How do I keep my college student safe?

You survived move-in day. Your student is engaging in college life. You are at home missing the flurry of activities and perhaps even the backpack on the hallway floor or the dirty dishes on the counter. Even though you are excited for your child, that doesn’t mean you don’t worry. You’ve seen awful news stories and heard of kids making bad decisions. How can you keep your child safe when they’re no longer under your roof? 

Honestly, you can’t. But what you can do is equip your student with information so they can make smart decisions that reduce their risks of becoming a victim. 

Here’s an excerpt from Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage with some simple tips to help students stay safe. 

Campus Crime and Safety

Crime is no stranger to a college campus. A campus is a community, and it faces the challenges of any other community. Fortunately, most colleges focus on crime prevention from the get-go. 

When it comes to safety on any campus (and anywhere, really), nothing is more important than common sense. Prevention is key. Scott Law, Drake University director for campus public safety, explains that most crimes are the result of motive and convenience. He encourages students to control what they can and limit the window of opportunity for the criminals. When it comes to personal safety, here are some tips to pass along to your student: 

  • Be aware of surroundings. After some time on campus, students are often lulled into a false sense of security due to their comfort level and familiarity. It’s important, however, that your student always remain alert and aware. For instance, ask your student to skip the earbuds when walking so she can pay attention to what’s happening around her. She should always walk in well-lit, well-traveled areas. 
  • Never walk alone at night. While many campuses are self-contained—a community within a community—and have security systems in place, bad stuff can still happen. Especially at night. It may not seem like such a big deal to walk home alone from the library after it closes, but it is a bad idea. Encourage your child to venture out after dark only in pairs or groups. 
  • Trust your instincts. Tell your student to trust his instincts whenever something doesn’t “feel” or “look” right. Urge him to leave the area and call for assistance.
  • Use safety resources. Call boxes, safety officers, and escort programs are available for a reason. Many universities offer public safety apps that students can load onto their phones for an extra layer of protection. 
What about theft?

Theft on campus often occurs as a crime of opportunity as well. From unlocked dorm rooms to unwatched computers or backpacks, plenty of opportunities exist. 

“I’m always amazed at how shocked kids are when they leave a thousand-dollar laptop unattended on a library table while they make a coffee run and return to find it missing,” said one campus security officer. “Students are often trusting and don’t use common sense in a situation like this, where the crime was clearly preventable.”

Here are some simple pointers your student should know for theft prevention: 

  • Use common sense and caution. Don’t leave valuables in plain view in an automobile. Be cautious if a stranger asks to use your cell phone. Don’t be afraid to say no. 
  • Lock doors. An unattended, unlocked dorm room is an open invitation for theft. Scott Law’s advice? “Lock your door even if you’re just running down the hallway for five minutes, because five minutes is never just five minutes on a college campus.” 
  • Report theft ASAP. If something is stolen, report it to authorities immediately. Contact credit card companies to freeze accounts if your wallet is stolen.


A strong knowledge base along with common sense and good communication will help you empower your student to make healthy, safe choices during the college years—and beyond.

Pick up your copy of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage today for more information on how you can help your student not only survive, but THRIVE!


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