Sep 2, 2009

Visitor Parking

I hate to hunt for parking, and I really hate to pay for parking when visiting a college campus. Call it a pet peeve, but if a school really wants to impress visitors and potential applicants, accommodations should be made to have convenient, adequate, and free parking. Sorry, it just should be so.

Sure I know that on some campuses, parking comes at a premium. Huge parking structures exist at both Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The difference is that the VCU admissions office offers parking validation for visitors, and UCSD does not. Why? Possibly because UCSD feels no particular need to recruit applicants—they have more than enough. Or perhaps there’s a different explanation. While VCU also has plenty of applicants, the school comes from a tradition of southern hospitality and thoughtfulness toward guests. What might this say about campus character or personality? Similarly, the University of Colorado at Boulder shares a devilish parking system with the University of Denver (UD). The difference here is that UD emails parking passes to be placed on dashboards by visitors registering for information sessions or campus tours; UC Boulder lets you pay the fine.

In all fairness, most colleges provide parking for their visitors. To be on the safe side, however, I recommend making sure you understand the nature of the accommodations by searching the college website or calling the admissions office in advance of your visit to determine
  • if visitor parking is available
  • where the visitor parking is located
  • if there is a charge for said parking and how much
  • how to go about obtaining a parking pass
  • the process for getting parking “validated”—if available
  • if exact change is needed to escape the grip of the campus parking system
  • when the work study student who mans the lot goes home (applies mainly to the University of Delaware)

Locally, George Mason University asks visitors to park in the structure nearest to the admissions office and will provide validation covering the full cost. Georgetown University and GW offer directions to nearby structures and coolly expect the visitor to cover the expense. The University of Maryland College Park and AU make available parking permits that are displayed on car dashboards. But the best welcome of all comes from the University of Mary Washington. Although parking is free on campus, it sometimes can be hard to find. So, UMW offers the opportunity to download passes allowing visitors to park in faculty spots. Now, that’s darn hospitable!

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