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  • Researching Campus Safety

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    Despite what your cranky uncle told you, colleges are part of the real world. You'll have a lot of fun and explore new intellectual terrain, sure, but you'll also need to keep your head up and your wits about you.

    A college campus is like a little city, and every city has crime. We recommend researching the safety record at all of your prospective schools.

    Tracking Down the Info

    All colleges are legally required to compile annual statistics about campus safety and to make them available to students and staff. The admissions office will usually provide this information.

    You can also find this information through the U.S. Department of Education's website, which lists statistics from most four-year colleges and universities.

    Another good online resource is Security On Campus, a national non-profit dedicated to the prevention of college and university campus violence and other crimes. (And don't forget The Princeton Review's Fire Safety Ratings, another important part of campus safety).

    Campus Safety Statistics Can Be Misleading

    An increase in arrests on campus doesn't necessarily mean that more crime is taking place. It could be that more people are reporting crimes, or that the police are stepping up enforcement. Also, some of the arrest figures may include tickets or citations for relatively minor offenses. On the other hand, sometimes statistics can paint too rosy a picture of campus safety. There are always incidents that go unreported.

    Colleges also differ widely on how they track crime. Some colleges omit things like underage drinking from the crime report, others include it. Sometimes, crimes that take place close to but not on campus (in privately run apartments where many students live, for example) are not accounted for. And many of the people arrested on or near college campuses are not students.

    For all the reasons above, we recommend checking statistics and then going straight to the source: the student body. Ask current undergrads if they feel secure on campus. How about the surrounding area? Have they or their friends been victims of a crime? Their answers can help you gauge whether you'd feel relaxed walking across the quad or prone to constantly looking over your shoulder.

    Trust Your Instincts

    Of course it's important to do your research. But how you feel on campus is the most important factor in choosing a safe school.

    Do a gut check during your campus visit. If you feel uneasy as a visitor, you'll probably feel uneasy as a student.

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