The first thing you should know is that a car is not going to do much good. Traffic here is horrible—10th worst in the country! So if you do have a vehicle, you might want to save yourself some time and chuck it in a lake. Drivers here spend an average of 55 hours a year stuck in traffic, and 58 hours a year looking for parking. Don't waste your precious youth decaying in a car. Those are hours you could be spending making out with someone you met on Tinder, deciding which drugs to do, starting a band, or... what's that other thing? Oh yeah, studying.
Take Light Rail
The 14 miles of rail stretching from the University of Washington to Angle Lake were at least 20 years in the making. They now stand as a somewhat-convincing testament to Seattle's ability to get shit done (eventually). It didn't used to be the case, but you are part of a lucky generation of Seattleites who can zip from Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill in mere minutes. By the time your children's children have children (probably), light rail will be as far north as Everett, as far south as Tacoma, and as far west as West Seattle and Ballard. Get an ORCA card at any station and use it. Plan your trip in advance at soundtransit.org.
Take the Bus
People always bitch about the bus, but the truth is the bus will take you to places the light rail just doesn't go. You'll find every line has its own charms, too—the 8 bus, for example, is always jammed with grumpy tech commuters and glassy-eyed tourists. Download the One Bus Away app so you know exactly how long you'll have to wait for the next bus (ignore the printed schedules entirely—they have no relationship to reality). Most Seattle-area students can get a U-PASS that offers discounted transportation options, too. To plan a trip in advance, go to kingcounty.gov/metro.
Find a Rideshare
Download the Lyft or Uber app and have it at the ready for when you're really stuck (or really drunk). Another good app is Freewheel, which is like Lyft or Uber but for taxis. Having one or two of these options on your phone already will ensure you can always get home safe. (God, do I sound like a mom? I'm not a mom!) Also: Most campuses offer a safe rides network and carpooling options for nights and weekends. Ask.
Ride a Bike
Yes, it's hilly as hell. But that's good for your butt. Also, cruising on the Burke-Gilman Trail and the miles of other pretty bike paths in Seattle is mad fun. Seattle is a bike-friendly city (so long as you don't read the Seattle Times), and DIY bike culture is a thing out here. It's easy to find cheap bikes with good gears and capable mechanics to fix them. Check out Recycled Cycles in the U-District, 20/20 Cycle in the Central District, and Bike Works in Columbia City. School of Bike in Wallingford offers classes in bike tune-ups and even how to build your own bike.
You may also notice brightly colored bicycles parked around town. They are there courtesy of the three bike-share programs currently in Seattle (LimeBike, Spin, and Ofo), and they are yours for the taking! You just have to download the app and give them your credit card info first. Rides are only $1, and you can leave the bike anywhere when you're done.
Use Your Feet
Seattle is the eighth most walkable city in the country, according to Redfin's annual Walk Score. When you walk, you get to pet little dogs and look into store windows and browse the books in the little free libraries scattered throughout town (look for them).
Rent a Car
Let's say you're going to Ikea and really need a car. There's Zipcar and Car2go for driving around by the hour. If you're looking for longer-term rentals, car-sharing network Turo is a great bet. If you want a good-old fashioned rental car, they're cheaper if you're willing to go down to the airport (you can get off at the Tukwila light rail stop and walk to the rental center). But many old-fashioned car rental services require you to be 25 years old, or there are extra charges.
Take an Amtrak Train or a Bolt Bus
If you're heading up to Vancouver, Canada (two and a half hours north), or Portland, Oregon (three hours south), you should know Bolt Bus is ultra-cheap and offers free wi-fi. If you're willing to spend a little more and would like water views and a dining car, take Amtrak.
Use the Monorail