LAC accessible with no car

My daughter has recently become obsessed with the idea of going to a lac in the northeast (williams middlebury amherst etc). However she hates driving and doesn’t want a car. How possible is that, depending on the school? Also which if any have the most ‘things to do’? We are from Houston area so I’m concerned she isn’t connected the reality of a true small town. Thanks!

I never had a car in college. My kids never had cars in college. My sister went to Middlebury - no car. And believe me, there are many more transportation options available today than there were back then.


She’d be fine at any of these without a car.

I can tell you that my kid had a car at a remote LAC (not freshman year, btw) and it was mostly used to drive between home and school.

In fact, he also found it was cheaper and easier to take a bus to Boston if he was going alone than to drive and park.

Between public transportation and ride boards and friends, carlessness is a non issue!

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Most top schools don’t allow cars in the early years. But if you want a more city like school and the area isn’t great, then do a Trinity…or Wesleyan…or Franklin and Marshall, etc. Or while not in the NE, a Macalester.

You’re already spending $80K a year to go - they have your transportation covered!! Uber, shuttles, friends…it’ll work.

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My kid is at Middlebury, and very few kids have cars.

These colleges are small, the dorms, dining halls, and classrooms are all within 5-15 minutes walking. Almost all of the kids live in the dorms, and almost all eat their meals in the dining halls. At Middlebury the food is excellent (they have their own kitchen gardens, and in season, a lot of the food comes from there), and the meal plan is “you swipe your card to get into any dining room whenever it is open, and eat whatever you want (or take back to your room)”. The situation is similar at most NE LACs (some, like Bowdoin, have even better food)

The college “downtowns” are all within walking distances, so whatever coffee-shops and restaurants the town has are accessible without a car. A few kids usually have cars, and they car pool if they want to go anywhere far (say Burlington).

So I would say that not only is a car not needed at any LAC in the NE (or elsewhere, for that matter), but that it is not worthwhile to have a car on campus at all.

PS. My kid does not even have a license.

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Middletown CT (Wesleyan) has a pretty good transit system for a town its size. You can get to Walmart ( a Superstore), Home Depot, Price Choppers and the Amtrak station all by bus. They run frequently. An awful lot of other stuff is within easy walking distance of the university including the local hospital, an excellent hotel and dozens of places to eat. The pandemic has had some effect on downtown but the heavy hitters like Mondo’s, La Boca, Brew Baker’s, Pho 170, Thai Gardens, Luce’s (and what’s the name of the hamburger place?) have all survived.

Hamilton offers its free Jitney, which runs hourly to nearby suburban areas, with biweekly service to the small city of Utica.

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FWIW Amtrak has built a rail station in Middlebury that will soon be open to passenger travel. I think it’s a NYC-Burlington line. This access point provides a really convenient option for kids without cars to travel to/from Middlebury!


Let me also add that the experience of having a non-garaged car in a snowy NE clime is one I’d happily avoid. Digging out after storms, moving for plows, dead batteries (maybe) – no thanks!


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Many kids at the NESCAC schools I’m familiar with don’t have a car and it’s certainly not a necessity.

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Depending on her stats/profile and budget, Brown is a great LAC. I got to spend a week there last week, moving my kid in. We had a car because we stayed downtown, but it was a one mile walk to campus. The campus is walkable and kids can easily get out of the campus bubble. Their student ID gets them free public transit. A train ride to Boston is $12 and Boston has great transit for sight seeing and weekend hangout if they want to make the effort. NYC is also a train ride away (little longer).

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At Barnard College no one has a car, nor would there be any use for it. Places of interest in NYC can be reached by subway right outside the gate, a crosstown bus, and/or a nice healthy walk.

Even the Bronx Zoo or the Coney Island Aquarium are reached by subway, not to speak of art museums, music venues in Brooklyn and of course internship jobs.

Why would a student who lives on campus need a car? Ride-hailing services and Zipcar rentals are available near most campuses. They’re more convenient and less costly than maintaining a car on campus.

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Thank you for the replies! Just wanted to make sure general surroundings were accessible/she wouldn’t be the only one without a car since we won’t be able to visit until after apps are due.

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I think the title of the thread may throw people a little bit in that it sounds as if DD is primarily interested in getting away from campus as much as possible. Another thread might ask which LACs have the most to do on campus.

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The answer is partially in your question: Depends very much on the school, and how its situated relative to the college town, and how connected the college/town is to the primary areas of interest.

My daughter visited a number of high-school friends at their NE LAC colleges, most near smaller cities/college towns, and I remember them getting around by car pretty much the entire two days or so she was there each time - whether to “go into town”, or to do an afternoon trip to whatever qualified as a nearby POI.

On the other hand, those at urban colleges benefited from well-connected public transport, whether trams in Boston, subways in DC, etc. and no one owned a car (nor would there have been space to accommodate nearby parking)

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The problem is that it’s only by a technicality that Barnard is considered a LAC. In reality, it is the former women’s undergraduate college of Columbia University just as Columbia College is the formerly all-male college of the same university. Yet, no one considers Columbia College a LAC.

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Probably depends on your interests somewhat. My son goes to Colby and doesn’t need a car at all for day to day life but does drive around Maine a lot for skiing and surfing. He did not have a car his first year and got rides with friends for his outdoor activities.


I have one at Williams and another at Amherst and first years aren’t allowed cars. They have had to Uber, borrow a friend’s car, have things delivered, use a school shuttle, rely on a friend for a ride or we have even booked a shuttle service to and from the airport a few times. I’m not going to lie that it hasn’t caused us all some stress, but it has always worked out. They learn to be resourceful and also not to delay booking the school shuttles as soon as they are posted. All in all it’s completely doable. Williams is quite a bit more remote than Amherst and maybe next year we would need to figure something else out.

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