The new school year is upon us, and parents all around the country are making plans to help their college students pack up and head off to college. While this a fun and exciting time for everyone, it’ also brings with it a certain amount of apprehension and even fear, as kids are leaving the nest, so to speak, and heading out into the real world. So, how can a parent help keep their child safe once they go off to college? Here are 7 things your student should know before heading off to campus this fall.
Know Campus Safety Policies
There’s probably a big section on this in the campus handbook that everyone claims to read. If you haven’t read it, or found out those policies, do it now, before move-in day arrives. Find out if there are hours when undergraduates are not allowed to leave the dorms. Are there security guards on campus at all times? Is there a check-in policy for students coming in late at night? What are the rules for students who live off campus? Are non-students allowed in the dorm rooms, or just in common areas? Is the campus security office easy to find? These are just some of the questions you may want to look up or ask a security officer about once you arrive.
Know Where You’re Going
Help your student find all of the buildings where their classes are held before leaving them on campus. Help them find the easiest and safest route to and from their classes to the student center, library, and back to their dorm. Encourage them to walk to and from classes with at least one other student, particularly if the campus is large. Students should also make sure that at least one other person (besides you or the resident director) has a copy of their schedule. If they have an off campus job, do they know the best way to get there? Do they know an alternate route as well? By becoming familiar with their surroundings, it will easy anxiety and build a sense of security.
Be Smart With Money
Credit card companies love new college students – in fact they often target them to be their newest cardholders. Why? Well, they know college kids love money, and often don’t have a lot of it. So, promises of no interest for a year, high credit limits and other promises can leave kids with mounds of debt it will take years to pay off! Encourage your child to avoid opening credit card accounts, and pay cash for items. Also encourage them to spend money wisely and take advantage of meal plans to avoid eating out a lot.
Avoid Underage Drinking
This is a tough one on many college campuses, but it can be done. Avoiding underage drinking can help your child to avoid all kinds of problems, including trouble with the law, getting behind the wheel impaired, and impaired judgment that could leave them with a lifetime of regrets.
Good Insurance Coverage
Most college students are covered under their parents’ insurance policies until they are around 23 – sometimes longer – make sure your child knows how to use their insurance cards and what types of services are covered.
Keep Emergency Information Handy
Additionally, when it comes to car assurance and roadside assistance, make sure they have copies of that information in their purse or wallet, and in the glove box of their vehicle. This way they will be prepared and have contact numbers day or night should they need them.
Stay in Touch
Today’s society is one that is very connected – from social media to cell phones and email – there are several ways you can keep in touch with your college student. Work out a plan to touch base every couple of days, and at minimum – once a week. You also need to make sure their roommates have your contact info and you have theirs in case of an emergency.
Avoid Risky Situations
College is a brand new world – and the first time many students have been away from home for an extended time. It is full of many new possibilities, but some that could put your student or others in risky situations. Teach your kids about responsible behavior, like not getting into a vehicle with someone they don’t know, avoiding places late at night, not being out alone in a new area, and other smart choices.
Connect With Peers
Encourage them to participate in school sponsored activities geared toward new students, so that they can meet others in the same situation, and so they can make a good adjustment to college life.
While we can’t watch our kids 24/7 we can teach them to be responsible, productive members of the real world, and we can model proper decision making, and show them how to navigate the brand new college life they are embarking upon. College is a wonderful experience, and by making good choices, they can get the most out of their time there.