Toms.
“I hope the students leave our class with the confidence and knowledge needed to become an integral part of the YCP community, to be successful college students, and to feel like they belong and are an important part of the YCP community,” she adds. She hopes they take away from the course “resources and opportunities on campus, career-readiness skills, a sense of belonging, critical thinking skills, and an overall excitement about being part of the YCP community.”
*York College works with Presidential Research Fellows and the entire Honors Community From Day One to help them form their dreams into a personal mission, which is supported with financial and other assistance. They leave York College with a record of achievement that will gain the attention of employers, graduate schools, or others who provide entry into the next step in the extraordinary lives they imagine for themselves.