Colleges and universities work hard to create a safe, secure learning and living environment for their students. Even with their precautions in place, students should have their own basic safety measures to follow whether they are on or off campus. Knowing what to do, where to go and who to contact is key. Consider these recommendations and tips:
Stick to routes that are well-traveled and highly populated. At night, stay within well-lit areas and away from routes you are unfamiliar with. Many colleges offer night safety services such as walking escorts or shuttles. Use them - that's why the service is there. I'm sure you've heard the term "there is safety in numbers." It's true. Whenever possible, travel with a friend or in a group. Additionally, don’t hesitate to report suspicious people or activities if you feel unsafe. Most colleges have emergency call boxes across the campus. Learn their locations so you'll know where to go if you need one. Finally, be aware of your surroundings. When wearing headphones, look up from time to time to make others aware you are paying attention.
AT THE DORM OR APARTMENT
The main entrance to your residence hall or apartment should be locked at all times. Use the main entrance whenever possible, especially if it is manned or monitored. Do not let anyone in that you don't know. Make sure to keep your dorm room locked, especially when alone in the room or sleeping. If you lose your apartment or room key, get your locks replaced as soon as possible.
You may have to pay the fee, but your safety will be worth the cost. Keep all valuable personal items and documents locked away in a drawer or safe inside your dorm room or apartment. If you have a car, try to park in a safe, well-lit location and keep it locked at all times. Always keep your blinds closed or curtains drawn when changing clothes. If you’ve had the windows open, don’t forget to close them before you leave.
PARTIES AND OTHER EVENTS
Know your limits and stay within them. Know when to quit and when to leave situations that can cause you harm. Do not mix drugs and alcohol, and do not accept drinks or anything from someone you do not know. Watch your drink as it’s being made or poured and do not leave it unattended. It's always best to have a designated driver if you plan on drinking. If you are the designated driver for the evening, be responsible and stay sober. If you're going on a date, be sure to follow all of the rules for safe dating. Make sure someone you trust knows who you are with, where you are going, and when you are expected home. Set your boundaries at the beginning of the date, and make sure the rules of verbal and sober consent are clear.
If attending college away from home, take some time to learn the city as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Learn about the “good parts” and “bad parts” of town and stay out of potentially dangerous areas. Familiarize yourself with the location of police and fire stations. If you ever feel you are being followed or unsafe for other reasons, do not hesitate to go to the nearest station immediately.
If living off-campus, be conscious of fire safety. Check your smoke alarms regularly, and create and rehearse both primary and alternate escape plans. If living off-campus and planning to be away between semesters or for a holiday, take your valuables with you. Be sure to let your landlord and trusted neighbors know that you will be away and when you intend to return so they can keep an eye on your place. When you get back, carefully inspect your place to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. If something is off, don’t hesitate to call the police.
* adapted from R. Jones, Occidental College