Going away to college means plunging head-first into the sometimes-tumultuous waters of adulthood and adult responsibility. Your first year of college will probably bring with it a whole array of other momentous “firsts,” from your first 8:00 a.m. class to your first all-night party and everything in between.
Unfortunately, though, campus living is not all fun and games. For the first time in your life, you’re going to be wholly responsible for your own personal safety – and you’re going to be surrounded by thousands of rowdy, inhibition-impaired, often-inebriated young people, not to mention any unsavory locals who might hang around the edges of campus looking to prey on vulnerable young students.
Although nearly 98% of the crimes committed on college campuses are related to theft, violent crimes are also a rising concern. A 2007 FBI report showed that although there has been a decline in overall campus crime rates in recent decades, there has been a slight up-tick in the number of violent crimes reported on college campuses during the last few years.
Personal safety experts say that college students armed with just a basic awareness of the issue can significantly reduce their vulnerability to violent crime. Here are a few common-sense tips to help you stay safe on campus this year.
* Be aware of your surroundings. The single most important thing you can do to ensure your personal safety is to tune in to your environment. Young people often walk around in a bubble of obliviousness, and that kind of behavior sets you up as a walking target for predators who would do you harm. Make it a point to be mindful of where you are, what’s going on around you, and who is in your vicinity.
* Arm yourself with information. Colleges and universities are subject to a number of state and federal laws that force them to disclose information about violent crimes on campus; this information is usually available from the campus police department or safety office. Ask around to find out where the trouble spots are on campus. Many colleges offer basic training in safety techniques during new student orientation, so take advantage of that if it’s made available to you.
* Plan ahead. Whether your agenda includes a night out on the town or a long evening among the stacks and study carrels at the library, sketch out a safety plan in advance. Mention your schedule and whereabouts to friends and flatmates, arrange for rides home well in advance, and let someone know if your plans change.
* Trust your gut. Many new college students lack the assertiveness to speak up if something seems a bit off. Personal safety experts insist that you’ve got to learn to trust your intuition. If a house party or a dorm room study session starts to make you feel uncomfortable, pack up your stuff and hightail it out of there. Your safety is more important than being polite.
* Be prepared. As a group, college students aren’t known for their foresight and careful planning, but when it comes to personal safety, you’ve got to be ready to deal with unexpected problems and situations that might arise. Little details like a fully-charged cell phone, an extra house key, and emergency cab fare can really come in handy if things go awry. It might feel ridiculous to plan ahead for every little contingency, but like your mom always says, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Are you worried about personal safety on campus? Have you heard anything troubling about violent crime at your college? Share your stories in the comments.
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