In 2007, a Virginia Tech student named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured countless others before ending his own life on the Virginia Tech campus. This shooting massacre was a horrible tragedy and a sad reminder that anything can happen anywhere at any time, even when you’re in a place you consider to be safe, such as your college campus.
Wherever you attend college, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and use your common sense at all times to avoid potentially dangerous things from happening to you. Although not to the scale of the Virginia Tech shooting, crimes take place on many college campuses every single year. Assaults, stalking, rapes, shootings, theft and other crimes can and do occur.
Many colleges have campus security guards or even campus police, but you should also do your part to attempt to stay safe on campus. Here are a few tips:
- Do your part to ensure that the door to your residence hall remains locked at all times. The main entryways have locks for a reason: to keep people out if they are not supposed to be there. I never lived in a dorm, but I would go visit my friends who did. They were supposed to come down and let me in, but 99% of the time someone in the lobby would see me standing outside and open the door or someone else who opened the door with their key would let me follow behind them- even though they didn’t know me! Just because someone “looks like they belong there” or “looks safe” doesn’t mean they are.
- Keep the door to your room locked, too. It doesn’t matter if you are only running down to the laundry room to check on your jeans. Someone could easily sneak into your room after they see you leave with the door propped open, and steal your belongings or wait for you to return in order to harm you. Keep your door locked, take your keys with you, and unlock it when you return. It’s that simple. You wouldn’t leave the door to your house or apartment unlocked if you just ran to the grocery store.
- Keep your windows locked. It doesn’t matter if you live on the second or third floor. The old saying “Hey, you never know!” is said all the time for a reason! This is a college campus, after all. “Harmless pranks” occur constantly, but you probably won’t like it if one night those pranks involve a ladder and your unlocked window!
- If you keep a car parked on campus, be sure to check on it often even if you are not going to drive anywhere. Make sure to keep your car locked and do not store valuables inside. You never know what might happen to your car, especially if someone knows that it remains parked for long periods of time. Windows are easy to smash, remember that.
- Keep your eyes on your belongings. Your campus library might be one of the calmest, quietest places you’ve ever been, but jerks can go to libraries, too. If you step away from your study area to grab a book or stretch your legs, you don’t want someone to steal your purse or your textbooks or your laptop or your cell phone or your … you get the drift, right?
- Don’t walk around alone at night, and avoid dark or secluded places. Try to walk with a buddy or a group of friends. I attended a very expensive private university, and I still remember seeing homeless people trying to nap on the benches in the park. Expensive doesn’t translate into safe. Campus security would always ask them to leave, as it was a private university, but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t sneaking on campus without getting caught. Most schools have some sort of Safety Team or Escort service that will pick you up and take you to your destination after dark. They are there for a reason: use them!
- Don’t go home with someone that you just met at a party. Yes, I know that this is college and you’re free to date whomever you want, but sexual assaults and rapes do happen, particularly when there has been alcohol involved. It’s a fact. Running off to someone’s dark dorm room after knowing them for three hours probably isn’t the wisest decision you should make.
- Avoid situations that you know will be dangerous. You don’t have to attend every party that you’re invited to, particularly if you know ahead of time that underage drinking or illegal drug use will be going on.
For the most part, these tips are simply common sense, but it’s easy to forget things when you’re at school where you assume you’re always safe. In this day and age, anything is possible. The students killed and injured in the Virginia Tech shooting didn’t know what was happening until it happened. You should always try to do your part to protect yourself. You made it to college because of your brain. Remember to use it, okay?
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.