This spring, as students are polishing off applications, visiting colleges, and awaiting acceptance letters, it’s a good idea to discuss what it means to live and thrive on a college campus.
While it’s not an easy talk to have, discussions about campus safety can help both parents and students prepare for living in a college environment.
Here are six things to remember.
1. Be aware.
Campuses are often very comfortable places - homes away from home if you find the right one, but you have to be pragmatic. Follow standard safety advice about protecting valuables, being aware of your surroundings, and paying attention just as you would anywhere else. While it may be tempting to don headphones during your evening jog or to leave your laptop for just a second, remember that it is important to be diligent. And, if you are at a party, drink only what you know, have had under your control, and can handle.
2. Have a buddy.
Whether you are going to an event or simply heading to your car after a night class, find someone to partner with you. Look out for each other.
3. Keep your virtual world safe.
Online social networks and other services or apps allow for different types of threats. Carefully consider your social networking, texting, and online platforms, and contact campus security if someone is stalking or threatening you online.
4. Take care of you mental health.
If you or someone you know is having issues with depression, substance abuse, or thoughts of suicide, do not be afraid to alert your school’s mental health team, residence hall staff, or campus police.
5. Learn your school
Take time when you visit campus to learn the security features and available support resources. Map out a path to classes, the cafeteria, or the rec center and pay attention to emergency phones and campus security. Schools have a variety of ways to increase your physical and mental safety, so be sure to learn what they are and how you can access them.
6. Have a plan.
We’ve all run through fire drills or lock-down drills and while they often seem like time-wasters, they are an essential part of preparation. People handle distress a little better if they feel prepared to respond to the situation. Consider making your own plan for encountering an assailant. That might even include self-defense training that would empower you to accurately assess your ability to protect yourself. Your campus may even provide classes.
Ultimately, when it comes to fears about campus safety, preparation is essential. The more aware and prepared you are for a variety of scenarios, and the more connected you are with campus resources, the safer and happier your overall college experience will be.