You are preparing to head off to college and are both excited beyond words (FREEDOM AT LAST!) and a little bit scared, which is normal. It’s a big step. You are no longer living under your parents’ roof, which has both its pros and cons. You are going to have to step up and learn to take care of yourself and your possession, become organized, accountable and responsible and, most importantly, know how to keep yourself safe because daddy or big brother aren’t there to protect you any more.
Before heading out for college, read everything you can about your new school. The university’s website provides tips on most everything a college freshman needs to know and may even advise you what areas of town should be avoided. Crime does, unfortunately, occur on college campuses and it would be naïve of you as well as detrimental to your safety to believe otherwise.
Talk to your friends who have already been to college and ask for pointers. Those who are currently enrolled in college, particularly the one that you are about to attend, are the best source of information. If they tell you to stay off of Wildcat Road then do it. They know the score and some of them have learned their lesson the hard way.
TALK TO YOUR PARENTS
Don’t think that you are too big to discuss your fears and questions with your parents. Perhaps they attended college, maybe even the same one that you are going to. Yes, things have changed since they were co-eds but they are smarter than you think and can give you some tips on how to cope with campus life, including how to avoid getting in a dicey situation. Granted, their experience may have occurred 25 years ago, or more, but they still have insight into how things work on a campus and in a dorm.
Your college may offer a class in self defense (and the accompanying credits.) Take it. Although no one wants to be a victim it can happen and the more prepared you are for this the better you will be at successfully handling a situation when it arises. Moreover, you will be getting some exercise which is a must because you want to avoid the freshman 15.
LOCK THOSE DOORS!
The dorm’s main entrance should remain locked at all times. Shield your dorm key with your life. Likewise with your dorm room or apartment: Keep the doors locked. Do not invite temptation to enter. Be smart. Safety isn’t a given. Although no one is suggesting that you should be paranoid and scared out of your wits, it is always advisable to proceed with caution and an awareness that the potential for danger is there.
WALKING ALONE AT NIGHT …
College students often end up walking home late at night, by themselves, which concerns their parents, and it should. Try not to walk alone but if you have to, carry pepper spray or mace with you and know how to use them both. Another suggestion is to talk to someone on your cell phone as you are walking to your destination. Tell them where you are. If something were to happen the person on the other end of the line would know where you were when the event took place.
KEEP SOMEONE POSTED
Before you leave your dorm room or apartment, tell someone — your roommate, your parents – where you are going. This may seem infantile but you just never know what you may encounter. If something goes awry you will be very glad that your roomie or friend or mother knew what you were doing, where you were going and with whom. You do not want to end up as a picture on a milk container. Last seen ….
It is so easy to keep in touch nowadays with cell phones, email, twitter, texting. Use these tools to keep in contact with others so they essentially know, more or less, where you are on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Of course, you do not have to divulge all of the details to your mother, certainly not if you are being a typical college student and sowing your wild oats. Just check in with her or a friend occasionally. You are not required to give a play-by-play of your activities although, hopefully, you are in the library and diligently studying.
THE DATE RAPE DRUG
Never leave your beverage unattended. There is a drug called Rohypnol (“Roofie”) that can be slipped into a drink and knock you on your behind. The drug is referred to as the date rate drug because it incapacitates whoever has consumed it. You do not want to wake up in some strange place with no idea of what transpired. Keep your cup or beverage can with you at all times.
There are emergency call boxes (phones) on most campuses, which you can use if you are in danger and need help. Find out where these phones are and don’t hesitate to use them if you fear for your safety.
Make a check list: Learn about the campus. Talk to others about the campus and what areas you should avoid. Carry mace or pepper spray with you when you are walking alone at night but, ideally, do not walk alone. Take a self defense course. Remember to lock the door to your dorm room or apartment when leaving and make sure the main entry door to the dorm is locked. Keep in touch with someone so they know, more or less, where you are and who you are with. Keep your beverage with you to avoid having it spiked. Know where the emergency phones are that connect you with campus police.
Be smart. Now enjoy your college years!
This article is by Mary Browning, a past student of an online MBA degree program. She’s a respected business professor at a small college in Texas; in her spare time, Browning works as a freelance writer of online masters degree organizational leadership programs.