Safety on College Campuses (Three tips for selecting a college/university

The arrival of summer indicates the beginning of life in various ways. The summer season provides us with warmer weather, landscapes covered with colorful flowers, and trees standing tall with every branch covered with leaves.

Now, let’s look at the arrival of summer from a different perspective. It may represent vacations, new business ventures, family reunions, cookouts, weddings, proms, but most importantly, it is representative of high school graduations.

For many parents, the 40 seconds that it takes for their child to walk across the stage and have their diploma placed in their hand unleashes an overwhelming 18 years of memories. The memories of raising their child are so overwhelming that the emotional rush can be equivalent to a Tsunami. The first warning sign of a Tsunami is when the water withdraws exceedingly far from the coastline. This action represents the deep breath you take when the name of your child echoes during the ceremony, for them to make their walk across the stage. For a moment, you experience a silent pause. But during the final stage of the Tsunami, all the water comes rushing in wave after wave, overtaking the coastline. The overwhelming supply of emotions and memories are enough to make any parent proud yet tearful. This one moment can ignite so many questions but very few answers regarding the future of your children, who you have given your best to prepare for the world outside of your home.

Now begins the intense search for the right college/university that will provide them with a more in-depth level of education and the experience of being independent while embracing responsibility.

Over the last 17 years, I have had the pleasure of working within the field of higher education. I remember watching young men and women walk on campus with uncertainty but excited about the possibilities and opportunities. I can honestly say with an open heart that my greatest reward was not the pay but witnessing the students filled with uncertainty become proud graduates. I remember every parent who asked me specifically to watch after their child. These were not just words to me, but a solemn oath I swore to myself I would uphold.

I would like to take this time to share with you six precautions you should consider when selecting a college/university. There are some precautions that every parent should consider, but I want to share with you the top six that I have witnessed in the higher education profession that caused students to withdraw from school, incur behavioral or social challenges, or end up academically dismissed.

 

Safety

Increasing violence on college campuses has received attention from the media and concerned parents. It would surprise you to see how many actual colleges read about these growing issues but refuse to contribute any additional funds to their police/security budgets. As a campus safety director, I was amazed that after 13 years, no one ever asked me about the experience of the Vice President of my department. I would like to bring this question to your attention for three reasons. First, the police/security department on a college campus deal with a lot of legal issues, so it is important to have someone who oversees this department has a legitimate legal background, which can assist and provide concise guidance as needed. Second, they will have a better understanding of the resources you will need to provide a safe educational environment. Third, they need a Vice President who is familiar with the policy and procedures of outside emergency agencies, both local and national. Some colleges do have this type of leadership in place, but others have the police/security department reporting to the students/campus life, not the Vice President, who neither has the background nor the skills to oversee any investigation or understand all the legal guidelines. To clarify my point, I worked for a Vice President for Campus Life who called me one day and asked if I had the time to answer a hypothetical question. The question was if a female student was cornered by a male, what actions should the college take? I realized this was not hypothetical after 60 seconds of additional conversation, and needless to say, this person should have been subject to disciplinary actions.

For this reason, ask the school officials for the chain of command and the background of the overall person in charge of the police/security department. This person will also control the budget line for this department.

 

Misleading Amenities

When you first visit the campus, you will hear about all of the great activities and organizations sponsored by the Campus Life department. On some campuses, this department may be referred to as Student Life. The Dean of students normally manages this department. They are responsible for the student organizations, sponsoring student events, disciplinary actions, student housing and any other functions involving student life on campus.

During the first week of school, the campus life department is extremely active with the students. The red carpet is laid out for everyone, and the department dedicates a lot of funds to entertain the new students. I don’t find anything wrong with this method of welcoming the students to the campus, but what takes place afterward is where I have an issue. After a week of keeping the new students entertained, the campus suddenly becomes quiet, and the students find that the college/university does not offer much with respect to activities. It is important to make sure that whichever college/university you choose, the campus life/student life department should remain active in communication and provide a variety of activities and events throughout the entire school year. Providing a variety of activities will help students deal with stress and falling into the wrong crowd due to boredom. Activities should consist of a balance of on-campus and off-campus events. Unfortunately, I witnessed many students who filled their downtime with alcohol, drugs, and in some cases, physical confrontations, which took place among roommates.

 

College Credits

The total number of course units (“c.u.,” or “credits”) needed for graduation varies between 32 and 36, depending on the number of credits required for the major. Each major specifies a certain number of credits that must be completed. When it comes to college credits, I highly recommend that every parent/student thoroughly research the college/university that you have selected to determine if course credits transfer to other schools. On several occasions, I have spoken with students who had completed two years of college, but when they attempted to transfer to another college, they were only given credit for one year. It is not uncommon for students to start off in smaller colleges with hopes of transferring to a different college after a year or two. Remember, every college wants to reach a certain number for enrollment each year. The admissions department job is to get you enrolled, and payments start with financial aid. You can also call the other schools that you have an interest in to confirm if your selected courses will transfer. Trust me when I say they have done their research on you as a student, so why not do your research on them? When you select college courses, you choose the education material for your future career. I cannot emphasize the need to research your choices all the way up to graduate school enough.

 

As parents, we all want to see our kids graduate from college and move on to successful careers. With regards to students, they not only want to reference the college experience but also want to feel confident that their education will help them stand out in today’s job market. There are some colleges that are extremely student-focused and make every effort to provide the best resources available for students to have a safe and rewarding educational experience. Students should attempt to keep their parents informed of their college experience. At some point during your visit to a college, you will hear the term “helicopter parent.” Helicopter parent is a term used to describe a parent(s) whose style of child rearing is that of an overprotective mother or father who discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life. As parents, we must allow our children to experience independence and responsibility. Don’t let this term discourage you from ensuring that the college upholds the promises that were made to you when they rolled out the red carpet to enroll your child.

There are other things to consider when selecting a college, but these are some areas to help you get started. Other areas that you should consider researching are work study programs, financial aid assistance, meal programs, residential housing and safety/counseling services. Whatever college you choose, make sure that it has the resources needed to provide you with the full opportunity for educational growth and development. Attending college is more than creating memories for your grandchildren or meeting old friends ten years down the line. Selecting a college is a key step for choosing what career path you will take to achieve your goals in life.