Pros and Cons of Having a Car on Campus During Your Freshman Year

Car on Campus

As college drew nearer, I had visions of throwing all my belongings into the back of my Toyota Tacoma and driving off into adulthood. My parents had another idea—leaving the truck at home.

They said that not having a car on campus would save me time, money, and the occasional headache. It would allow me to focus on adjusting to university life and spending my weekends around the school. This turned out to be pretty solid advice, but the right decision for me won’t necessarily be the right choice for you. You need to weigh the pros and cons to determine what’s best.

First, though, you need to find out your school’s car policy. Some schools discourage students from having cars on campus. Others, such as Georgetown University, don’t even allow on-campus parking.

Northern California’s Santa Clara University, as another example, bars first-year students who live on campus from bringing their wheels with them. The school explains that keeping freshman on their feet makes them more involved in on-campus activities, and it also reserves parking space for upperclassmen.

Then again, many colleges do encourage you to bring your car. In fact, 48% of students have a car on campus, according to a 2016 survey from U.S. News & World Report. And at 14 of the 215 schools surveyed, at least 90% of students have a car.

If your school allows you to bring a car to campus, weigh these three cons first.

1. You’d Have to Pay Auto Insurance Premiums

The simple fact is that if you bring your car to college, you’ll need to insure it. Most of us know that student car insurance can be costly. Leaving your car in the driveway at home, however, could save you or your family some money.

If you’re included on your family’s insurance coverage, your parents could drop you to an “occasional” driver on the policy. That would decrease the policy’s monthly premiums. Ask your insurer about its “resident student” discount or a “student away at school” discount. There might be a 100-mile minimum requirement for the distance between your permanent address (your home) and your school to qualify.

If you have individual insurance coverage and decide to leave your car at home, you could pause or reduce your coverage. Canceling your plan would create a gap in coverage, though, potentially raising your future premiums.

2. You’d Be Footing the Bill for Parking Costs

Having a car on campus means having to park it on or near campus. There are two ways this can become costly: parking passes and parking tickets.

Even if you live off campus, you may still have to buy a pass to park on campus. It might not be cheap either. Parking permits at University of California Santa Cruz, for example, can set you back $583 per year.

Short of buying a pass, you might be tempted to break parking regulations on campus—and you’re not alone there. The average college student receives two parking tickets per year, according to Best Value Schools.

Your school’s parking enforcement might charge lower fines than your city’s police department. They’re $25 across the board at SUNY Cortland, for example. But still, the charges could pile up if you’re not careful.

Research your school’s policies and costs. There’s a wide range of possibilities. Consider New Jersey schools as an example. Rutgers University issues 5.5 tickets per driver, William Paterson University distributes 0.12, and Princeton University doesn’t ticket drivers at all, according to MyCentralJersey.com’s research.

3. You May End Up Being Your Friends’ Chauffeur

Almost 30% of millennials say affording rent and other necessities is among their top sources of money stress. And cars can bring more than their share of money troubles. Insurance, parking, gas, maintenance, emissions checks, and more are all part of car ownership and use.

But there are more cons than those that hit your wallet. If you’re a freshman driving, having a car could help you make friends, but ask yourself if you want to be the driver each time you go off campus in a group. You might rather be the one asking for occasional rides.

But a car can do worse things than cramp your style—it can put you in an unsafe situation. If you have a car, and you drive to bars with friends, you run the risk of getting behind the wheel after drinking too much. It might not always be cheaper to take public transportation or reserve an Uber, but it’s much safer.

If these cons don’t sway you, then know there are some advantages to having a car in college.

1. It’s the Best Form of Transportation Available

If your school has a sprawling campus or satellite campuses, driving from class to class might be less of a luxury and more of a necessity. There are other possible reasons for needing a car

  • You need to commute regularly for an off-campus job or internship.
  • There is no viable bus, train, or similar option to get you where you need to go.
  • The distance between your residence and classes is too far to bike.

If you decide that having a car on campus is worth the trouble, consider creating a carpool to make it worth your while. You could find classmates who live in your dorm and offer rides in exchange for something else.

2. You Can Work Your Wheels into Your Side Hustle

Having a car on campus affects your wallet in negative ways, like with insurance and parking—but it can also make you money. Some of the best side hustles require a car.

Consider one or more of the following:

  • Be a rideshare driver for a company like Uber and Lyft.
  • Treat your car like a moving billboard with help from Carvertise.
  • Rent your car out to neighbors or classmates using Turo.

If you already use your car to make money or you’re looking into it, do the math. See if your potential earnings would covers costs for parking, insurance, and the occasional oil change. Better yet, see if you could turn a profit.

You can perform the same calculation for office jobs or internships that require a commute.

3. It’s the Cheapest Way to Return Home

Freshman and college students generally live by the academic calendar. Aside from having the summer off, there are spring and winter breaks and occasional long weekends. A student’s top option is typically returning home.

No matter where you see yourself taking breaks from school—whether it’s at Mom and Dad’s or a friend’s place—map the route ahead of time. If it’s a few states away, you might be booking flights for each trip. If you live within a road trip’s distance from home, however, having a car might be your best choice—and you may decide that putting up with parking on campus is worth having the ability to drive home at a moment’s notice.

Decide Whether to Take Your Car to Campus

On a daily basis, full-time college students spend 1.4 of every 24 hours traveling, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you know you’ll be taking a car to college, you should include the cost of gas and parking when figuring out the real cost of your classes. Choosing how you travel could save you time, but it could also save you money or trouble.

Research your school’s policies and think critically about whether you need your car on campus.

The less time you spend behind the wheel, the more time you can use on your college experience.

 

Image: iStock

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Planning the Perfect Gap Year Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

14397435_10153850115048483_1785139792_nThe gap year — taking a year off from formal education to travel, participate in social projects, or gain work experience — is growing in popularity among American students. Just ask Malia Obama. The first daughter announced back in May that she would be taking a gap year before attending Harvard University.

She’s among those contributing to a 22% increase in American students taking part in the practice already common among students in Europe and Australia, according to the American Gap Association. Some families spend hundreds of dollars on gap-year consultants.

Like Harvard, many higher education institutions encourage students to take gap years. The reason: a push toward experiential learning. Schools increasingly see value in the life experience, maturity, and other skills that gappers return with.

“We have more information in the palm of our hands than ever. So why are we teaching [students] information? They don’t need information,” said American Gap Association Executive Director Ethan Knight. “They need experience to know what to do with that information.”

Jamie Hand, 23, a senior at Middlebury College in Vermont, echoes the sentiment. She said her gap-year trip to São Luís, Brazil with Rotary Youth Exchange allowed her to “take a break from this rat race that I felt like I was in.” At the time, she was 18 years old and wanted to take time off before beginning her freshman year. Though she already had a high school diploma under her belt, the program involved taking classes at a local high school in Franklin, W. Va.

“It felt like I was taking this big breath and I was free to excel but I didn’t have to excel,” said Hand. “It was one of the times when I learned the most in my life [because] I didn’t have to.”bike_ride_in_brasilia

The Cost of a Gap Year

Gap years may seem like a privilege only available to families wealthy enough to finance them. It’s true that some gap-year programs can easily cost more than a year’s worth of college tuition. Families pay over $35,000 — close to the average cost of a four-year degree these days — to participate in the “Global Gap Year,” a program offered by Thinking Beyond Borders, which offers gap-year and study-abroad programs. During their global year abroad, students split their time between homestays on three different continents.

But the gap-year experience isn’t just for the super-rich.

MagnifyMoney caught up with some current and previous gappers to find out how they made it work.

Go the DIY Route

Brandon Stubbs, 18, motivated by his interest in Southeast Asian archaeology, decided to defer his acceptance to Brown University for a year to travel to Malaysia for two months this fall.

Rather than paying for a trip through a travel agency, which could easily have cost several thousand dollars, he did some research on his own. Stubbs found a hostel in Johor Bahru, where he will be able to work in exchange for room and board.

To save on airfare, he booked a round-trip ticket to Malaysia for just $500 with StudentUniverse, a site that offers cheaper fares to students. When he’s not working, Stubbs plans to spend his free time sightseeing and exploring the city.

imgp9570“I’m most excited to explore an entire different area of the world,” said Stubbs, who said he grew up enthralled by the exotic locales in movies like Indiana Jones.

When he returns to the U.S. from Malaysia in November, Stubbs’ gap year will continue with a stop in New Orleans. He plans to take time off for the holidays and then move to the Big Easy, where he’ll work at a hostel in exchange for room and board.

“I feel like taking a gap year will sort of increase my momentum. High school wasn’t an easy experience mentally,” said Stubbs. “I feel like in a year I’ll be rejuvenated and ready to jump back into my studies.”

Get College Credit for the Program

A great way to save money and kill two birds with one stone during a gap year is to earn college course credits along the way. Some schools offer course credit to students who take gap years. Students may even be able to use financial aid dollars toward their gap-year experience.

Some schools have specialized programs or fellowships for gappers like UNC Chapel Hill’s fellowship, or Princeton University with its Bridge Year. Others, like Elon University, offer their own version of an experiential learning program for first-year students.

There are even some gap-year programs that will not only give you a stipend, but contribute to the cost of your college education like those offered through AmeriCorps or City Year.

Work Now, Play Later

Breaking up a gap year into smaller trips or working for part of the year can help to reduce overall costs. If you budget well, the money you earn could fund your travels.

Jericho, Vt., student Asher Small, 19, who will begin his first semester at Brown University this fall, also worked at a ski resort in Utah for part of his gap year.

“It was kind of like a dream job because I love to ski,” said Small. In addition to his $8/hour wages, the resort subsidized his room and board, leaving him with just $300 to cover each month.

Small worked at the ski resort for four months. Before making his way back home, he took a road trip through Southern Utah and California and participated in a 10-day meditation course retreat. To save on lodging, he used couchsurfing.com, a service that connects benevolent hosts with houseguests. He estimates he ended up saving about $2,000 from his work at the resort after the trip.

Working or interning during a gap year can also be a great way to build skills or experience for the subject you’re interested in majoring in once you get to school. Some programs will pay you for work abroad or offer perks like free room and board as an incentive. For example, if you have a green thumb, you could volunteer to work at an organic farm or winery through a program like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms during your gap year in exchange for food and accommodation.

Before he went to Utah, Small spent the first half of his gap year in Desab, Haiti, with Volunteers For Peace, a nonprofit volunteer organization. There, Small taught an English class to local residents. The trip cost him about $1,500 in total, which he paid with funds he saved from past summer jobs.

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Stay Close to Home

Keeping your gap-year experience stateside can be an easy way to minimize travel expenses, reducing the overall costs of a gap year. Staying in the U.S. doesn’t mean you’ll have any less of a cross-cultural experience.

Start Saving Early

Knight recommends planning your gap year at least six months from the date you want to travel, so you’ll have ample time to save up.

Stubbs worked all four years of high school as a junior college tutor and as a camp counselor at a music camp. Doing so helped him to save about $3,000 to spend on his trip to Malaysia and Louisiana.

Small worked over the summers prior to his gap year as well. Those funds helped him with his trip to Haiti.

Tap into Your Savings

If your parents have been saving up for college, you may be able to use some of that money to finance a gap-year program, although it may mean sacrificing going to a more expensive college.

Gabe Katzman, 24, was considering the University of Maryland, where he would pay in-state tuition, and other, more expensive out-of-state institutions at the time he was planning his gap year in Israel.

His parents presented him with the option to use some of his college savings to fund the trip, which cost about $16,000 to $17,000. Because the cost was close to a year’s worth of tuition at the pricey out-of-state school, his parents told him they could only help him finance his gap year if he decided to stay in state.

Ask for Free Money: Grants, Scholarships, Trusts, and Charities

Find an organization, trust, or charity that’s aligned with the focus of your trip and ask if they have any grants or scholarships that you can apply for and that would be applicable toward your gap year.

Local associations, businesses, schools, and charities such as the Rotary Club or Lions Clubs International award grants, or scholarships may even be able to sponsor students who meet certain criteria and goals.

When Katzman decided he wanted to spend 9 months in Israel with Habonim Dror’s Workshop, a gap-year program run through his childhood camp, Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, the first thing he did was look for scholarships and grants to help him cover the $16,000 the trip would cost.

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“I talked to my synagogue,” said Katzman. “I knew that if I connected with the synagogue they [would support me].” In the end, they gave him about $3,000.

Katzman then asked other organizations including one called Masa, an Israeli organization that advocates interning and volunteering in Israel, adding another $1,000 to his fundraising goal. Next, he went to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.

After he got some funding through community organizations, Katzman turned to his family and friends to help out.

“I talked to all of my family. Instead of a Hanukkah or birthday present, I asked them to give me money for the trip,” said Katzman.

The rest of the funds came from his own savings from working as a lifeguard and camp counselor while in high school.

Get Creative

Katzman and the group he went to Israel with saved money by pooling their resources.

“We were living a socialist lifestyle with a group of 23. We had a shared bank account that we all put money into. Some of us put $2,000 and some put just what they could,” said Katzman.

The shared account allowed them to prioritize the group’s experience as opposed to the individual and kept them out of “a situation where someone felt excluded because they couldn’t afford it,” said Katzman.

Two of the members in Katzman’s group were co-treasurers of the shared account and managed the group’s budget. If some or all of the group’s members went out to eat or someone in the group needed to replace a pair of shoes, the money to pay for it came from the shared account. At the end of the trip, they had a little left over to donate back to the camp.

Stubbs, who already has his room and board covered with the hostel, also plays the trumpet. He plans to finance some of his living expenses while in Malaysia this fall and New Orleans in the spring with money earned from street performing or “busking.”

Some Final Advice: You have to want it.

“Sometimes coming up with the money for something like this can be really discouraging because it’s really expensive,” said Katzman.

But setting aside time for a gap year was well worth the added cost and effort. After he graduated from college, Katzman decided to move to Haifa, Israel, full-time, where he is working part-time to lead this year’s Habonim Dror gappers and taking Hebrew classes.

“I grew more in one year than I think the average college student would have grown,” he added. “It affected what I did in college, it affected my choices during college and afterward [when I decided to] live here.”

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The post Planning the Perfect Gap Year Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank appeared first on MagnifyMoney.