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Safety Tips for College Students Living on Campus

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky clean and drama-free.

Heading off to college soon? Check out these tips to help students living on campus stay safe while they experience the joys of living away from home for the first time.

Awareness is key to staying safe on campus.

Sometimes when you're studying you want to put on your headphones and tune out. But that doesn't mean you should totally tune out what's going on around you. Stay safe by staying aware.
Sometimes when you're studying you want to put on your headphones and tune out. But that doesn't mean you should totally tune out what's going on around you. Stay safe by staying aware.

For first-year college students, leaving home to live on campus can be both an exciting and scary step towards adult independence. If you have never lived away from home, this article on health and safety tips for college students addresses the following questions:

  • What can I do to increase my personal safety on campus?
  • How do I take care of medical issues and health concerns while living away from home at college?
  • What other resources are available on campus to help me take care of my health and safety needs if I am in crisis?

The most important thing you can do to take care of yourself at college is to be aware of your environment and listen to what your gut is telling you. If something, or someone, is making you feel unsafe at school, don't hesitate to ask for help. If you are concerned about your health, don't wait until the last minute to visit the college health center. Take a proactive approach to your health and safety.

Being safe on campus doesn't mean that you have to stay in every night or give up doing your favorite activities. But staying safe does mean that you must be alert to the signs of danger around you.
Being safe on campus doesn't mean that you have to stay in every night or give up doing your favorite activities. But staying safe does mean that you must be alert to the signs of danger around you.

College Campus Safety Tips

Many students who live on college campuses rely on public transportation to get around; others may choose to walk or ride a bicycle. Here are some safety tips for getting around your college campus:

  • If you are taking the bus at night, always carry an up-to-date transit schedule with you. Try to arrive at the bus stop no earlier than needed so that you aren't waiting alone in the dark for too long.
  • When you get on the bus, sit near the front and tell the driver if you are being bothered or harassed by other passengers.
  • If you are walking to classes on campus at night, take advantage of "safe-walk" programs.
  • If you think you are being followed while you are walking, turn around and look. Let anyone behind you know that you are aware they are there. Go to the nearest public space such as a store or gas station if you feel unsafe.
  • When walking, stay on well lit streets, in the center of the sidewalk and away from bushes, doorways, or parked cars where an assailant could hide.

Plan to be safe on public transit by paying attention to bus schedules and mapping your route to and from your destination ahead of time.
Plan to be safe on public transit by paying attention to bus schedules and mapping your route to and from your destination ahead of time.

Medical and Health Services for College Students

Being away from home for the first time in your life also means that you will be away from your usual healthcare providers such as your family doctor, gynecologist, physiotherapist (if you use one) and dentist. What do you do if you need medical care but you can’t get home to see your trusted healthcare provider?

The most important thing students need to do before they move away to go to college is to make sure they have adequate health insurance coverage. For students studying abroad in another country, medical insurance is absolutely critical. For more information on the various types of medical insurance available to students in the United States, check out the two videos on the right.

If you live in a country such as Canada that provides universal healthcare, find out if there are any restrictions or limitations on your coverage if you leave the province. Don't assume that universal health insure is administered in the same way across different provinces.

Once you have your medical insurance in place, the next thing you'll want to do is visit your campus health clinic (preferably before you get sick) and familiarize yourself with the range of services available. You may want to schedule an appointment with a doctor at the clinic to get your personal health file started.

  • If you run out of medication while you're at school and you need a prescription renewal, you’ll be able to visit the campus health clinic and get a prescription.
  • Medical centers on most college campuses can also provide immunizations and flu shots. If you're living in close quarters with other students on campus, you're more susceptible to viral infections.
  • If you have ongoing health issues, knowing that a doctor at the medical center is familiar with your unique needs can reduce the stress of moving away from home for the first time.

When you're at the health clinic, be sure to pick up free brochures, booklets, and educational resources on common health concerns for college students.

The health and safety tips for college students featured in this article are based on common sense and good planning. There is no way to guarantee that you will be 100% safe while living on campus, nor can you be sure that you won't get sick or injured. The best thing students can do is educate themselves about the services available to them and take reasonable precautions to avoid dangerous situations.

Do not hesitate to call emergency personnel or campus security if you feel threatened or unsafe.

Taking common sense steps to increase your feelings of safety on campus will make it easier for you to focus on your assignments.
Taking common sense steps to increase your feelings of safety on campus will make it easier for you to focus on your assignments.

Do you take valuables to school with you, or do you leave them at home?

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A college degree is the key to realizing the American dream, well worth the financial sacrifice because it is supposed to open the door to a world of opportunity.

— Dan Rather
Don't take anything for granted on campus. If you have valuables that you don't want to get stolen, store and secure them properly.
Don't take anything for granted on campus. If you have valuables that you don't want to get stolen, store and secure them properly.

More Resources to Increase Your Safety and Security on College Campuses

In addition to knowing how to access medical services and move around campus as safely as possible, students should familiarize themselves with these other student services and resources:

  • The Ombud's Office
  • The Community Policing Office
  • The Women's Center
  • Sexual Assault and/or Victims of Crime Assistance Programs
  • Campus Security Office
  • Student Handbook and Student Code of Conduct
  • Counseling Centers, Suicide Prevention, and Crisis Hotlines
  • Student Union Office
  • Accessibility and Disability Resource Center

What health and safety tips would you add to this list for college students living on campus? Please leave a comment.

© 2013 Sally Hayes

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