College can be an exciting time for incoming students to gain knowledge in their chosen field, expand their social and professional networks, and develop valuable skills. It also offers a sense of independence and self-discovery as young adults navigate new challenges and responsibilities.
While college is generally a safe environment for students, it ultimately depends on various factors such as the location of the college, the safety measures in place, and the behavior of the individuals within the college community.
Colleges and universities typically have safety protocols in place, such as:
- Campus police
- Emergency alert systems like stations with lights, alarms, and GPS navigation
- Security cameras for surveillance
- Safety procedures for incidents like fires, natural disasters, and active shooter situations
- Safety education and training programs
- Free health clinics for enrolled students
- Safety escort services to and from classes, libraries, or facilities
- Self defense classes taught by local law enforcement or martial arts schools
- Resources for students who experience violence or harassment, such as campus counseling services or sexual assault prevention programs
However, it's important to note that there are still potential safety risks that students should be aware of, such as crime in the surrounding area, sexual assault, and drug and alcohol abuse. Additionally, some colleges may be located in areas with higher crime rates, or may have policies that are less effective in ensuring student safety.
Safety Measures To Take On Campus
There are many ways that college students can stay safe and make the most of their experience on campus. College is a period in a person's life of growth, learning, and exploration, and if done properly and safely, can provide great benefits as students progress to adulthood.
Walking In Groups
When going out, it is always safer to stay in a group. This will reduce the risk of being targeted by criminals who normally prey on individual targets.
Use the buddy system when going out at night or attending parties and try to go with a group of friends or at least one other person. This can help deter potential predators or dangerous situations, and you can look out for each other. When you are leaving the party make sure you leave with everyone you came with.
Report any suspicious activity to campus security
If you see something, say something. Do not think that your tip is trivial or you are making a big deal out of nothing. The worst case scenario is campus security will check on your concern, deem it safe or unimportant, and then carry on with their day. On the other hand, you could be potentially saving someone's life or helping others avoid a dangerous situation by alerting campus security of a concern. It's always better to give them the information and allow them to use it as they wish.
Be aware of your surroundings
Always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what is happening around you. Essentially known as situational awareness, this will help you avoid dangerous situations. Understand what the different elements in your environment mean and use them to make smart decisions.
Avoiding unsafe areas
While some college campuses can be completely safe, some are also located in sprawling urban cities which have both safe and unsafe areas around it. During orientation, from school counselors and materials, through word of mouth, and upon your own experiences, you should get a clear picture of not only what areas around the school are dangerous but the exact streets and borders not to cross.
There are several safety apps available that can help you stay safe on campus. These apps can alert authorities or friends in case of an emergency. Let your friends or family members know your whereabouts and when you are expected to return. Share your location with them, and make sure to have a fully charged phone with you at all times.
Lock your doors
Make sure to lock your doors when you are in your dorm room, apartment, house, or car. This will prevent unauthorized access. It will also allow you a barrier and extra time to call police if someone is trying to target you.
Avoid walking alone at night and in general
If possible, avoid walking alone at night. Instead, try to walk with a group or take advantage of campus safety services like escort services where a trained student or employee will walk you home.
Don't share personal information
Be cautious about sharing personal information, such as your address or phone number, with people you don't know. There are several cases of stalking on college campuses and keeping your personal information confidential can prevent you from being followed.
Know emergency procedures
Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures on campus, such as evacuation routes and emergency contacts. When you enter a building, classroom, library, or gym, always take not of the entrances, exits, windows, closets, and any other egress or area that you can use in an emergency situation.
Trust your instincts
If something feels wrong, trust your instincts and leave the situation. Your safety is more important than being polite or not wanting to offend someone. Remove yourself from the situation and seek help if necessary.
Don't drink too much
Drinking too much can impair your judgment and increase your vulnerability to danger. Always drink responsibly and avoid leaving your drink unattended. Being drunk can also make you a target for predators.
Avoid risky behavior
Avoid engaging in risky behaviors, such as drug use or casual sex. These behaviors can increase your risk of danger and harm.
Take self-defense classes
Consider taking a self-defense class to learn how to protect yourself in case of an attack. With options ranging from Krav Maga to Tae Kwan Do, and specific self defense classes for females, you will be able to find a class that suits you.
Use self defense products
There are several great self defense products that you should consider to help keep you physically safe in a dangerous situation. Pepper spray is a common self-defense tool that can help students protect themselves from attackers by causing temporary blindness, difficulty breathing, and severe pain, giving the victim time to escape.
Personal alarms are small, portable devices emit a loud, high-pitched sound when activated, which can attract attention and potentially deter an attacker.
Stun guns deliver an electrical shock to an attacker, causing them to temporarily lose muscle control and coordination. It can be an effective self-defense tool, but it requires close proximity to the attacker.
Whistles can be used to attract attention and deter an attacker by emitting loud, blaring noises.
Self-defense keychains contain many different protective weapons and are designed to give the user multiple different options for self-defense. They may contain Kubatons, pepper spray, and personal alarms and are very effective at personal defence.
College Students Who Are Victims of a Crime
If a college student has been a victim of a crime, there are several steps they should take:
Seek immediate help: If you or someone else is in danger, call 911 or your local emergency number. If you have been physically or sexually assaulted, seek medical attention immediately.
Report the crime: Report the crime to campus security, the police, or other authorities as soon as possible. They can help you file a report and investigate the incident.
Preserve evidence: Try to preserve any evidence related to the crime, such as clothing, messages, or photos, but do not touch anything that may be evidence. This can help investigators in their efforts to identify and prosecute the perpetrator.
Seek support: Being a victim of a crime can be traumatic and emotional. Seek support from friends, family, or a counselor to help you cope and heal. Nowadays there are also many organizations on campus that provide support and resources to victims of assault.
Be cautious: If you have been targeted by someone, it's important to take steps to protect yourself. Change your routine, avoid being alone in secluded areas, and consider using self-defense products or enrolling in a self-defense class.
Follow up: Stay in touch with the authorities handling your case and follow up on any information or leads they provide. Keep records of all interactions related to the case.
Remember that being a victim of a crime is never your fault, and you have the right to seek help and justice. By taking these steps, college students can help protect themselves and others from further harm.
If you have not yet decided on a university, it's important for students and their families to research the safety record of a college before deciding to attend, and to take steps to protect themselves while on campus.
Overall, while no environment can be completely free of risk, college can be a safe and rewarding experience for students who take advantage of the resources and support available to them.