Dear future college students (from a current college parent),

We realize that as you get older your peers become an important source of information for you as well as the people you are most likely to confide in. That being said, there are some important safety tips that can help you navigate the beginning of your freshman year in college and ensure you have a fun, but safe experience. An important part of that is creating a culture in which peers look out for each other.

Freshman college students have a higher risk of incidence due to alcohol poisoning, depression, and sexual assault.  

The Importance of the Buddy System.  Making new friends in college is one of the great parts of college. Just remember don’t give your trust away too soon or too easily. Get to know people first and make them earn your trust. When you go out at night with your new friends you’re not going to know right away who has your back.  Look for friends that look out for each other, those that stay together when you go out at night and will not leave anyone behind at a party.

Know What you are Putting in Your Body.  Whether you’ve tried alcohol before or not, you very likely will have the opportunity in college. First, don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with, you can have fun without drinking.  But if you do partake make sure you are with people you can trust to take care of you. If you don’t have that comfort level yet with your new friends, it’s not worth putting yourself at risk.  We always get asked at presentations how do you know what your limit is? Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to this. Everybody is different. No amount of alcohol is worth waking up the next morning and not remembering the night before or how you ended up where you did.  

Mental Health Awareness – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For many, this is your first time living away from home and you may feel a weakening of the support network that your family and high school friends previously provided. College can bring a set of stresses from getting used to a new environment, unfamiliar faces, feelings of homesickness and new class stresses. Before heading off to school this fall, download these two apps: My3 app and the A Friend Asks app.  The My3 app allows you to set up your main three contacts, those people you can reach out to when things have gotten too stressful to handle alone. A Friend Asks App is a great tool that provides information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Another very important resource is your college’s counseling center – all colleges provide students with this resource. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of it!

It never happens, until it does – Sexual Assault.  You may not be aware of this, but the first 6 weeks of the fall semester your freshman year has been labeled the RED ZONE. This comes from the especially high incidence of sexual assaults that occur across the country.  Studies show an increase in alcohol consumption correlating to an increase in assaults. During this time period, freshmen women are most likely to be raped or experience attempted rape. Statistics show us that 1 out of 6 women experiences rape or attempted rape during their lifetime and women ages 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. This brings us full circle, be aware of what you are putting in your body because alcohol is the #1 date rape drug, and get to know people before you give them your trust.  Making good decisions can keep you out of risky situations. 

I hope this doesn’t sound “preachy” because that certainly wasn’t my intent.  Like any parent, we want our kids to have a great college experience, but more importantly, we want you to have a safe college experience.  To get more tips and resources follow us on social media @Rachaels1stWeek or go to our webpage, www.rachaelsfirstweek.org.