November 13, 2023 by

If I weren’t a commuter, I probably wouldn’t be at Cedarville. Just a few months before school began, my grandparents selflessly moved to a town nearby so that I could live with them while I attended college. I was beyond thrilled and grateful. At the same time, I and those who knew me were wondering the same question: “Can I still form meaningful friendships even though I won’t be living in Cedarville’s residence halls?” 

And it’s a fair question. Only 6.5% of Cedarville students commute, making us the minority. Additionally, Cedarville highlights residence life as an integral part of its vibrant community, and many adults tell stories of the friendships they formed with their roommates or hallmates in college. 

As I near the halfway point in my college journey, I can testify that finding community as a Cedarville commuter is certainly achievable if you seek it out. If you’re an incoming freshman who’s worried about finding community because you won’t be living in the residence halls, this article is for you. 

Start Where You Are 

At first, it may feel overwhelming to find community amongst over 5,000 students without a roommate by your side. But I encourage you to not miss those God has already placed around you.  

Although I didn’t grow up in Ohio, I came to Cedarville with a few others from my high school who have become such blessings. I also took a two-week summer course at Cedarville the summer before my first year where I met several amazing people that I’m still friends with today.   

Group of students hanging out.

Chances are, you too already know a person, or several people, at Cedarville before your 1000 DaysTM begin. There’s likely a student at Cedarville from your high school, church, sports team, extended family, neighborhood, or camp you attended in middle school. Embrace those connections! Don’t be afraid to reach out, even if you don’t know them super well. These people may become some of your best friends or lead you to some of your best friends. 

Besides connections you make pre-Cedarville, there are several ways Cedarville naturally fosters community apart from residence life if you choose to look around: 

  1. All freshmen are put in a Sting Group during Getting Started Weekend. Here, you will meet a few upperclassmen and several fellow freshmen and do activities with them. Exchange contact information, and consider keeping up with them throughout the school year. 
  2. Classes provide a great opportunity to make connections with classmates! While it can be easy to simply sit down at a desk, listen to a lecture, and then leave, you’re missing the chance to get to know those around you. If they’re in your major, you’ll be seeing them a lot during your time at Cedarville anyway, so get to know them. 
  3. Working a part-time job or two is another great way to make more connections as you get to know your co-workers. Plus, you get to earn spending money and build your resume — wins all around! 

Intentionally Get Involved 

Cedarville has many opportunities for students to get involved and build community outside of the classroom and dorms. Take advantage of them! I recommend getting involved in as many things as your schedule comfortably allows. Not only do you get to have fun, but you also get to build relationships with people who share your interests. Over my past year-and-a-half at Cedarville, I have had the opportunity to get involved in several ways, and I have met some awesome people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  

D-groups are small groups of students with various majors and years. Once a week for the whole school year, d-groups meet to build edifying relationships and study biblical truths. Some weeks, you might play Dutch Blitz or grab ice cream at Mom and Dad’s; other weeks you will discuss a section from a book of the Bible or Christian book. 

Joining an intramural sports team or two is another involvement opportunity I’ve enjoyed. You can sign up as an individual to get placed on a team with others who signed up the same way (what I usually do), or you can get a group of friends together and sign up as a team! Either way, it’s a fun and healthy way to meet new people or further build relationships with people you already know. And it’s not a huge time commitment — most of the teams only take an hour or two out of your week!  

There are also so many student organizations to join! I recommend looking up orgs that interest you and then heading to the involvement fair after the first week of school to learn more about them. There are ministry orgs (like CU Outreach and King’s Kids), orgs that center around a hobby or skill (like the CU Photography Org and All the People choir), academic orgs (like Chemistry Club and Women in Business), and orgs structured similarly to a fraternity/sorority (Like Alpha Chi and Phi Epsilon Beta). Step out of your comfort zone and try something new, or build upon something you already know and love.   

Last year, a new student org was formed specifically for commuters! Joining CU Commute gives you an opportunity to meet other commuters at Cedarville and connect with them. This org intentionally fosters community: you may sit with other commuters in chapel, enjoy dinner around the same table, carve pumpkins at someone’s house, or walk in the annual homecoming parade together. If it’s a snowy day, you can even get advice about the condition of the roads in the group chat. 

Group of students eating at Chuck's.

Last but not least, I encourage you to find a local church to get involved in while you are a student at Cedarville. If you already regularly attend a church in the area, that’s great — don’t stop just because you’re in college. If you haven’t previously committed to a local church near Cedarville, there are a lot of solid churches in the area. Visit a few until you find one you think is a good fit, then commit to it. Talk to the older people in your church and learn from them, and seek to meet a ministry need your church has. God designed the church to give His people edifying relationships as they glorify Him together; lean into God’s design. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Initiate 

As a commuter, you can’t spontaneously have a deep conversation at 1 a.m. with your roommate. Meaningful relationships often take more work and planning, but they are absolutely worth the effort. Recognize this, and intentionally put in the work. 

It’s hard sometimes; I get it. As an introvert, initiating conversations with people I don’t know well is uncomfortable. But I decided that if I’m not expanding my comfort zone, I’m not doing college right. Over time, I have seen initiating conversations pay off and become more enjoyable. 

Here’s the thing. We commuters could sit back and complain about the events we didn’t get invited to and the fact that we can’t live 24/7 with our friends, OR we can plan and invite people to events and enjoy each moment that we do get to spend with our friends. 

We can’t always sit around waiting for people to reach out to us. If we want friends, we have to be one. Remember that other people want friends too, so don’t be afraid to send that initiating text. There’s nothing wrong with doing things by yourself sometimes, but other times, find someone to grab Rinnova with, drive a car-less friend to Chipotle and Walmart, hang out with a group at ALT night, hike at the Indian Mounds with your classmates, study in a friend’s dorm, and hit the gym with a couple buddies. 

Group of students standing by Cedar Lake.

Make the Most of Commuting 

Whether commuting was your first choice or your circumstances forced you into it, you can choose what you’ll do with it. You can focus on the downsides and compare yourself to other students, or you can thank God for what He’s given you and seek to be a good steward of it.  

So soak in the small-town scenery as you drive back and forth, cherish the homemade meals you get, hug that relative who lets you live in their house, be thankful you can have the whole bathroom to yourself when you shower, take your dog on a walk, and enjoy sleeping on a thick mattress in your own room. 

Student with her grandparents.

At the same time, don’t hide behind your homemade meals, familiar faces, and bedroom door. College is really what you make of it, so don’t squander the opportunity to develop Christ-centered relationships and make fun memories with fellow Cedarville students. Eat at Chuck’s sometimes, study in the library, attend a chapel you don’t technically have to as a commuter, and spend the night on a friend’s dorm floor.  

As you make plans to attend Cedarville, don’t worry about struggling to find community or complain about your commuter status. Instead, pray that God leads you to the right people at Cedarville. As you trust God to give you the relationships you need, focus on loving Him and loving others well wherever you are. God is faithful, and community at Cedarville is readily available to commuters who intentionally seek it out. 

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