Campus Life

Will Freshman No-Cars Rule Be Waived for Special Needs?

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Question: Can I bring a car to a college that doesn’t permit it due to extenuating circumstances? I have struggled with anxiety and depression since elementary school, but last fall (when I was starting eleventh grade) I finally found a therapist who made a huge difference in my life. Next year, I want to keep seeing her when I start college, but the college I hope to attend is about an hour from my therapist and doesn’t allow freshmen to have cars. If I don’t have a car there, it’s going to be pretty impossible to keep seeing this doctor because there’s no public transportation to get me to my weekly appointments and back, and my parents can’t do it because of their work schedules. My mother suggested that I ask the admission office if I can bring a car to campus due to my special needs, but I don’t really want to tell admissions about these needs. My grades and test scores are above the average at this school and I think I have a great chance of being accepted, but I am reluctant to give the admissions committee any information that might work against me. What should do?

Although colleges cannot legally discriminate against students with disabilities, they also aren’t obligated to disclose why a candidate has been denied, so it’s often wise for a student to stay mum about physical and mentalhealth challenges when there’s nothing on the transcript that cries out for an explanation. But there are several ways that you can solve your problem:


1. Contact the disabilities services office at your target college. You should be able to find it easily online, even if it’s called something slightly different. You can spell out your situation on the phone without giving your name, or you can send an email that will be kept in confidence. Ask if the no-cars rule can be waived for students with medical needs, and if so, what the process will be. You may find that the rule is suspended routinely when there is a sound reason, like yours, to do so.

2. Find out if your intended college offers Zipcars or another similar short-term rental option.   Students on affiliated campuses — even those who are not old enough to meet the requirements of a typical car-rental company — can hire a car by the hour or by the day.

3. Check Uber rates. Even if a two-hour weekly trip in an Uber (or Lyft or other local ride service) sounds pricey, it will probably be a lot cheaper than maintaining your own car.

4. Hire an older student with a car to commit to the weekly round-trips. Your college is sure to have some sort of message board where job-seekers and potential “employers” can connect.  Since this would be a regular gig, you will probably pay much less than you would with Uber.

5. Fly under the radar. When a college prohibits freshmen from owning cars, it really only means, “Freshmen can’t have cars on campus.”  So some students dodge this regulation by keeping their cars off-campus but nearby. In many college communities, it’s common for area residents to rent out an extra parking space in their private garages or driveways. Some businesses do this as well. Free on-street parking may be a possibility too, although college towns often issue “Resident” parking permits to keep parking spaces close to campus open to only those who live there. So it may be a hike to get to a neighborhood that doesn’t restrict parking, but if you’re only making this hike once a week or so, it could work out for you.

Bottom line: There’s no need to tell admission officials that you hope to bring a car to campus since there are a number of other ways to address your dilemma without disclosing information that you’d prefer to keep private.

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