8 Ways to Help New College Students Feel Safe on Campus
Visibility, transparency and collaboration with other services are just a few ways to encourage new students to proactively think about their safety on campus.
Incoming freshmen have a lot of adjusting to do. Most of them are on their own for the first time in their lives and they’re learning how to stay on schedule, manage their homework, and navigate the social aspects of the university.
While 97% of students do think about their safety on campus, they don’t always know how to keep themselves safe or fully realize all of the different threats they might encounter. Unfortunately, new students are some of the most vulnerable to safety incidents on campus. It can be difficult to ensure that they are taking their personal safety seriously, especially if they’ve never heard about anything happening to peers they know personally.
Helping them understand campus safety can be a challenge. While it’s not possible to prevent every incident, it’s important to give students the information they need to stay safe, whether they’re walking across campus or at a party. Here are some tips for empowering students with this critical information.
Make Security Proactive and Present
How often are you engaging with students outside of safety incidents? Do they only see you when a party has gotten out of hand or when someone has been attacked on campus? If so, it’s going to be more difficult to connect with them and ensure that they are taking proper safety precautions.
Even if your security team is busy, it’s important to make sure they are present on campus. Building a friendly relationship with incoming students will help to ensure that they listen to your campus safety instructions and report any incidents they might witness or be involved in.
Outreach efforts, such as events with incentives like free food, especially at the beginning of the school year, will help students feel supported by the security team. It also helps build trust between students and campus police, which can aid in everything from preventing incidents to investigations.
Ask New Students Questions
Surveying new students has two benefits: it helps the campus safety teams understand how much awareness they have about potential safety threats and it helps students think about their own personal safety. Schools can use these surveys to design new educational materials, create training materials for new employees, and strategize for new campus safety initiatives.
Provide Resources and Information
Making sure safety information and resources make it into new students’ hands is important. Distributing resources in students’ welcome packets is a good start, but you might have to get more creative to ensure that students know what services and help are available on campus.
If your institution provides campus safety escorts or self-defense classes, make sure new students know about them. Mental and physical health services are also important for student safety, although they should know to contact emergency services when needed.
Provide a map of the campus with suggested routes that students can use to minimize danger, especially at night. You should also include contact information for campus security, locations of emergency phones on campus, and other information students might need if they ever find themselves in danger.
Use Students’ Preferred Communication Methods
Students are unlikely to proactively seek out campus safety information, especially when they’re trying to adjust to a whole new way of life. Removing obstacles in communicating with students is critical. This means reaching students using their preferred communication methods.
Texting students about safety matters is a good way to ensure that they will see and read the safety information you provide. Students always have their phones on hand and most will have notifications turned on. If they opt-in for text messages, providing ongoing education and reminders becomes a lot easier.
Many campuses also have a mobile app that students can use to report suspicious activity, request emergency services at the touch of a button, or alert their contacts when they don’t arrive home at the expected time. These kinds of apps can be a great way to get students more engaged with safety because they’re used to using apps in their daily lives.
Share Crime Statistics
While scaring students isn’t encouraged, it’s important for them to know what can and does occur on college campuses. Sharing crime statistics should help to promote awareness of different types of incidents, from thefts to sexual violence.
New students often get caught up in the excitement of college life. They’re excited to date, have fun, and enjoy some freedom. It’s important for them to know that these kinds of crimes can happen to anyone. While a crime is never the victim’s fault, crime statistics can help encourage common-sense precautions and situational awareness.
Collaborate with Other Student Services
Since student safety on campus isn’t just limited to crime, it’s a good idea to have campus security and safety forces team up with the student health center and other on-campus services.
For instance, sharing information on safety concerns like sexually transmitted diseases, hazing, alcohol abuse, and other issues through multiple campus facilities can help ensure that important information reaches new students.
Create a Supportive Culture of Safety
Talking about the risks and dangers on campus can easily make students feel fearful and suspicious. This is not helpful for incoming freshmen who need to settle in and feel comfortable at school.
Taking the right tone is important for creating a supportive culture of safety. When students feel that campus security is on their side and will help them prevent incidents, they will feel like they can safely become part of the community.
Share Ongoing Safety Information
It’s important to help incoming freshmen understand campus safety, but sharing that information shouldn’t be limited to just the first few weeks or months of school. It’s all too easy for busy students to let their guard down after a while. Connecting with students about safety should be an ongoing effort that lasts throughout their time on campus. Whether they’re a freshman or a senior, there are risks students need to be aware of.
There’s no such thing as too much awareness. Even if it feels like engaging students is futile, it’s important to keep trying. Young adults might feel like they’re invincible, but tragedies happen. Preventing those tragedies starts with helping all students understand what to watch out for and how to protect themselves.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education.
Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.