Tips for Your College Student to be Aware of Their Surroundings

Parents, your college or high school student is probably looking down at her smartphone most of the time (if not all of the time). Which is fine, except she needs to look up, look around, and be aware of her surroundings - especially away at school. Before she goes away to school, whether it’s for the first time or returning, please share these tips with your student to keep her safe.

Look behind you. Look to the side, both ways. Look in front of you.

Are there people around you? Did it suddenly go quiet? And if so, why? If you get a funny feeling in your gut, get up and move away from where you are. Trust your gut. Trust your intuition.

If you are walking, put your phone down and look where you are going. Nothing is that important. If a reply is something that must happen immediately, then stop walking and reply, or better yet, call the person old school, like we used to do.

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1. Get in the habit of noticing your surroundings. When you walk into a new environment, look around. Notice where the other exits are. Wake up. Look. Put your phone down, by your side and look around.

2. Walk with purpose. If you are lost, walk with purpose to find someone who can help you. Make it a habit to look up from your phone, tablet or computer often. This takes practice, but it’s important. Your safety is more important than any social media happening, text message, or test prep, etc.

3. Use your senses to help you stay safe. If you can, avoid walking around with headphones on all the time. You need to be aware of noises around you. If you insist on wearing headphones, then keep the music low enough to hear outside sounds.

4. Buddy System. If you go on walking or jogging on trails, then it’s a best practice to do it with a buddy. If you are solo, then be sure to go when it is a busy time. Many attacks happen while joggers and walkers are alone on a trail, in broad daylight.

5. One of the absolute best practices to develop both day and night is to walk with your keys out. Instead of walking to your car or apartment door and stopping to dig through your purse or backpack to find your keys, have them out in your hand. They can also be a good weapon, if necessary.

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6. Get in the habit of noticing the lighting everywhere you go. Any public place should be well lit. If it’s not, avoid it at all costs. If a light is burned out, leave immediately. Predators rely on poorly lit areas.

7. Don’t go to bank ATM’s at night. If you need cash, then plan ahead. Many of them are poorly guarded or well lit. When you go at night, it’s like you are projecting out into the world, “hey, look, I just got some cash. Come mug me.” If you have to go at night, bring a friend or get cash back inside a convenience store - it is worth the $2 fee.

8. Carry pepper spray on your key chain and have that with you at all times. Pepper spray can be a deterrent. You can also carry a rape whistle and a strong flashlight. Little tools like these can save your life and the quality of your life.

9. Always look around your car as you approach it to get in. It’s a great practice to walk around your car to make sure no one is hiding behind your car. You should always be aware and look in the back seat too before you climb in.


10. When you first move into a dorm or apartment, test the locks on all of your doors and windows. Don’t assume that they’ve all been tested lately. Test the lock on your bathroom. Does your door have a peep hole so you can see who is knocking? Hopefully your windows will have curtains and or shades. Please use them. I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard of students spying on other students and things escalating from there. Don’t assume that no one is out there just because you can’t see anyone.

11. Keep a pepper spray by your bed. I hate having to write this, but it’s a good practice. And I hope you never have to use it, but it could mean the difference between attempted rape or rape, and sexual assault or death.

Want to know more about the Red Zone on college campuses? Get the report here.