Whether you’re going to college for the first time or returning for your final semester before graduation, chances are good that you’ve got more on your mind than personal safety. Getting to class on time, getting all your coursework done, and managing your busy social life are probably at the top of your priority list while taking precautions to keep yourself safe on campus is near the bottom—or may not have occurred to you at all.
It’s easy to develop a false sense of security on campus because you’re among your peers. People your age with similar characteristics, you might assume, are just as honest and upright as you are. But the simple truth is that there are bad people in every demographic, and you need to be prepared with a plan in case someone tries to hurt or take advantage of you. Here are eight safety tips for college students who want to stay on the ball.
1. Use your phone (the right way). Always have your phone charged and with you in case of emergency, but don’t keep your face buried in it as you walk around campus. You need to be aware of your surroundings and able to notice any changes to the usual environment that may indicate the presence of danger, and for that to happen, you need to be looking up (and watching where you’re going).
2. Know the way out. Your top priority when starting college for the first time should be learning your way around campus. If you find yourself in a bad spot, you need to know how to get away and where to go to call for help. Locate the emergency call buttons on campus. Write your emergency contact info in your planner and program it into your phone as well, so hospitals will know who to contact if you’re admitted (most smartphones allow access to the emergency contacts list even if the passcode is unknown).
3. Lock your dorm door. Your door should always be locked whenever you’re away, alone, or asleep. Doing this will help keep your stuff safe, and it will keep you safe, too.
4. Never walk alone at night. If you have evening classes or need to go somewhere on campus after dark, walk with a friend or call campus security—their job is to keep students safe, so don’t feel bad about asking for an escort.
5. Don’t be the only person you know at a party, even if everyone there seems nice. That’s how vulnerable students get taken advantage of. Always go with someone you know well and trust, and don’t stay behind with strangers once your friend leaves.
6. Be smart when drinking/partying. Don’t ever let yourself get to the point where you don’t have total control over yourself or your situation.
7. Carry a PPD (personal protection device). Pepper spray, a whistle, and/or a Topps Security Key Fob are great tools that can help keep you safe. The TOPPS Security key fob comes with its charger and has a battery life of around five days, so you don’t have to remember to charge it every night. It’s discreet and simple to use; pushing the button sends an alert to an agent at the Topps Security network with your exact GPS location, so help is on the way immediately.
8. Take care of yourself. It may seem counterintuitive to take time for self-care, given how many demands college places on your time. But eating well, staying in shape, and taking a break every now and then to rest and recharge will improve your overall well-being and help you stay healthy and alert in case of danger.
Many people say their college years are the best years of their lives, so you’ve definitely got a lot to look forward to, and following these safety tips for college students will help keep your college experience safe and positive.