August 1st, 2014
For many years I served as an advisor to international students and counseled them on selecting colleges that would best meet their academic, financial and social needs. Going to college is a major milestone and for international students and their parents, college in another country can be an even bigger transition. For parents of international students, the thought of sending their son and daughter to a country thousands of miles away is daunting, no matter what the benefits may be.
Unfortunately news of shootings on campus, and the recent fatal stabbing of a graduate student from China at a prominent university in California who was walking back to his dorm room after meeting with his study group have escalated concerns on the overall safety and security of students at U.S. institutions. Even though U.S. college officials have in place lots of campus safety measures, there a few steps parents and international students can take to ensure a safe college experience.
1. Check into safety statistics: A good place to start is the college’s website. Start by entering “Safety” in the search bar and hit enter and see what information is revealed. According to federal law, all U.S. colleges must disclose statistics on crimes such as rape, murder, robbery, and arson that occurred on their campus. If you are unable to find this information on the college’s website, go the Department of Education’s online Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool. http://ope.ed.gov/security/
2. Safety programs: Next, look to see what safety and precautionary recommendations the college provides. Some of these include late-night escort services that will deliver the student back to his/her as dorm room as well as and designated safe spots on campus to call for help during emergencies.
3. Research the surrounding area:
With nearly 3000 colleges and universities in the United States, you are going to have a variety of institutions in locations just as varied, from small town college campuses in the Midwest to colleges in large metropolitan areas. One thing to do is look at the map of the U.S. and when selecting a college, find out more about the state and city its located in and do a quick study of its geography and even catch up on some local news by doing an internet search of the town. Ideally, a site visit by parents with their college-bound child would be the way to see at first hand not only the campus but the surrounding neighborhood.
4. Ask questions:
If you can’t do the site visit, don’t hesitate to set up an appointment for a phone call or a Skype chat with the admissions and international student counselors at the colleges you’re considering and ask them about the safety measures on their campuses. You can also stop by the EducationUSA Office at the US Embassy in your country who will be able to offer you unbiased advice on questions you may have about the location of your college and any supporting information concerning the overall safety of the area.
5. Get to know your campus security:
Once you have arrived and checked into your dorm room and registered in your classes, get to know all there is to know about the college campus. Attend any orientation programs offered and find out the location of the campus security. Learn the layout of campus by getting a map and familiarize yourself with the area. Invite your roommate or others in your orientation group to go on a campus exploration tour of your own and learn first hand where your classrooms will be and other important buildings and facilities.
Student safety is number one for all U.S. colleges and they work hard in making sure that their campuses are secure and safe. College should be a memorable experience both academically and socially and though you may quickly settle into your classes and dorm life and begin to feel comfortable, it is important to always be aware of your safety and security.
You will find a slew of websites on campus safety from different colleges on the Internet. Here are a few links to articles we thought you may find interesting and helpful.
Nora K. Saidi
Executive Director, ACEI