For many students, going away to college marks the first time they’ve lived on their own, away from the familiarity of their hometown. Crime can occur whether you’re attending school in a big city or a small town, so here’s how to stay safe on campus.
Learn about your school’s public safety department
Check the department website to find out how to call for help (many schools use a blue light system) and see if there are services to escort students home. Some schools also have apps to connect you instantly to Public Safety, providing alerts and information about incidents or crime trends. If there isn’t an app, you may still be able to sign up for crime reports and alerts by email, text or a phone call. Save the phone number for Public Safety for easy access, and remember that your first call in any emergency should be 911.
Lock your doors
The majority of crimes on college campuses are property theft. Leaving your bike unlocked or your dorm, apartment or car doors open is an invitation to a thief. Also, don’t leave your laptop or phone unattended in the library or any other public space, like the student union. Even a quick trip to the bathroom is long enough for your property to be taken.
Have a buddy
Don’t go to events alone and don’t leave your friends alone at events or parties. When possible, avoid walking, riding the bus or taking a cab by yourself — especially at night. If you do find yourself alone and needing to get home, call Public Safety or text a friend to let them know where you are and when you expect to be home.
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings
Common sense safety tips also apply at college, where it’s easy to feel comfortable and let your guard down. Don’t walk with your music so loud that it’s drowning out other noise, and keep your eyes up rather than on your phone. Stick to lit paths and more heavily trafficked areas, when possible.
Be particularly careful if you choose to drink alcohol, as it can affect your perception. If you do drink, set a limit for yourself and don’t accept drinks from strangers or let your drink out of your sight. Don’t drive if you’ve been drinking or get a ride from someone else who’s been drinking.
Take a self-defense class
Many colleges offer classes that teach students how to protect themselves in case of an attack. Some schools even offer credits for taking the class.
Be careful with personal information
Last year, more than one in five college students was a victim of identity theft, although many didn’t find out until they were denied credit or contacted by a collections agency. Protect yourself by using strong passwords, putting a passcode on your phone and avoiding making financial transactions online while on public Wi-Fi. Check your credit reports at least once a year to make sure they are accurate and that there’s no unexpected activity; you can request a free report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
While most students will sail through college without confronting any crime, having basic precautions in place can help protect you from a worst-case scenario.