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What every 18-year-old woman should know heading off to college for the first time

Updated on December 9, 2016
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

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Safety First Girls - Independence Second

I wish I could just write a hub about this year's fashions for freshmen women entering the collegiate arena for the first time. I wish I could write a hub about the most popular majors or how to rock English Literature 101. But all that needs to come second, a distant second, to what you really need to know about going off to college for the first time.

You are not going to Disneyland. You are not going to summer camp where the gates are locked at 10 p.m. You are going to a place where your own personal safety is primarily up to you. These are the facts: one of the most dangerous times in a woman's life is the first six weeks away from home at college. It's not so dangerous because of a failure of colleges and universities to be concerned about the safety of their women students. It's not so dangerous because campuses have a higher than average number of criminals and predators. It is so dangerous because young women, away from home for the first time, and inexperienced with the independence they have suddenly achieved, too often don't know how to leaven that freedom with precautions that previously were provided for them by parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors. They are on their own. And they need some information.

Don't get drunk. Just do that and you will have removed most of the risk to your first weeks at college. If you do drink, do it with people you know you can trust - not with people you've just met and you assume you can trust. And remember at all times: you are breaking the law. There are consequences.

When you go to a party, bring your own drink in a bottle with a cap on it. When you are not drinking from it, keep the cap on. If you set it down, do not pick it up again. You will save yourself myriad problems if you don't drink alcohol until you are of legal age, but if you do, pump your own beer, or mix your own drink, or watch the bartender make it. And the same rule applies at a bar as at a party. If you set the drink down and walk away from it, you're finished with it.

Go to parties, restaurants, and campus events with a group, and when it is time to leave, don't leave without all the people in your group being accounted for. Don't let the group leave you with a "great guy" you just met. Give him your number if you want to, but leave with your friends. And don't accept a refusal to leave from a member of your group. Wait for her, or insist it is time to go, and the group will not leave without her.

Don't go out at night alone. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where a woman could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted? Yes, it would. But we don't, and we can't. Taking your dog with you isn't enough. Nothing good happens after dark. Anyone ever tell you that? It would be nice if it were not the case, but it is.

If you do find you've inadvertently stayed at the library too late, or your group of friends have left a party without you, call the campus police for an escort home. That's their job. Don't hesitate to ask them to do it. Another option is to call a male friend you know well, and ask him to come walk you home. If he's a friend, he'll do it. Don't feel foolish doing either of these options. Someone who has already been away at school for a while will know it is just common sense.

Lock your doors, in your dorm room, your apartment, and your car, at all times. Pay attention to your surroundings, and if something feels wrong trust your instincts. Don't take that shortcut, or that stairwell, or that alleyway.

I'm not writing this hub to spread fear. I'm writing it because it is a truth young girls need to know and learn how to live with in their first weeks away at college. Is every freshman woman in danger of date rape, abduction, or some other crime? No. Colleges work extremely hard at making sure their students - female and male - enjoy a crime free college career. A small percent of the student population will have these unfortunate experiences, and some in spite of taking all precautions. The point of this hub is for you - if at all possible - not to be one of those few.





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    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Please share this article with any young lady you know who is headed off to college.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      It's that time of year again. Hope this hub helps someone about to leave home for the first time.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Please share this one with anyone you think might benefit. Maybe your daughter will share it with her Facebook friends. This one isn't about the author making $$$. It's about our daughters.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Kathleen, thanks for sharing a very useful hub which every young woman going away to college should read. My daughter in Thailand started college in August of last year and is living on campus in a girls' dormitory very close to classes. Actually, all freshmen women must live on campus in the dorm their first year. When I started college at the University of Wisconsin in 1962, all freshmen coeds not living at home had to stay in on campus dorms during their first year. If they went out on dates, they had to back by 10:30 Sunday-Thursday, and by 12:45 on Friday and Saturday nights. There wasn't as much crime against women then as there is today. Voted up and sharing with HP followers.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      erinshelby: Thanks for contributing to this hub. I repost it this time of year in hopes a student or a parent sees it and it makes a difference. Also, welcome to my hubs!

    • erinshelby profile image

      erinshelby 

      4 years ago from United States

      Safety is a huge issue for college students... college feels like a comfortable world of safety where you'll be meeting new people, learning new things, and having the time of your life. Unfortunately, predators prey on women in this environment and that's how violence thrives. Good information to pass on, Kathleen.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      many who are victimized had no control (sorry-sticking keys!)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Mary615: Most young women, like your daughter, make it through college (and life) without incident. And my who are victimized had not control over what happened to them. This hub is like asking these girls to wear a seatbelt when they drive, be cautious, and we all hope the result is as good as it was for your daughter - and mine. Thanks for your contribution to this hub! (And I think, welcome. Don't think I've had you visit before, yes?)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      4 years ago from Florida

      I have never been so scared in my life when I sent my 18 yr. off to college! She is a levelheaded girl and very wise, but still......

      She made it through four years without incident, thank goodness.

      Good advice here in your Hub. Voted UP, etc

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      'Tis the season. I just sent this link to my own alma mater. Don't know why it's taken me so long to think of doing that!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Not at all, Michelle. You're good. I appreciate your perspective.

    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 

      5 years ago

      I hope my comment didn't come off as an attack, I just wanted to share my experiences. But again, I very much do think that these pieces of advice are good ones, though not restricted to college students. I actually find these points would also, sadly, be more applicable to what I had my friends experience in high school.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Michelle: I'm so glad a woman near college age has responded to this hub because you have a specific viewpoint based on your own experience. You give this hub balance. I am not motivated to restrict a college coed's rights. I hope to give her information that will help her have the kind of college experience you apparently had.

    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 

      5 years ago

      While some of these points are good advice, I feel that they are not only unrealistic in every situation, but also kind of ridiculous, ie. "don't get drunk". Sorry, I just remembered in typing that, that it is illegal in some countries, I'm used to the drinking age being 19 (Canadian writer over here).

      I guess coming from my point of view, telling someone of age to not drink because it could be dangerous is like telling someone not to eat fast food because it's dangerous for your health, or to never leave your house because you could get mugged. A lot of the "crimes" that were committed on my university campus were done during daylight, or were girls who claimed to be sexually harassed but really weren't. At the same time, I went out a lot at night and nothing ever happened to me - it all depends on where you live, or your particular situation.

      On the point, I don't think these ideas are just for girls going off to college, but if that's your audience - a group of adults - all you can do is suggest, not really tell. If a girl wants to go have sex with a "great guy" she just met, she is quite allowed to do so, as long as she knows the risks in her actions. This hub is full of good advice, and I can see where you're coming from in writing it, but I think a lot of it is relative to situations, or the people who are going about these situations.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      From your mouth to God's ears.

      My college years were much different too, but I've sent a daughter and ds-in-law to college relatively recently so the new reality has hit home. Thanks for spreading this one around.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You may save lives with this article. Things are so different today than when I went to college. Thanks for writing theis!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      DDE: I can only wish every young woman gets to enjoy the college experience free of fear. But we live in the real world with real dangers. Thanks for your comments.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Most interesting and true, going off to college is fun but the most important is often forgotten or not followed by and that's is when problems occur, you have made your points quite clear here.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Brett.Tesol: Welcome to my hubs and thanks for the read and for commenting. :)

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 

      6 years ago from Asia

      Good advice. However, the leaving in a group is easier said than done. Drunk people have a tendency to be trick to deal with and NEVER normally want to leave lol. However, your tips could certainly prevent many a 'regret'.

      Shared, up and useful.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Comments from someone with your background is definitely the voice of experience. Thanks for your advocacy of this hub. Hope and pray it does some good. I have a step-granddaughter and two nieces in their first weeks of college right now.

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      6 years ago from Asheville NC

      Great Hub Kathleen!

      I have worked in law enforcement and I can tell you the most disheartening events are those which could have been prevented if we used the old "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" adage.

      If begging would do the trick, consider me on my knees for those young women longing for their own experiences. I hope and pray the experience is the desired one!

      Definitely sharing!

      Bruce

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Ciel Clark: Your friend is lucky to have a smart friend. This is true for women of all ages. Being aware of your surroundings is just a good life lesson. It doesn't mean living in fear. It is common sense. Thanks for reading and commenting. Welcome to my hubs.

    • Ciel Clark profile image

      Ciel Clark 

      6 years ago from USA

      The girlfriend code is so important. Don't let your friend go off with someone she doesn't know-- especially if she is tipsy. I've even used this as an adult with a married (unhappy) girlfriend -- told her to think about it the next day. And yes, have your keys ready when you go to your car, take a self-defense class, and be aware.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Melis Ann: Thanks for the comments. Hope the word spreads and some good comes from this hub.

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 

      6 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      Great checklist for parents to refer to when talking to their girls. It will be nice for college bound women to see this list as a backup to what their parents have hopefully already brought up. Sharing this.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Shanna11: I should have added that I'm asking for your help because the girls will listen to you more than someone like me. Thanks again.

    • Shanna11 profile image

      Shanna 

      6 years ago from Utah

      I went to college last year at the age of seventeen, and luckily I went to a college with an extremely low crime rate (and extremely minimal drinking), but I still heard about all this stuff going on in the first few weeks as well. It's important that all girls are aware and are disciplined and careful until they have adapted to college life. If they toss caution to the wind and go crazy, the consequences can be terrible.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I think every campus takes these things seriously. I became aware of the particular danger for new freshman women when my daughter went to college. At orientation they told the girls about the first six weeks, and I was shocked, but appreciative. Better to know.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      You won't be surprised. It is a very small college and we do have campus police and safety classes and training sessions. We take it very seriously.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Little Nell: No campus police? Seriously? Wonderful if you don't have reason to feel the need. phdast7: Your college is relatively small. Do you have campus police? I'd be surprised to learn you do not.

      StephanieBCrosby: We do need reminders. It is so easy to get too comfortable in our daily lives and forget basic safety. Welcome to my hubs. Hope you'll find some that are more fun!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      One can never hear these kinds of recommendations enough. Sometimes females feel awkward asking for help, call campus safety, or to travel in a group because of what you mention early: independence. But women also need to remember the simple adage of "better safe than sorry."

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent and important hub. We should all forward this to our followers, post it on Facebook (and anywhere else we have access and an audience) and forward it to the people in our personal address books. This is an ongoing problem and we have an easy way to be part of the solution. Thank you Kathleen. Sharing

    • Little Nell profile image

      Little Nell 

      6 years ago from Somerset, UK

      Nicely worded hub. Also applies here in the UK, though sadly we don't seem to have got as far as having campus police

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Diana and MomsTreasureChest: Welcome to my hubs. Thanks for the read and the comments. I have a step granddaughter and two neices going off to college in the coming weeks. Couldn't sit on this information gleaned from my own three children who have done the college thing (two boys and a girl).

      My oldest son went looking for a girl who had gone to a party with his group of friends. Found her outside the apartment with a guy he did not know. Took her by the hand and led her to the car. After a while she started passing out. They took her to the ER and she had the date rape drug in her system. Don't want girls to be scared to death, just want them to be careful.

    • MomsTreasureChest profile image

      MomsTreasureChest 

      6 years ago

      Exactly the advice I gave my children, thanks for putting it in a hub to share with others!

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from London

      This is very good advice. It's sad to think that this is the world we live in, and most of the time girls would be safe, but being aware of the possible dangers is important for the time when they are at risk.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks billybuc. Let's hope it does some good.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bravo! This is a lesson that is a must....and now I hope millions of girls read it....it is just too dangerous out there not to play it safe. Well done my friend; this is one hub I can get behind 100%

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