Heading off to university for the first time is an intimidating yet exciting experience, especially after working hard through high school and following the rigorous college application process.
This usually means it's the first time living independently, away from your parents and in a new environment. Colleges have various safety issues on campus, ranging from property damage or theft to illegal drinking or drug activity.
Overall, college campuses are generally safe. However, it's still important for you and your family members to understand how a prospective school handles emergencies, campus threats and criminal activity, and what they do to minimize danger.
Here’s a list of questions to keep in mind when you go on college tours. Discuss them with the college's campus safety department.
1. Can You Show Me the Most Recent Campus Security Report?
According to the Clery Act, any college or university that uses federal funding to operate must provide a detailed annual security report. It includes statistics about how often crimes occur on campus and other information regarding security issues.
They should be readily available and easily accessible on the college or university's website. Still, it's also worth asking campus security officials when visiting for a tour. You can ask to see the report to get a sense of the crimes occurring, ranging from underage drinking to sexual assault, among others.
2. What Type of Campus Safety Department Does This College Have?
The campus safety department is often unique to the college or university itself. In other words, some colleges have official police officers that can make arrests, while others are dedicated teams of campus safety members that will collaborate with local authorities.
It's important to know what kind of department your prospective college has. Additionally, some campus security departments have armed officers. Knowing these details could be helpful if you decide to attend that particular college or university.
3. How Do Instances of Alcohol or Drug Use Get Handled?
Drug and alcohol violations are likely the most common offense on a college campus. There are no standard protocols universities use to handle these issues. Each school is unique — some charge fines, while others may require offenders to take a safety class.
Understand how drug and alcohol violations are handled. Also, it's a good time to consider asking if substance abuse programs are offered.
4. Are Counseling Services Available at This School?
Campus safety should know if there are any counseling services available within the college. Mental health should be a priority, especially for students, as it's a stressful transition after high school.
Thankfully, many colleges have counseling services available. Learn where you can go to receive guidance if you ever find yourself in need.
5. How Does Campus Safety Handle Hazing?
Hazing is a significant issue on campuses that have fraternities and sororities. Because there is no federal legislation on hazing, colleges in different states approach it differently.
Ask if the college has hazing prevention programs and resources for victims.
6. How Does Your Campus Handle Emergency Communications?
Your college may issue emergency alerts for severe weather, dangerous situations on campus or other similar threats. It's critical to know how to sign up to receive this information.
You can also ask if your parents can sign up for these alerts, so they can stay in the loop about what's happening on campus.
7. What Physical Safety Measures Are in Place on Campus?
Ask campus safety what types of physical security measures are taken, such as protective barriers in bike lanes and pedestrian areas, or emergency call boxes located throughout campus.
Your physical safety is paramount, and no one wants to see anyone get injured. For example, emergency call boxes can come in handy, especially if you feel uncomfortable walking home from a night class.
8. How Can I Get Around Campus Safely?
Learning how to get around campus safely, no matter the mode of transportation, is crucial. You'll spend a lot of time walking to class, participating in activities and going to various buildings.
Campus security should be able to tell you about shuttle or bus transportation and where you can ride your bike or walk on the sidewalk.
Evaluate Safety During Your College Search
All these questions will help you determine if the prospective college is a good fit for you and your family. Some inherent dangers come with living away from home, and it's normal for your parents to worry about your safety. For this reason, when you're exploring prospective colleges or universities, it's worth asking campus security the questions listed above.