Should My College Student Have a Car on Campus?

Deciding Whether to Have a Car On Campus

Cars.  Many of us spend a great deal of our time in them.  Our teenagers can’t wait until they can get their license and gain some independence.  According a U.S. News survey, about half of college students have cars on campus. Depending on the school, up to 98% of students have vehicles on campus.  But do college students need them?

 There are several reasons why many schools are telling their first-year students to leave their cars at home.

  • Lack of Sufficient Parking When there’s a parking shortage, colleges may prefer first-year students to not bring vehicles to campus. It’s na easy ask because of the number of students living on campus.
  • Drinking Students newly experiencing freedom from parent rules may test limits. For instance, some students may drink excessively, which isn’t a good mixer with car travel.
  • Sleepy Driving Students who have access to vehicles may drive to get food late at night. Tired students are more prone to accidents.
  • Encouraging On Campus Activities If students can’t drive, they’re more likely to be active on campus. Students who enjoy campus life are more likely to perform well academically.
  • Cars Reduce Dedication to Studying. Colleges recognize that having a car can provide a distraction from studying.  Keeping students on campus may help them to stay focused on coursework.

No matter what your student’s thinks, you and your student should make a decision together on whether a car is necessary. Use these questions to guide the discussion:

  • Does your student need to take a car to campus as a means of getting back and forth from home (if living at home or in an apartment)?  Are there any alternative means of transportation?
  • Does your student need the car on campus in order to get to an off campus job or internship?
  • Will the car serve as a distraction from studying or from on-campus activities?
  • Is your student prepared for the costs of having a car: gas, repairs, registration, insurance, parking permit.  Will they end up having to work, which takes time away from studying and activities, simply to pay for the car?
  • If your student owns a car, and chooses not to take it to school, can you take the car “off road” and save on insurance money?
  • How will your student feel if they are constantly asked to drive his friends places because they have a car and their friends don’t?
  • Will your student be comfortable loaning his car to his friends? Should they? They will likely ask to borrow it.
  • Does your student always want to be the driver when students go somewhere?  Are they willing to always be the designated driver?  Will they take that responsibility seriously?
  • If your student gets parking tickets on campus, who will be responsible for paying for them?
  • Are there any rules or expectations that you have about the use of the car.  Are they clear to both of you?

For many students, leaving the car at home – for one year, two years, or all four years – is the right decision.  They save money, have less responsibility, stay focused, and get involved.  For other students, having a car on campus may be important or necessary.  The decision about whether or not to take a car to college should be one that is well considered and that you make together.