Campus is supposed to be the safest place in the world for college students and it is a huge concern to students and families alike when their loved one is choosing a college to attend. But the sad truth is that no college campus is ever going to be completely safe even in broad daylight. There are some crazy people out there and when admissions accepts students, they usually don’t get to see the students face to face and therefore merely rely on their grades, SAT or ACT scores, essays, resumes and involvement lists. Even though no place is ever going to be 100% safe, there are precautions that you as a student can take in order to remain safe.
1. Lock your doors.
While this might seem self-explanatory, I know plenty of people who do not lock the door to their dorm or apartment. With not taking this extra precaution, it can be much easier for others to just walk into your dorm or apartment and steal your items when you leave your door unlocked. According to The National Crime Prevention Council, times have changed drastically. There used to not be a need to lock doors in the mid 1900s and prior, but as time as gone on more break-in crimes have occurred. Burglars look for the places that are the easiest targets to burglarize, and those are more often than not residences that do not have locks on them. I have even heard stories about some of my friends leaving their door unlocked when they go to bed, and then they are woken up in the middle of the night by another person drunkenly climbing into their bed thinking that they are in their own room. All of this madness could be avoided if you lock your door.
2. Carry pepper spray.
While this seem a little bit excessive, if you live off-campus it is important to be prepared for anything. There are people who aren’t students who live off-campus, so it can be scary, especially at night. Thus, you never know what people are going to do so it is better to be safe than sorry in case a stranger tries to make a move on you. Many people all over universities in the United States get raped, abused, or inappropriately touched and it goes unreported, so the numbers you read about certain campuses are often lower than what actually occurs since many people are hesitant to report any abuse.
3. Walk at night with a buddy.
At night, campus turns into a completely different place, especially on the weekends with parties. With drunk students and others around your college town, people can be pretty unpredictable. When you are alone, your fear can often get the best of you at times, so walking with a friend or a group of people will make you feel more safe and you would all be able to make a decision together in case anything that made you feel unsafe were to occur. It is impossible for anyone to truly be safe anytime or anywhere, but taking the extra precaution of walking with someone is important.
4. Don't get into anyone's car if you do not know who they are.
If you are taking an Uber or Lyft, make sure they are legitimate before getting into the car or always get in with another person or a group of people. Additionally, if someone were to offer you a ride, politely decline and quickly get out of there. This actually happened to my friend the other night. She was walking back alone to her dorm which was about a 20 minute walk away from where she was in downtown State College. Once she got on campus, a man stopped his car and wouldn’t let her cross the street and asked her seven times if she needed a ride. It was a little bit traumatizing for her, so she made the correct choice of not getting into that man's car.
5. Walk in well lit places.
There are going to be places on campus and in your college town that will be darker than others and that can sometimes create perfect places for people to hide to try to harm you. If you are in a place with a lot of light, you will have a better chance of seeing everything around you and remain safe.
6. Keep others aware of your whereabouts.
It is always a good idea to let your roommate, friends or even family know where you are going and how long you will be there. If it is a long time after you said you would be back to your dorm or apartment, it would be appropriate to have a trusted person to be able to check up on you. If you don’t make anyone aware where you are and something bad does happen, it could take longer for help.
7. Watch your drink.
When you go out, you should try to keep an eye on your drink at all times. Or, if you’re like me and don’t drink, watch your water bottle to make sure that no one either drugs you or puts more alcohol in your cup. If you set your drink down and are unsure, it is better to be safe than sorry by getting a new drink as opposed to drinking one you are unsure about.
8. Take advantage of your university's on-campus safety.
A lot of campuses have multiple forms of security. For example, my campus has blue lights, a two point entry system to the dorms, in addition to three levels of student police officers as well as actual police officers. Therefore, because of all of the security, I never feel unsafe on my campus. There is even a phone number that I could call called “Safe Walk” where some sort of campus authority will escort you back to your dorm.
Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry in all situations. While some situations are unavoidable, it is still important to be able to know how to protect yourself in any situation that may occur during your four years of college. Be safe, everyone!
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