Surviving Elmhurst College as a commuter

Signs display parking available to Elmhurst College students at St. Peter’s Church in Elmhurst. (Photo by Stefan Carlson)

As a commuter, you may feel as if you lose out on the college experience because you don’t live on campus. Here are a few tips on how to experience college commuter style!


Parking at Elmhurst is all about timing. If you will be arriving on campus any time between 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., be sure to give yourself at least 15-30 minutes to find parking. Peak hours for parking are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30-4:00 p.m. If you have a class during these times, you should arrive at least 20 minutes before your class starts.

Also, the remote parking lot by St. Peter’s Church on Church Rd. is the hidden jewel of parking at Elmhurst College. No one ever uses it, but it is closer to a lot of places on campus than the lots by the tennis courts and the railroad tracks, both of which always fill up during peak times. The only downside to these spaces is that you can only use them on school days from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Pro Tip: When waiting for a car to pull out of a parking spot, put your turn signal on to “claim” your spot and prevent another driver from stealing it.


Commuter students have the option of signing up for a locker in the Frick Center. The lockers are free provided you bring your own lock. Otherwise, you must pay a $5 lock rental fee.

Some might argue that it’s easier to leave your stuff in your car, but having a locker gives you a safe place to store a spare jacket, books, or a laptop in the center of campus. Locker registration begins on Aug. 29 at 8:00 a.m. at the information desk in Founders.

Pro Tip: Lockers are great for storing snacks, such as trail mix, Nutri-Grain bars, and Cheetos. If you’re still unsure about whether to get a locker or not, look at it this way: you can go without a locker and snack on the $1, 2 oz. bag of Cheetos from the vending machines, or you can get a locker and snack on the $4, 17.5 oz. bag of Cheetos from Target. The choice is yours.


Commuter students have a lot of options when it comes to food. Starting this year, Elmhurst will have a meal plan option for commuters. They are called “Convenience Plans,” and are smaller and less expensive than the regular meal plans. So, if you wish to have the full college experience complete with crummy and expensive cafeteria food, then this is a great option for you.

If this is not your forte, there are lots of great restaurants a short walk away in downtown Elmhurst. Although not as convenient as the cafeteria, these restaurants offer better food than the café at about the same price.

The most cost-conscious option is to bring a lunch from home. This does however require you to prepare your own meal, unless you have a really sweet mom who makes great sack lunches.

There are three refrigerators and microwaves on campus where commuters can store and heat up food. They are located in the student lounge in Schaible, in the Niebuhr Center, and in the Chaplain’s Office. If you decide to take advantage of this, be sure to clearly mark your food so no one else eats it.

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for events with free food! Why buy food when you don’t have to?

Lounge/Hangout Spaces

Residents can always go back to relax in their rooms during breaks, but commuters do not have that option, unless your house is a five minute walk from campus. Where you should go depends on what you want to do.

For example, if you want to hang out with some friends or meet new people, then Founder’s Lounge and the Roost are great places to go. If, however, you are just looking for a nice quiet place to watch Netflix, most of the buildings on campus have small, quiet, student lounge areas.

Irion is the one exception — its lounge areas tend to be more crowded. The library is also a great place to hang out, whether you want quiet time or time with friends.

It is also a good idea to get off campus during a class break. There’s more to life than just school! If the weather is nice, take a stroll through Wilder Park or go visit the Elmhurst Art Museum. The Elmhurst Public Library and downtown Elmhurst are great places to explore as well (see “Things to Do Around Elmhurst on a Budget on pg. 21).

Pro Tip: During protected hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, head to the Frick Center. You will usually find something going on, as a lot of student organizations like to host events during that time.


After pulling an all-nighter trying to finish the paper you should have written two weeks ago, you will need more than just coffee to make it through your day. Sleep is both necessary and feasible at Elmhurst! There are few places to nap on campus, such as:

1. The library; 2 Founders, when it’s not crowded; 3. The benches in Irion Hall; 4. The mall, when it’s nice out; and 5. The chapel’s padded pews.

Pro Tip: You can try to nap in your car, but it would probably be safer and more comfortable to sleep somewhere else.