College is one of the most exciting times for young people and returning students alike. It can be the first taste of adulthood and freedom for many, as they are ready to leave the high school experience behind and spread their wings. However, students need to be cautious, as college campuses can be unsafe.
Balancing independence with security is important—don’t be scared, be prepared. By following some simple precautions, you can feel more secure around campus and protect yourself and your belongings. Read on for safety tips that every college student should know!
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
It is so easy to get distracted while out and about—from listening to music to planning your afternoon out in your head, you might not be paying full attention. But it’s essential to always be aware of your surroundings, so don’t let technology distract you! Turn your music down and put away your phone, especially if it is late at night.
Avoid Walking Alone
Always avoid walking alone—particularly at night. Use the buddy system when walking, even during the day. Luckily, most college students make friends who can accompany them to class or on errands. But if you ever find yourself alone, don’t be afraid to ask security for a ride or use the walking escorts that most campuses offer.
Be Wary of Your Car or Bike
Having your own method of transportation might seem safe, but still, be careful. Whenever you approach your car or bike, be aware of anyone hovering close by. If you see a piece of paper or fabric stuck under your windshield wiper, do not approach your car, as this is a known tactic for kidnappers to employ.
Keep your keys ready, don’t multitask as you walk, and don’t wait in the parking lot—get in right away and go. As a rule of thumb, if you ever feel unsafe or suspicious of going to your vehicle, find a campus security officer or people you trust to walk you there. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Get Familiar With Campus Emergency Areas and Security
All campuses have some sort of emergency system, so make yourself familiar with it. Call buttons or phones are typically scattered throughout campus for anyone in trouble. If you are ever in danger, it will be easier to get to safety if you know where to go for help.
In addition, head to the campus security office and ask for safety information. They typically will have a pamphlet with various emergency campus phone numbers and after-hours contacts for students. Inquire about other campus safety resources—are there walking escorts or sober driver services for students? Know your options.
Carry Emergency Cash
Though it seems the world is moving towards a more cashless society, make sure to always have some emergency money on you. If your credit card won’t work or your debit card gets lost, you don’t want to be stuck somewhere without the funds to get out of there. Always keep a safe amount of cash with you in a hidden place.
Carry Yourself with Confidence
Because people who appear meek tend to be more common victims, it’s important to walk confidently. Plan out your travel route, keep your belongings close, carry yourself with assuredness and stay aware of everyone around you. If you appear panicked or scrambling for items, you will be more of a target.
Communicate Your Plans
If you’re heading out, make sure someone else knows where you are. Whether a roommate or sibling, give them your location and ETA so they know when to expect you back. Even if you are attending a regular college class, ensure someone knows your class schedule and check in with them periodically.
Consider Protective Measures
While state and municipal laws differ when it comes to what kinds of protective devices you can legally carry, it’s worthwhile looking into those regulations. The hope is certainly not to require the use of protection, but it could save you. Pepper spray, personal alarms, whistles, and self-defense tactics from taking a class can offer great protection.
Ensure Your Home is Secure
Your dormitory, house, or apartment should be the safest place for you, so make sure that all outside doors have working locks and any windows lower than the third floor. If you share accommodations, it’s a good idea to purchase a personal lock for your bedroom door, such as an over the handle lock or safety stopper.
Have Emergency Contacts Ready
Whether on your smartphone, on a notepad, or in a planner, keep trusted contacts readily available. Should you end up in the hospital, the staff will call your emergency contacts for you.
Some experts recommend writing your emergency contacts out and keeping the list in your jacket. That way, if you have to use someone else’s phone, you won’t have to try and recall the numbers from memory.
Install Security Software
It’s a good idea to install security software such as anti-virus or malware prevention on your devices. This will protect you from hackers and phishing, which could try to access personal details. You can also consider installing tracking software on more expensive items like laptops, so the authorities can find them easier if they get stolen.
Insure Your Belongings
If you fall victim to theft or burglary, it helps to have proper insurance for everything you have at college—especially expensive items, like laptops and tablets.
In some instances, home insurance may extend Liability and/or Personal Property coverage to children away at school while attending college; however, personal property will typically be limited to 10% of the personal property limit on the parent’s policy and subject to a deductible.
If the carrier extends coverage to students, there may be eligibility requirements. In order to qualify for coverage, some carriers require college students to be under a certain age, living on-campus, taking a full course load, and occupants of the parent’s home prior to attending school.
So to give yourself peace of mind, speak with your insurance company to ensure your personal belongings are covered.
Keep Personal Details Private
Don’t let your personal information get shared—keep it secret, keep it safe. Ensure that you have a record of driving licenses, passports, health care cards, etc. Destroy papers that include bank details and old credit cards by shredding them. Double-check all websites that request personal information such as PINs or account details.
Lock Everything Up Tightly
The best way to ensure safety is to keep everything locked. Whenever you leave your dwelling, lock all windows and doors behind you. The same applies to vehicles—keep your bike secured to a bike rack or sturdy tree, and always lock your car doors as soon as you get in or exit the vehicle. Never leave your car running or your bike unattended.
Monitor Crime Rates and Trends
While monitoring crime is not the most enjoyable research, staying informed is smart. Awareness of local crime rates and types of crime will help you stay safe and feel more prepared. For example, if your area has experienced a rise in bike theft, you can add another bike lock to your wheels for greater peace of mind.
Report Suspicious Activity
If you spot a suspicious person or vehicle on campus, or a situation that does not seem right to you, make sure to report it to campus security. Your action could save someone’s life, even your own.
Download Safety Apps
You can download some great self-defense applications right on your smartphone for better safety. With instant access to emergency contacts and even the authorities, some of these free applications may be right for you, including:
- Circle of 6—In a risky situation, the user sends a pre-programmed alert message with their exact location to six chosen contacts.
- Panik—With one tap, a preconfigured message is sent to emergency contacts, and the user can post statuses on social media platforms that include the location and message.
- Watch Over Me—Whenever necessary, the user can activate this app, and their location is tracked until the user checks in again at their destination. If the user does not check-in, the app alerts all emergency contacts of the location. The app will also alert the user if they are entering an area of high crime.
Be Smart on Social Media
Everyone’s lives are on social media these days, from where they eat to where they visit. However, the geotag option on most platforms can be very dangerous—never tag your location on social media, as it reveals your position to strangers.
Knowing someone’s vicinity can be surprisingly easy to determine, even if you have left that area. Review your social media profile settings and set your posts to limited access, especially when it comes to photos. You can also disable location services and log out of your accounts for extra security.
Trust Your Gut
One of the most important safety tips is always to trust what your instincts are telling you. That gut feeling is an innate sense to keep you safe, and you should listen to it. Whatever the circumstances, if you get that tingle—it’s time to get out of there. Don’t worry about other people’s feelings or giving in to peer pressure. Your safety comes first!
Watch Your Drinks
This tip applies in a couple of ways. First, never let your drink out of your sight. If you must leave the premises and cannot take your drink with you, ensure that you leave it with a trusted friend to keep it safe for you. It only takes a split second for someone to slip something into your glass, so don’t leave your drink unattended or accept one from a stranger.
Additionally, watch how much you drink. It’s fine to go out and have a good time, but keep in mind that it is easier to lose belongings or have lower awareness when drinking. Make sure to eat before going out and have plenty of water between drinks.
And no matter what you do, never drink and drive or get a ride from someone under the influence.