Heading off to college is an exhilarating adventure filled with new opportunities and experiences. While it’s essential to soak in the excitement, it’s equally crucial to prioritize your safety as you step onto the college scene. In this comprehensive college safety guide, we will explore practical tips and advice designed to help you navigate your college experience securely.
Table of contents
Get to Know Your Campus
One of the first steps to help you feel safe on a college campus is getting familiar with your surroundings. Before classes start, take a thorough tour of your college campus. Identify key locations such as your dorm, classrooms, and the library. Find the campus security office. Familiarizing yourself with the layout will not only boost your confidence but also significantly reduce the chances of getting lost, especially during those first few weeks.
- Take a tour: A guided campus tour can help you get a better idea of your surroundings. Who knows? You might even discover some really cool hidden hang out spots!
- Attend an orientation event: These events are meant to help new students get adjusted to the college environment. You’ll learn about campus resources and support services that could come in handy!
- Explore independently: Take some time to explore on your own. This helps you become comfortable with your surroundings. Campus will be much easier to navigate when school starts.
Use the Buddy System
The importance of the buddy system carries over from high school and remains just as relevant in college. Whether you’re heading to a party, going for a jog, or walking back from a late-night study session, having a buddy can act as a deterrent to potential risks. More importantly, it ensures that you always have someone to rely on if there is a problem.
- Communicate: Make sure you and your friend have a communication plan in place. This is especially important in case you decide to go your separate ways for a short time. Agree on a meetup point or check-in time. You want to be sure you can quickly locate each other in case of an emergency.
- Trust your instincts: If a situation feels uncomfortable, prioritize your well-being. Don’t hesitate to seek help. You need to look out for one another, so make sure you share your feelings with your buddy.
Staying informed about campus safety resources and emergency procedures is critical. Make sure you have access to the campus security hotline. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the location of emergency exits in different buildings. Being prepared and knowledgeable about the safety measures in place on campus will empower you to respond effectively in any unforeseen situation.
- Subscribe to Campus Alerts: Does your school have a campus alert system? Many universities have a system to notify students by text or email about things like campus closures or other important information. Subscribe to these alerts to make sure you get real-time information about any concerns on campus.
- Attend Campus Safety Workshops: Your school may offer a college campus safety training or seminar related to personal safety or self-defense. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about staying safe on campus. These workshops often share college campus safety statistics and crime trends which can help you stay alert to potential problems.
Use Personal Safety Gear
Using personal safety gear is super helpful when it gets dark outside. Imagine walking around campus at night – it can be hard to see! That’s where things like small flashlights or LED lights come in handy. These tools not only help you see where you’re going but also make you more visible to others. Having the right personal safety gear can help you feel confident and safe when you’re out and about.
- Personal Alarms: These discrete alarms can be carried in your pocket or on a keychain. They make a really loud noise when activated. This noise can get the attention of people nearby and let them know you need help.
- Bulletproof Backpack Insert: While we certainly hope your college experience never warrants the use of this piece of equipment, it could save your life. Removable bulletproof inserts can be put in a backpack or tote bag to provide a ballistic shield, protecting you in case of an active shooter situation. For around $100, this is a worthwhile investment.
- Drink Test Kit: Did you know that the most common date rape drugs are odorless and tasteless? While it is important to keep an eye on your drink, things happen. Drink test kits allow you to test for these drugs using just a drop of your drink on a test strip. These kits are discrete and affordable.
Secure Your Belongings
College campuses, with their bustling atmosphere, unfortunately, can be susceptible to theft. Take a proactive approach by being mindful of your belongings. Pay close attention to expensive items like laptops and smartphones. Remember to lock your dorm room when you leave. Using a laptop lock in public spaces can help prevent opportunistic theft. Here are some more tips to keep in mind:
- Use a bike lock: If you’re taking your bike to college, make sure you keep it locked up. A bike lock can serve as a deterrent for an opportunistic bike thief. Use a U-shaped bar lock to secure your bike frame to the bicycle rack. Consider removing the seat for additional piece of mind.
- Create a passcode for your smartphone: A passcode is a code that needs to be entered before the screen will unlock. This code can help keep your data safe if your phone should fall into the wrong hands.
- Make a list: It’s important to take pictures of your valuables and record their serial numbers. Store a copy of your list in the cloud so it doesn’t get lost. Having this information stored in a convenient location will help in case your technology is lost or stolen.
Remember Digital Safety
Keeping your online information safe is almost as important as your physical safety. College students spend quite a bit of time online. In fact, a study by Educause revealed that college students spend about four hours a day online. Their online activities include everything from social media to doing homework. Here are some strategies to stay safe online:
- Create a strong password: We know how tempting it is to use the same password for all your logins. But is that safe? Experts recommend using a unique password for all your logins. You should use symbols, numbers, and capital letters to make it difficult for hackers to figure out.
- Don’t overshare: Think of social media as a public bulletin board. Only share what you are comfortable with everyone seeing. Don’t accept friend requests or messages from people you don’t know. You also don’t want to share any personal information through links that you aren’t familiar with. What goes on the internet stays on the internet, so be mindful of what you share.
Prepare for Transportation Safety
Whether you’re walking, biking, or utilizing public transportation, prioritizing your safety during travels is essential. Choose well-lit areas when walking. Stick to designated crosswalks and remain vigilant of your surroundings. If you are walking by yourself, you could talk on the phone with a friend so you aren’t alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 85% of students have used a transportation networking company (TNC) like Uber or Lyft. If you’re relying on these types of rideshare services, take a moment to double-check the driver’s information before entering the vehicle. You will want to make sure the vehicle matches the make, model, and license plate provided by the phone app. Here’s some other tips to consider when using a rideshare service:
- Keep your personal information private: There’s nothing wrong with chatting with your driver. In fact, it can make the ride-share experience actually fun! But when it comes to your personal information, it’s best to leave that information out of the conversation. Keep the conversation light and stick to content that doesn’t involve sharing the details of your life.
- Wear your seatbelt: It is no secret that seatbelts save lives. Unfortunately, accidents also happen in ride-share vehicles, so it is best to buckle up.
- Share your trip info with a trusted friend: Sharing the details of your trip is another way to stay safe. Your friend or family member will know right away if you don’t get to your destination within a reasonable amount of time.
Know Your Limits
College is undoubtedly a time for new experiences, but it’s equally essential to know your limits. Be mindful of alcohol consumption. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there are an estimated 1,519 student deaths each year related to drinking. If you choose to consume alcohol, do so responsibly and in moderation. Knowing when to say no and setting boundaries contributes significantly to your overall safety and well-being.
One of the biggest dangers related to alcohol consumption is binge drinking. Binge drinking is described as drinking four to five drinks on a single occasion. Almost 37% of college students have engaged in binge drinking. Binge drinking has obvious immediate consequences but can lead to long-term chronic health issues. To avoid binge drinking, it is important to be aware of just how much you are drinking. Ask friends to hold you accountable for how much you’ve had to drink. Surrounding yourself people who look out for each other can help you stay safe and while drinking responsibly.
Keep Emergency Contacts
Knowing who to call in case of an emergency is like having a support system at your fingertips. You will want to make sure you save important numbers in your phone for quick access when needed. These numbers might include:
- College campus security: They are your main contact for any on-campus issues or concerns.
- Local law enforcement: They are responsible for maintaining overall community security. You can always call 911 if there is an emergency. If you need to ask a specific question or talk to an officer about a specific incident, you should use the non-emergency number.
- Trusted friends or family members: These are individuals who offer personal support, whether it’s a late-night worry or a tough day. Keeping these numbers readily available, perhaps even marked as favorites, helps you easily connect with them in times of need.
Remember, everyone benefits from a support system, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your network when you require assistance. Having these numbers readily available can be very important in times of need, offering you a reliable support system.
Learn Self-Defense Awareness
Consider taking a self-defense class to build your confidence. While we hope you never have to use these skills, having the knowledge to protect yourself can be empowering. Many colleges offer free self-defense classes as part of their recreational or fitness programs, so take advantage of these resources. These classes often teach prevention techniques and self-defense options. Some schools, like Illinois State University and the University of Chicago, offer Rape Aggression Defense courses. These courses are available to women only. They focus on awareness and avoidance before progressing to basic hands-on defense training.
Your college years are a thrilling and transformative time in your life. By adopting a proactive and informed approach to your safety, you can ensure that this adventure is not only exciting but also secure. Stay informed, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if needed. Your safety is a priority, and by following these college campus safety tips, you’ll be well-equipped for whatever comes your way.