For many young adults, this month marks either the first venture or a return to a college campus. While there is obvious excitement for this milestone towards adulthood and the freedoms associated with it, college students should also take time to plan for their personal safety on campus. Here are ten Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind!
DON’T walk alone, especially at night. This is kind of the obvious one, but also one of the most important. According to RAINN, nearly a quarter of female undergraduates experience some form of sexual violence, but 11.2% of ALL college students become victims. There is strength in numbers. Walk with friends, or in highly populated areas, during the day, and never walk alone at night.
DO pay attention. When you are walking between buildings or working on a project in a common area, it’s easy to plug in your headphones and get lost in the music, pass the time by checking email or social media, or play games on your device. But this gives an attacker the advantage of catching you unaware. Stay in tune with your surroundings and be aware of people in the vicinity, especially ones who could approach you from a blind spot.
DON’T leave your dorm unlocked! As you become comfortable with your residence hall and your neighbors, it’s tempting to leave your door unlocked for friends. But a locked door is as important on campus as it is anywhere else. The National Center for Education Statistics determined that in 2014, half of criminal incidents on campus were burglaries. Even if you are physically in the dorm, an unlocked door leaves you vulnerable to an assault.
DO know where to go in an emergency. Nearly all colleges and universities have emergency phones (sometimes called Blue Lights or Blue Phones) placed around the campus, or manned security stations where you can go for help. Learn their locations so you always know where to reach the closest one.
DON’T go to parties without a buddy. Parties are another place where there is strength in numbers. Go with a group of friends and watch out for each other. Make sure drinks aren’t left unattended where they can be tampered with, and watch for signs that a friend may have been drugged. Leave as a group as well so that no one is left behind among strangers and no one is walking home alone.
DO be responsible when you drink. Avoiding intoxication makes you a better decision-maker when it comes to your personal safety on campus. A clear head also makes you a less appealing target, therefore less vulnerable to a potential attacker.
DO use ICE. Program your phone with at least one In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact. Emergency responders are trained to look for ICE contacts and if they are entered correctly, can even retrieve it from a locked phone. Procedures differ between phone types, so it’s best to research the proper method for your device.
DO carry self-defense. Not everyone can be a black belt, but there are other forms of personal safety that are affordable and can provide you with a measure of extra security. Consider keeping pepper spray, a personal alarm, or even a loud whistle within reach when you are walking on campus. Personal safety apps are also available to alert a contact of your choice if you are in danger.
DO learn about the city. If you are attending college in a new city, learn about it. What is their crime rate and where do crimes tend to occur? Be familiar with the layout of the town so you can make educated choices about where to go when you leave campus.
DON’T forget to learn about the safety services on your campus! Many colleges and universities offer services for the sole purpose of protecting their students and faculty, including shuttles, security escorts, 24-hour hotlines, lock-out services, and more. Find out what your campus has to offer so you can take advantage of it if needed.
There’s nothing more important than your personal safety on campus! A feeling of security will help keep you focused on achieving your educational goals and enjoying your time as a college student.