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General Inquiry: Commuting


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My girlfriend and I are both knee-deep in the application process, and it looks as if we will be relocating from the Midwest to the West Coast for grad school. Her acceptances outnumber mine, and while I am still waiting on some admissions decisions, it looks as though one option that would allow us to live in the same place is for us to attend different schools that are about 70 miles apart.

In this situation, we would live closer to her campus, and I would be taking a commuter train each day to my campus. My trip would be about 90 minutes each way. There are really no livable towns in between our two campuses. Does anybody have experience with commuting this far as a graduate student? I'm torn on whether it is feasible. I am an engineering student with departmental support, so I will eventually have an RA position, and I fear that this living situation might either get me stuck on campus after the last train home for the night, or keep me from doing the best job in classes/research due to a preoccupation with traveling.

For those that commute, does it work out, or does it cause problems when you have to stay on campus late into the night, specifically to complete lab work or critical research tasks? I hope that the train will allow me to get work done during my commute, and thus would be better than driving. I'd appreciate hearing from anybody who has ever been a commuter student.

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I can tell you that several students and professors here commute from a city about an hour away. They just have to be really on top of their time management, and it works out for them.

I'm sure you will get some useful responses here from people with personal experience commuting as students, but it might be even more informative to email anyone you know in your prospective department and see whether there are people there who actually do commute and can tell you about it. My impression is that commuting is different everywhere and in every field.

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I'm in a similar situation. Unless I get a good offer at a school in New York I will have to take the train between my university and my job/SO every day - the trip is about 2 hours, so I guess that I will get a lot of reading done on my way, without too many distractions.

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I agree with socialpsych that you should contact the department. A few other thoughts:

- Most people forget to account for the time spent traveling to the station, waiting for the train, and traveling from the station to school. If you haven't done this, your commute may be considerably longer.

- You might not always be able to get a seat on the train, which of course makes it more difficult (if not impossible) to read and do work. Find out how crowded the trains get during peak periods.

- If you do decide to commute, your university may offer discounted rail passes.

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