Last Updated: November 6, 2014
by Holly King
Going to college is an exciting rite of passage. You are finally stepping out on your own and taking the first steps in creating the life you’ve always wanted. To make sure your dreams don’t get cut short, it’s important to know how to stay safe in the college environment.
Because we know you’ve got a lot on your mind when it comes to college preparation, we’ve put together this guide to help you be smart when it comes to campus safety. Check out four foolproof ways to safeguard your college experience.
1. Pick a safe college.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but one of the best ways to ensure a safe college experience is to select a college with an excellent safety record. A wide variety of factors can influence the safety of a college, including the city or neighborhood where the school is located and how robust the college security program is.
It’s surprisingly easy to find out how your school ranks on safety; a well-respected list of safe schools is a great place to start your research. We recently published a list of the top 25 safest colleges in the country, based on real student reviews. You can also check out the safety record of the city where your school is located: check out lists of safe cities in the state you’re attending school, like this one for California, or crime statistics from the FBI.
Every college and university in the country is also required to publish an Annual Security Report, in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act. These reports are updated every October and available either on a college’s website or through the US Department of Education’s national database. Detailed information about the incidence of crime on campus for the past three years, campus safety resources and programs available, and information about fire safety and emergency planning are all included.
2. Stay safe on campus.
Picking a college with a reputation for safety isn’t where your diligence should end. It’s just as important to be prepared to stay safe once you start classes. Make sure you always know where you’re going and plan your treks across campus to ensure you stay in well-lit, commonly traveled areas. Avoid short-cuts that take you off the beaten path into the remote areas on campus. And whenever possible, travel in pairs—there really is safety in numbers.
You can also take advantage of a variety of apps designed to help keep you from harm. iHelpPlus is an app that lets you alert family or friends that you’re in danger—and all you have to do is touch the screen. And don’t forget about your phone’s flashlight. Sometimes the possibility of exposure is enough to make a bad guy think twice.
Personal alarms are also worth considering. You can find keychain alarms that are small and lightweight, and will alert anyone nearby to an emergency situation. The alarm may also scare off any would-be attackers.
3. Stay safe when you go online.
These days you need to be smart about keeping yourself from harm in the online environment as well as on campus. Social media is one of the most common and convenient ways to stay in touch with friends and find out where tonight’s study group or party is. But too much information posted online can make you a target.
Resist the urge to “check in” everywhere you go. Restrict the amount of personal information you post online. Keep your phone number and other sensitive information private or remove it all together. The best rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t share this information with a stranger, refrain from posting it online. If you’re unsure of how much is too much when it comes to online sharing, there are dozens of resources and online classes you can take that teach you how to use privacy settings and deal with other online issues.
4. Know where you can turn for help.
In addition to choosing a college with a great safety record, being proactive when it comes to safety on campus, and keeping yourself protected online, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Every college and university is required to have certain safety resources in place for students.
Learn how to contact the campus police, or be sure to know the designated safety officer if your college doesn’t have a police department. And just because you’re on campus doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to local law enforcement if you find yourself in a scary situation. Most colleges work closely with local police and sheriff’s departments to ensure safety and quick response for students in need. A lot of colleges also have free and confidential counseling if you don’t feel comfortable going to a police officer.
Pay attention to security features on campus like emergency telephones and panic buttons. You deserve to have a safe, fun college experience, so educate yourself on campus resources and be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Wherever you choose to go, we hope that you keep these resources in mind and have a fantastically safe college experience. What do you think is the most effective way to ensure a safe college experience?
Holly King is a recently graduated writer living in Salt Lake City, UT. When not scouring the internet for updates in business, lifestyles, and technology, she is tending to her garden and trying to perfect the world’s best egg sandwich.
image credits: collegefindings.com and admissions.ucdavis.edu
Original Post Date: November 6th, 2014