When our oldest son first started college, he inherited the family mini-van and mom, that would be me, got a new car. As our next in line is approaching graduation at the end of this school year, we are faced with this past car situation repeating itself. With both sons going to college and driving their own vehicles, our home will soon have the appearance of a small used car lot. Also, when my husband and I did our financial planning for our children’s future college needs, we overlooked something as obvious as the transportation needs our sons would have.

Fortunately, for us, this lack of planning will not be a financial disaster. However, for other families, it very well could be. For families who are still in the planning stages, don’t forget to pad your kid’s college budget for the cost to purchase and maintain a vehicle. This is just as critical for a college student’s success as any vital study aide. Consider our own experience and take it to heart.

As we helped our eldest move into his first tiny apartment near campus, are emotions were mixed. There was excitement at this next stage in our child’s journey to adulthood. There was the wonder we felt as parents considering how we were so blessed to have such a son and could only imagine where he would be in five years’ time. Then there were the nagging worries of parties and not taking his studies seriously or any number of typical parental fear-mongering plots that went zipping through our minds in nanoseconds.  After hauling up the last of his bags and furniture, making a quick run to the store for last minute supplies, we finally engaged in a group hug and (tearfully on my part) said our good-byes.

My husband and I are first-generation immigrants without a college education. As we sat in the car stunned that we had just lost one of our nestlings, our pride in our son began to transform. We looked at each other and realized our own accomplishment. This young man was the culmination of the hopes and dreams of two foreign families from two different continents that, against all odds, each had a child that met in another country, fell in love, had a family, and raised children that grew up to have the opportunity of a college education. My tears of sadness at separation transformed to tears of pride and victory. It was an incredible moment and feeling of empowerment.

We had done our part. Now, it was up to our son. Instead of having mom wake him up, feed him breakfast and drive him to school, he was on his own. By having his own transportation, he was empowered for success in many ways.

First of all, by having his own transportation, he was able to live in a private apartment rather than in the dorms. This would give him privacy to stay focused on studies. We also believe it was a safer environment that contributed to continued growth and maturity.

By having a car, he also had freedom to come and go as he pleased. This meant he could drive the few blocks to campus if his schedule was tight or if the weather was bad. It also meant he had more job opportunities. More opportunities meant he could choose a better paying job further away than a bike ride. Better pay meant more financial independence, less needed work hours which translates into more study hours.

Without having to rely on public transportation, he has no excuse for ever being late. He never has to say, “I missed my bus. Sorry I’m so late.” That is definitely a plus for class attendance and getting to work on time.

By having wheels, our son can also have the freedom to immerse himself in any extra-curricular hobby or organization of his choice. He will not be limited to on campus only organizations. If he wants to be a supportive fan of all the college’s away games for the university’s sports teams, he can pack up and drive there.

Most importantly, he also has no excuse for not coming home when his mom calls and says she misses him.