Having a car at college is a bit of a luxury—particularly when you’re a freshman. But if you’re an upperclassman or a commuter, you probably rely on your car to get you to and from class almost every day.
Having the option to cruise around campus in your own car can give you a sense of freedom, and it’s obviously a lot more convenient. While having your own car at college seems positive in almost every way, there are a few things you should think about before you bring your car on campus. We’ve put together a few tips for you to consider as you’re using your car at school.
1. Make sure you’re clear on the parking requirements and restrictions
Most college campuses have stringent rules on where and when college students can park on campus, as well as how old you have to be or how many credits you have to have a car on campus. Make sure you check in with Campus Security or Parking as soon as possible, so you can find out the requirements. Many campuses require students to have a sticker in the window of their car due to limited parking spots available on campus. However, for larger campuses that are spread out over a city, there may be more specific rules to consider regarding which parking lots you can actually park in, street parking, nighttime parking, etc.
While getting a parking violation on campus might not seem like a big deal, those tickets can really add up over time. Most colleges will also put a boot on your car or even tow it if you’ve received one too many violations. It’s not worth shelling out $700 in fines for parking in the wrong spot or failing to pay for a permit, so do your homework and find out what’s required of you before you start driving about.
2. Look up where you’re going before heading to a new place
While your phone’s GPS is definitely a solid way to get you places, things can get a little more confusing when you’re trying to find a building on a college campus. Oftentimes, buildings aren’t labeled super well, and many campus buildings can look completely void of signs and numbers from the point of view from the driver’s seat.
Do your research ahead of time, so you won’t get lost and end up late to a class or meeting. Look the building up on your college’s website or pull up a bird’s-eye view of it on your computer. Worst-case, you can always email or call your professor or the main line for the building in order to get verbal directions over the phone.
3. Be very aware of pedestrians
College campuses are full of people. Not only are students and professors walking around, but there’s usually a whole slew of campus staff, prospective families, and visitors milling about. You have to watch out for pedestrians no matter where you drive, but it’s especially important to be hyper-aware of them on campus.
Students who are late to class may not watch where they’re going, so keep your eyes peeled for anyone who’s running with a backpack. As a reminder, make sure to slow down in front of crosswalks—even if you don’t immediately see someone—and, of course, stop completely if someone is at the corner, waiting to cross.
4. Don’t use your cell phone while driving
Dear college student: we know it’s hard. It’s super hard to wait to answer that text message or click into Snapchat or double check the weather while you’re cruising around in your Honda Civic. The thing is, it will be way, way harder to be sentenced in court if you hit and kill someone while you’re driving. As sobering as that is to consider, campuses are full of foot traffic, and there are a whole lot of ways you could get in an accident or hurt someone while driving on campus.
Do everyone a favor, and keep your phone in your backpack in the backseat if it’s a temptation for you. Instant responses are not necessary—your life and other people’s lives are.
5. Be careful with borrowing your car out
If you’re one of the few lucky ones who get to have a car on campus—particularly as a freshman—you’ll more than likely have a few people who regularly ask for rides or to borrow your car. Riding with other people to and from class is a great way to meet people and make friends, but be careful about letting just anyone borrow your car. Besides the fact that they could get in a crash and ruin your car, there are other factors to consider, like who is filling the gas tank, where people are parking your car, and care for your vehicle. Cars are expensive, and it’s better to offer to give rides instead of letting people take your car themselves.