What to Do When You Don’t Trust Your College Roommate

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Living with someone else is always a difficult experience.  Remember living with mom and dad, or, worse, siblings? It’s definitely not easy, even when it’s your family.  So living with a relative stranger can be especially rough, even more so because it might be your first time living away from home.  If you and roommate just don’t see eye to eye, that’s one thing, but what about when you really don’t trust them?

For whatever reason, you’ve been paired with this… sketchy person.  Maybe you used to get along, and now not so much.  Maybe you were trusting, but last semester they showed you that that was a mistake.  Maybe you’ve switched dorms only to discover that that was a mistake.

Talk to the School

The first thing you need to try to do is convince the school that it was a mistake.  Approach your RA and explain the situation.  It’s important to communicate that you do not trust your roommate, not just that you don’t get along.  They need to understand that this isn’t normal roommate squabbles; this is a whole other level. Your RA will definitely have steps to take to hopefully be able to separate the two of you.  There is likely a vacancy in another dorm, or you might be able to switch with somebody.

However, if you can’t afford to move to another dorm, or perhaps you signed a lease for an apartment off-campus, then you might need to take a different course of action.

Protect Your Items

You might not think that your valuables are safe, either because your roommate will use your things without your permission or worse.  Try and organize your things underneath your bed, conceal them in a trunk, or even in storage lockers. If necessary, make sure that you get a good combination lock.

Don’t leave cash lying around, or let them have access to your credit or debit card.  Luckily, you should have a chip card now instead of a magstripe one, so it will be harder for them to strip your information, though they can still copy down the numbers.

Keep Yourself Busy

Alright, this may sound counterintuitive, but it’s actually probably better that you keep yourself occupied.  As long as you make sure that all of your items are safe, then you don’t want to interact with your roommate more than you have to. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in more messy arguments and the target of ill will.  Keep busy with homework, and if that’s not enough then there’s plenty more you can do.

  • Get involved in clubs or athletic groups.

  • Make new friends.

  • Find internships in your major; the career center should be able to help you no matter if you’re majoring in a STEM fieldcounseling, or even art.

  •  Get a part time job, as long as you believe you’ll be able to balance those responsibilities and school.

College campuses are abundant with activity.  You should have no problem finding activities that occupy your time.

Set Things Up for Next Year

Make sure that you get an apartment or some other housing accommodation for next year.  There are certainly challenges to living with your friends, but it will certainly be a better situation that what you’re currently going through.  If you don’t have any options for roommates next year, hold interviews or make sure that your school matches you up with someone better.  They need to understand that a repeat of this situation is not an option.

Overall, this sort of situation is unpleasant but bearable.  You will get through this.  The light is at the end of the semester, which seems so far away, but I promise it will be the end before you know it.  College roommates are always a unique situation, but there are ways for you to get around it.  Just make sure that next year you’re in a better place.

 

Parent’s Corner: Talking to Your Child About Campus Safety

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Parent's Corner: Campus Safety

Over the next few weeks, thousands of students are heading off to start the next chapter of their lives. Many will live independently in their own dorms or apartments for the first time in their lives. As parents, it’s important to both be supportive, but to also have an open and honest dialogue about safety and wellness when living alone. Talking to your child about campus safety isn’t the easiest, but there are ways to teach and share this vital information.

Research Together

Did you know that colleges release crime and safety reports yearly? This data is readily available on government and university sites for you to read through. Sit down with your student and pinpoint some of the areas where these crimes happen and talk about what they could do to prevent themselves from being a victim. For example, if a campus has high car break-ins in a particular parking lot, discuss alternate parking areas or map out lamp posts where it’s safer to park.

Tell True Stories

One of the best ways to get both sides talking is to be honest about your own college experiences. Talk about your fears about walking alone at night or how you lost a favorite piece of jewelry at a party.  If you don’t have any stories or didn’t attend college, rope in a younger cousin or a work friend to speak. Having different voices can also show that campus safety issues can happen anywhere and to anyone.

Avoid Fear Tactics

When telling true stories or discussing safety issues, you may be tempted to talk about the worst case scenario. To a college aged student, this may come across as an over exaggeration. A more productive way to talk safety is to do it in general terms. Don’t talk about what could happen if you don’t tell one friend you’re going to a party or if you leave your computer out while you go to the bathroom. Instead, talk about safety like it’s just another part of being an adult. It normalizes the conversation and makes students feel like you are talking to them rather than at them.

Make Sure They’re Prepared

While packing, throw a few other things into their suitcase. Start with flashlights for power outages, whistles for walking late at night, or a first aid kit for medical emergencies. You can even wrap them as an “off to college” gift that you can discuss each purpose. When you’re on campus and unpacking, ask where you can hang a list of phone numbers for important people such as campus police, parents, and family members. Additional safety items that can lead to an awesome discussion are lockable safes, pepper spray (if allowed on campus), and copies of insurance cards.

Listen More Than You Talk

For many college students, there is a sense that once you’re in college, you are a totally capable adult. For parents, this can be frustrating, especially when a college kid shuts down the conversation. But frequently, the problem is not the actual topic of conversation but the way we talk to one another. When you bring up the conversation, ask more questions than giving answers. Be open to what they want to say or discuss, even if it is uncomfortable. And acknowledge both fears and their reluctance to safety ideas. These conversations may not go exactly like you want them too, but just having a safe space where they feel accepted regardless of the issue can be a very powerful resource if something were to happen.

Protecting Your Valuables in College

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Protecting your Valuables

While we would love to think our campus home is a safe little bubble, the truth is that incidents of theft cannot be ignored. When living in a large shared space, or taking your expensive technology to and from classrooms and quads, it’s important to stay alert and do all you can to keep your priceless items safe and sound. These proven methods are the best way to protect your valuables in college.

How to Protect Your Valuables While in College

Before Moving Day

One option parents and students may want to consider is investing in renters insurance. In many cases, renters insurance extends to dorm rooms — or the company (or even the college) may provide a special, low cost insurance specific to dorm living. The deductible for the policy should be low, but it should cover the cost of the more expensive items you will need, such as your computer, a television, and the estimated cost of all your clothing.

You should also double check your car insurance policy to ensure that it is updated to your new home on campus. You may also want to up your coverage for theft and damages because parking in a lot can put you at a higher risk for incidents.

In a Dorm Room

When it comes to expensive jewelry or other items that are not really “necessary”, your best bet is to keep it at home. Your grandmother’s pearls can be replicated with a cheap knockoff, but they can’t be replaced if it’s taken or lost. The same goes for tech you don’t really need to get by, such as a printer or a supersized television.

If you do need to bring a few expensive items with you, purchase a fire-proof lock box for documents — such as passports, licenses, birth certificates, or cash. With larger items, you can additionally find travel trunks that are heavy duty and come with the ability to be locked.

Speaking of locks, don’t forget your bike lock if you plan on cycling around campus! While it’s tempting to stick to cheaper versions, those savvy in picking or removing locks can get through those in seconds. The more complicated the lock, the better. Be sure you learn how best to lock it up so that you’re not just left with a frame or one wheel.

Your bike and electronics should also be photographed and if they have serial numbers, write them down so that in case they are stolen, you can prove that they belong to you. Some campuses offer licenses for items like bikes and cars that keep this information on file for you.

In Public Spaces

Your bike, car, or other method of transportation should be parked in a well-lit area. The same goes for places you live and work. Avoid a study room that’s in the back corner in case you have to leave your stuff for a moment. And stick to the most popular paths home, even if it’s longer, if it is late at night (better yet, use the buddy system!).

When working in public areas like a cafe, you can keep your laptop safe by using a portable laptop lock that keeps your computer attached to a mounted item, such as a table leg. You can also purchase backpack locks that keep your bags zipped up when you’re distracted.

Finally, don’t forget about your wallet and purse. Even in class, be sure your wallet isn’t exposed when you’re sitting. For a purse or bag, wrap the bag’s strap around a chair leg and place the body up against your leg.

While you may have to go an extra step or pay a little more for a better item, you can never be too safe or too protective when it comes to your items.

 

10 Halloween Night Safety Tips to Follow

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Is Halloween your favorite night? We bet you’re not alone! Tons of college student’s look forward to the spook-tacular end of October where they can dress up. There are tons of parties and get-togethers in dorm rooms or clubs, so you don’t necessarily have to go trick-or-treating to have a blast. But whether you’re chowing down on candy, showing off your costume, or walking around outside be sure you are safe and secure by sticking to these 10 Halloween night tips.

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1.   Travel in Groups

If you’re going out at night, bring a buddy or travel in a group. If you leave a party early, wait until someone you know or trust is ready to leave with you so you don’t have to go it alone.

2.   Let Someone Know Where You Are

Before you head out, let your roommate or friend know where you are with a note, text, or email. Give them details such as the name of the host, the friends you are with, or the restaurants you plan on visiting. If anything should happen, this will keep them in the know.

3.   Check Your Goodies Out

Even as an adult, you should be particular about your candy and drinks. Don’t drink something you didn’t order, and never eat candy that has been unwrapped. If you have food allergies, carry an epinephrine pen or other medication just in case.

4.   Use Campus Security Escorts

Campus security officers are always on duty, and you should use them if traveling late at night on Halloween. Don’t be afraid to call for an escort or ride back to you car, no matter the circumstance. They are happy to help keep you safe!

5.   Lock Up Your Valuables

Having friends or new people over? Stash away your favorite necklace or put your goods in a lock box under your bed. While you hate to think anything would happen, that’s usually the time it does.

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6.   Avoid Dangerous Costumes

You’ve got a great costume, but can you walk in those heels? Can you see through the mask? Does your accessories look or could be labeled as a weapon? Before you go out, wear it around a bit to see if it causes any red flags.

7.   Stay in a Public Area

Don’t take the shortcut a friend told you on Halloween. Stick to familiar walking paths, well-lit streets, or friend’s dorm rooms. It may be tempting, but it’s better to be overly safe than to risk it.

8.   Carry Cash

Like most people, you probably rely on a debit or credit card to pay for everything. However, on Halloween, bring along some emergency cash — enough for gas, a cab, and/or a phone call home.

9.   Be Cautious With Strangers

If you’re at a party with people you don’t know (or don’t know well), be sure to be cognizant of your surroundings. Making new friends is great, but don’t leave with them or get stuck alone. Exchange numbers and meet up on another day.

10.  Know When to Say Goodnight

Only you can know your limits. Set yourself a curfew and stick with it. Staying safe on Halloween is far more important than sticking around for an hour extra.

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How do you plan on celebrating Halloween while staying safe? Let us know!

Important College Safety Tips for Freshman Year

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Your freshman year will be one of the most exciting years of your life. But while your focus may be how to decorate your dorm room or what classes to take, you should also consider how best to live safely. College campuses aren’t immune to safety issues. These tips can help keep you safe and boost your confidence when you’re out and about on campus.

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1.   Know Your Campus

Before you set foot onto campus for the first time, be sure you know your surroundings. It’s especially important to know how to get to key places such as your dorm, classroom buildings, the student lounge, and the cafeteria. Note safety features like emergency phones and lights along our routes.

2.   Utilize Campus Police

If you haven’t already, sign up for text or email alerts about safety issues. Campus police will let you know of any suspicious behavior and inform you of natural disasters. They can also provide safety options such as rides after dark, a place to report crimes, and certain emergency services.

3.   Pair Up

There is power and safety in numbers. Traveling with a group is essential if you are heading somewhere new or going off-campus after dark. If you are at an off-campus activity, designate whom you will be leaving with in advance so you can work out when the best time is to leave or a backup plan in case your partner goes ahead.

4.   Stay Alert

Your phone is a fun distraction, but it can also be a huge safety issue. When walking alone, put your phone away and keep your eyes straight ahead. You’re less likely to be a target if you look like you are traveling with a purpose.

5.   Lock it Down

A dorm room may feel safe and inviting, and you want to keep your door open to visitors. But when you leave, always make sure your door is locked. Add an extra layer of security by getting smaller locks for your laptop, backpack, and other valuable items.

6.   Keep Your Contacts Up to Date

Make sure somebody knows what your plans are. If you’re out on a date, check in with a roommate. If you’re going to an off-campus location, mention it to your friend. Give them details such as a person or two that will be there and the location. If you are nervous about your surroundings, coordinate with your friends to send an all-okay or danger text in case you need backup.

7.   Report It

You are responsible for keeping your school safe for everyone. And that responsibility means reporting suspicious activity. No one wants to be the person to tell, but that person roaming the halls should be checked out if you don’t recognize them. And a lone backpack is not a typical thing to see on campus. Other things to give campus security a heads up on are unsafe conditions such as a slippery sidewalk or a downed light.

8.   Trust Your Gut

Your instinct is what matters most. If something seems wrong, it is often because it is. Don’t hesitate to get yourself out of a situation or to ask a friend or campus security for help. Know your campus, your whereabouts, and your defense tactics. By taking extra precautions, you can stay safe all school year round.

Will you be taking these tips into account this school year? Let us know!

How to Keep Your Laptop Safe in College

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An important (and expensive) item you will bring with you to college is your laptop. But with danger of a laptop breaking or being stolen, it can be daunting to tote such an item around in public where it may be vulnerable. Instead of being afraid or overly cautious, stock up on tech accessory paks and follow these steps to ensure your laptop is safe in college.

Rule #1: Never Walk Away

Being on campus and feeling a part of the community can give you a sense of security. But while it’s wonderful to feel safe, the truth is that theft happens in places you least expect it to. Even high traffic areas such as a library, cafe, or student union have become prime target areas for laptop thieves. Prevent the opportunity to steal your most precious commodity by keeping it by your side at all time. This includes when you are grabbing your coffee or chatting at another table with a friend.

Rule #2: Consider How You Carry It

For some, protecting the computer from spills or falls is the most important thing. In that case, invest in a good, thickly padded laptop case that is easy to carry around on your back. On the other hand, if you are more concerned with theft, a laptop bag may become a target. In this case, a normal backpack or purse is a better concealer and less likely to be targeted.

Rule #3: Turn It Off

Forgetting to turn your laptop off when you are done may not seem like a big deal. However, your laptop’s delicate parts need time to cool off and reset. Keeping your computer on runs the risk of burning key pieces out. In addition, if you were to drop your laptop on your commute to and from classes, it will be more likely to break if the computer was running than if it was turned off. Finally, if there was to be an outage or surge, having your computer turned off can save it from power issues.

Rule #4: Be Password Safe

Your personal information is never safe when it is stored carelessly on websites and/or protected by easy-to-guess passwords. Lock your computer and your information up by using passwords that contain a variety of characters. Additional tips include changing your passwords frequently, and using different ones for a variety of accounts.

Rule #5: Lock it Down

Those who really value safety may want to consider investing in a laptop lock. These locks look and work just like a bicycle lock would, attaching to your laptop by tethering to your desk or leg of a stationary classroom table with a strong cable. Those who want to steal your computer will need to do a ton of work to get past this safety measure.

You need your laptop for schoolwork, taking notes during class, and entertainment during free time. But why run the risk of leaving your possessions in danger? Following the five steps of laptop safety, you can ensure that your computer will be guarded from hazardous situations.

Do you follow any of these rules to keep your laptop safe? Let us know!

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Safety On Campus

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Regardless of where you live or attend school, safety should be an area of concern at all times. Crime can happen anywhere, at any time, and on any campus – it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and stay alert to prevent falling victim to any kind of criminal situation.

If you’re nervous about going off to college on your own for the first time and your safety and well being, read the tips below to help keep you informed and alert.

1) Know your acquaintances and your surroundings: First and foremost, college can be really exciting and new for you. You may be meeting tons of people with personality traits that you’ve never even seen before. While you may have a tight-knit group of close friends back home that you can trust 100%, that may not always be the case in college. Since college is all about finding yourself and meeting new people, you should always be open- but alert to every person you meet. If something feels uncomfortable to you, don’t feel pressured to do it or to go anywhere you don’t feel like you want to go. This isn’t a popularity contest, and no one’s judging you. If they do, it’s time to move on to another group. There are hundreds of kids on campus who will make your college experience amazing without trying to change who you are.

If you do make friends with a group of people that you get along great with, hang out with them and stay open to meeting new people at parties and events. Be careful to never put yourself in unsafe situations, and make sure you have a friend or two that you can trust when you go out at night or venture off-campus. If you have to walk back to your room in the dark, make sure you stay as close to well-lit areas as possible where a lot of other people pass through. Try not to walk alone at night by yourself, and if you have to, make sure you let someone know where you are and where you’re going. Text them when you get to where you need to be, and text them as well when you’re leaving.

2) Don’t trust EVERYONE you meet – Living in a residence hall is awesome! There’s so many other students in the hall and RA’s who do a great job of making you feel comfortable and monitoring the hall. The problem is that you get so comfortable that you feel like nothing could go wrong. And, as I don’t think any high-level violence will happen inside your hall, there are some cases of petty theft and broken belongings of students who leave their room and leave the door unlocked. If you want to protect your belongings and your room, lock it when you leave, every time. Even if you and your other floor mates are great friends who are always in and out, if there’s no one in your room, it should be locked.

3) Be Responsible – Getting wrapped up in the college experience is awesome – there’s so many lively events going on around you and there’s always something to do. You may attend some really fun parties where you have a great time meeting new people. And, ultimately, the experience along with your education is what you went to college to encounter. Go out and have fun, but make sure you’re being responsible about your safety. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m going to suggest you not get into the car with strangers or accept rides back to your dorm if you’re tired from a long night at a party. Always keep the “buddy” system when you’re out going to the bathroom or leaving to go to another location. If someone’s being irresponsible, don’t get in a car with them and make sure they find another way to get home. You know your limits, don’t cross them.

4) Know where to get help when you need it – If you haven’t noticed them yet, you will: Those blue shining light poles located practically everywhere on campus, with a telephone booth right under them. These are there for your safety. If at any time you feel threatened, unsafe, or worried about your well being you can go to one of these booths and call Campus Police or Security. There should be a quick-dial button on the phones if not a number pasted right on the phone booth, but you should always have the number of these sources handy to call at any time. If you feel like you don’t want to stop and stand at the phone, walk as swiftly as you can to the nearest lit area that’s populated. Carrying any type of device to make noise – a whistle, noisemaker, etc will help you alert others around you that something isn’t right and that you may need assistance. Even if it’s something silly as you tripping over a twig and spraining your ankle, you’ll be glad you have something that can alert others when you need help.

5) Don’t be a victim of surprise – If you felt like something hasn’t been right for a few weeks and there’s one person that seems to be giving you trouble, know where to go to report it to faculty or campus security. In most cases, it will be nothing – but in the rare case that it may be something, it’s good to have it on record. This way, the campus security will be alerted and keeping a closer eye on the situation. By not saying something when your instincts tell you that you should, you’re setting yourself up for a potentially unpleasant experience.

Remember to report anything suspicious or unlawful to campus security at any times. If you’re worried about being found out, you can submit tips anonymously to stay confidential. Most campuses have services regarding safety, and may even provide their students with escorts when they feel unsafe traveling alone. Most colleges now even have safety courses or mobile/email alerts you can sign up for to receive in real time. If worried, take self defense classes and stay alert of current events around your campus.

Do you have any other safety tips on campus? Share them here so that new and returning students can stay informed.