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How far is too far to commute to college as a Freshman?

thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
S20 and I visited San Francisco State yesterday and he is definitely interested in applying there in the fall. We live in Concord, CA which is over in the far East Bay Area about 40-50 miles from the school. It is a commuter campus where only about 10% of Freshman live on campus and the room and board is crazy expensive at about $14-15K yearly.

My husband is pretty adamant that if S chooses to go there, he should commute to save us money (we will mostly be paying from current income and a small savings amount). I understand his thinking, and although I would love for S to have the stay-at-school experience, if he does choose SFSU, it doesn't seem to make sense to pay so much for room and board when we are relatively close to the campus.

We do have a train (BART) that runs from our home town to SF and then they have a school shuttle that goes from the station to the campus. It would take about 1.5 to 2 hours to get there and the same home again. I have done this same commute when I was working in SF and it is very draining. Of course, he could use the train time to study (he should get a seat based on where he would board on each end).

So how far is too far?
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Replies to: How far is too far to commute to college as a Freshman?

  • Racingfan53Racingfan53 157 replies8 threads Junior Member
    My brother commutes (bike to bus station, bus to college). Takes him about 1 hour each way I think
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  • GumbymomGumbymom Forum Champion UC 30674 replies438 threads Forum Champion
    I agree more than 1 hour each way is too far to commute for school.

    Room and Board at all the Cal States and UC's are around the same costs $14-15K/year so if he is applying to other schools outside your local area, are you willing to pay for him to live on-campus at these other schools? If so, then I would encourage you to let him live on-campus at SFSU.
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  • Racingfan53Racingfan53 157 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Might want to mention that my brother does not live at home, but with a relative in the area (about 45 minutes from our house.) Do you have friends or family in the area that will host a commuter student in exchange for help around the house?
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 1592 replies28 threads Senior Member
    Anywhere else we’ve lived that would be an insane commute to me, but that seemed about the norm when we lived in the east bay. That commute was absolutely killer to my husband though. He hated it every day for three years. I would say that it would completely detract from the entire college experience. If the choice were a different college with a dorm room or this one with a commute, this school would come off the list.
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  • RiversiderRiversider 934 replies111 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    Keeping commute under 5 hours and having bus or train as an option makes lives much easier. It gives students desired independence yet it’s not too time consuming or expensive for parents of students to make trips whenever needed. It’s specially helpful when hauling stuff home at beginning and end of each year. It’s helpful in emergencies or just possible to commute for a long weekend, illness, emergency or birthday etc.
    edited June 2019
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @Gumbymom he is looking at some other Cal states, but they have less expensive room and board (Humboldt comes in at around $9K and Sonoma State at around $11K). UC Merced is on his list which has the pricey room and board, but looks like we might get enough grant aid there to bring it under the cost of SFSU. He's also looking at University of Nevada, Reno where he can get WUE tuition and the housing costs are cheaper.

    I guess we'll wait to see where he is accepted and where he really sees himself, and then we'll go from there. He is not opposed to taking out some of the student federal loans to help make up any cost differences.
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @Racingfan53 no friends or relatives that live closer unfortunately.
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  • RiversiderRiversider 934 replies111 threads Senior Member
    For daily commute, it shouldn’t be more than an hour each way.
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @milgymfam it is very true that commutes here in the Bay Area are insane and just expected. We are fairly immune to them. If S really wants SFSU, then we will likely find a way to pay for the dorm Freshman year and then maybe try to get him off campus housing with a bunch of other students after that which could be cheaper.

    Our tour guide yesterday said he lived off campus with 5 other students. They pay $4K a month for a 2 bedroom apartment close to campus (3 people per bedroom)...yikes! No wonder my husband is always wanting us to move out of state...lol.
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  • MjkacmomMjkacmom 99 replies0 threads Junior Member
    That seems far, and lots of people where I live have commutes to their jobs over an hour (outside NYC). Dd’s room and board at her public college was $13,000, her brother’s was $14,000, they both moved off campus junior year. Dd’s college was 45 minutes away, ds’s was 1 1/4 hours. Dd commuted from home for a semester finishing up her masters, she hated it. It’s not like classes are one right after the next. Plus, what about a social life? HS friends are gone, and who want to drive back and forth that long just to hang out, since most of the commuters will be more local.
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  • STEM2017STEM2017 4117 replies97 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    OP, if he's interested, make sure your S looks into an RA position. They are usually super competitive, but it's worth a look if he has the personality.
    edited June 2019
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  • hgtvaddicthgtvaddict 139 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited June 2019
    I commuted 1 and 1/2 hours to college each way as a student. It stunk. It resulted in me not feeling connected to the school at all, although the school itself is considered a "fun" school. So the whole point of going the the "fun" school was lost for me. If your son is going to live at home, why not try Diablo Valley College for 2 years and then transfer to SFSU? He could be super-involved at DVC if he wanted to, which might be even more fulfilling than being a freshman commuter student to SFSU. Has he seen Sonoma State? Rents are a little bit cheaper in Rohnert Park. What is his anticipated major?
    edited June 2019
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30448 replies59 threads Senior Member
    Many people in NY suburbs commute an hour and half a day each way. Thats the norm here. My normal. Gotta drive to train station, park car, take train. From Grand Central, walk to subway station, take subway down town. Walk from subway to office. Then work a full day and do the reverse. Cost is about $400 amonth to do. Monthly train pass, metro pass, parking at train station cost.
    So, for school, I think it would work. He canfind a job to stay there all day, try to go there no more than 3 days a week.
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  • readthetealeavesreadthetealeaves 781 replies14 threads Member
    @thedreamydaisy - I agree that seems too long a commute to me as well. The bay area traffic is nuts and who knows what it will really be with accidents, events etc. His social life will be nil at school as well as home. Anyone commuting that far in intense conditions will just want to go home and rest. I think his true studying will be cut down as well. Who wants to study right when you arrive after being in bumper to bumper traffic. He'll do it and then may end up hating it. You don't want him to hate college from the get go or worse yet drop out. Scheduling classes that are close together at many Cal States is difficult so his day will be stretched. Even if he takes the train shuttle it is still eating four hours a day (though he can rest and study). The train (BART) would be the only way I would have him commute to decrease the stress level for him. People do it but lots of sacrifices are made in other areas and often they don't like it. If he likes a school where he can live affordably that may be a better option
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 823 replies30 threads Member
    That sounds like a miserable way to attend college. I wouldn't want it for my kids.
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @hgtvaddict thanks for the feedback on your experience! We are going to see Sonoma State this Friday. Housing is definitely cheaper there so I hope he likes it also. He is open to DVC if he doesn't find a fit elsewhere. Undecided on major at this point but likely Communications or Business.
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @collegemom9 I agree, although it is an unfortunate reality for many students who come from families that cannot afford their EFCs.
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  • RiversiderRiversider 934 replies111 threads Senior Member
    It’s making his life tougher than it needs to be. If he takes a heavy load and wants to graduate on time and stay involved at college, he’ll burn out in one semester.
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