Balance Independence with Keeping Safe
College: it’s a time when you’re allowed to stretch your adult wings and become more independent. Your parents no longer call the shots. You’re the one who gets to choose the time of your classes, the dorm you want to live in, and ultimately your future path. It’s a safe place to practice becoming an adult, but it’s not always a place that’s safe from the bad intentions of other people.
It’s important to balance your newfound independence by keeping yourself safe. It’s time to take responsibility for both your future and your present. Whether you’re a college freshman or a seasoned vet, there are ways to keep yourself safe on campus. We have a few tips to do just that.
Every college campus has some kind of safeguard in place, whether it’s a campus-based security force or an entire safety department. Find out what your college has in place to protect you and then use those resources to your advantage. Do they have sober driver services on the weekend? Are there escorts who will walk you across campus at night? What’s the number for the campus emergency line? Knowing the answers to those types of burning questions will serve you well not only in case of emergencies, and may also help prevent dangerous situations from occurring in the first place.
The buddy system is handy indeed. Walking across campus can be dangerous, even if its the middle of the day. There are plenty of places to lurk or hide, and sketchy people are way less likely to prey on you if you’re with a group of people. Walking in a group will help keep your friends safe as well. This is especially important if you’re going out at night. Don’t walk alone, even if it’s just to the dorm across campus, and don’t take any rideshare rides alone, either. Not only will your Uber be cheaper if you split the fare with a few friends, but it’ll also be safer, too.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth reiterating: when you’re in your car, dorm room, apartment, or otherwise, lock your door. You never know who may be around the corner jiggling door handles. When you leave, lock your door. You may feel safe in your well-lit residence hall, and you probably are, but there’s always a chance that leaving your door unlocked will allow sketchy characters access to your personal space. Don’t risk it. Take the time to lock your doors and you’ll be much safer for it.
Chances are good you have at least one or two social media accounts, possibly more if you have a campus-specific social profile. While social media is intended to share pictures with friends and the places you’re visiting, it’s not always safe. In an environment like a college campus, you need to be more conscientious about your surroundings – and telling everyone your plans can leave you vulnerable.
Choose the right settings to keep yourself safe. Turn off your location. Be careful about checking in on Facebook or FourSquare. If you can, set your chat settings to block people who you aren’t familiar with. Think of it as today’s version of “Don’t talk to strangers.” If you don’t know who the person is, don’t confirm any private information and never agree to meet someone you don’t know in a private residence or other unfamiliar places. If you have to take that chance, take a friend with you and always meet in a busy public space.
College campuses can be massive expanses of buildings, parking lots, green spaces and dorm rooms. If you aren’t familiar with where you’re going or what building is where it’s time to learn those things. Knowledge is power, even in this case, and if you know what areas may be dark at night or can spot things that seem out of place, you’ll be safer for it.
If something doesn’t feel right to you, follow your instinct. “Trust your gut” is a saying for a reason, and that innate sense is there to keep you safe. It doesn’t matter if the feeling stems from peer pressure to do something you don’t feel comfortable with or you’re just a strange feeling about a situation — whatever the circumstances, you should trust that feeling and leave. Don’t worry about other people’s feelings. Keep yourself safe instead.
If you’re going out, make sure someone else knows where you’re going and who you’re going with. It might be worth telling your roommate where you’re going, even if it’s just to your mid-morning class. If someone knows where you are, there will be a place to start looking in case you go missing.
That doesn’t mean being a pro at keg stands. What we mean is that you should make sure you’re prepared and educated on how to keep yourself safe at parties. Don’t let your drink out of your sight. Don’t accept drinks from other people — drink what you brought with you or mixed yourself instead. And, make sure you’re keeping your alcohol intake in check. Let loose, but don’t go overboard. If you do, make sure you have a trusted friend with you who can help you get home safely and protect you from potential predators. Make sure you’re that person for other people, too.
Does the person you’re on a date with creep you out? Do you feel unsafe at the bar with your friends? It’s OK to lie to get yourself out of situations that make you uncomfortable for any reason at all. Don’t worry about getting caught in a lie; worry about getting out of there. Who cares if your little white lie comes to light afterward? At least you’re safe and out of a situation that could have turned dangerous. That’s worth way more than honesty. And if you need to, you can lie to get your friends out of a sticky situation, too. They’ll thank you for it.
You never know when you might need to make an emergency call, either for you or a friend. The easiest way to do that is to make sure your phone is charged and easily accessible before you leave your dorm or apartment. If your phone isn’t charged, stay home until it is. Better late than sorry. And, while you’re at it, make sure you load emergency numbers and emergency contacts, like your parents or guardians, into your phone. Adding the campus police line is a good idea, too. You may not have time to search for it in an emergency, so make it as easy to access as possible.
Don’t Be Scared; Be Prepared
Don’t take these tips as reasons to be scared; take them as ways to be prepared. Keeping these safe campus hacks in mind will help keep you safe and make your college years some of the best of your life.