Straight Talk Bob McDonnell

One of the most important issues in choosing a college is often the most overlooked: the safety and security of your collegiate environment. Universities handle safety differently, depending on their location and campus size. A college located in a major city might be more aggressive about safety than a school in the suburbs (however, don’t assume that safety is a non-issue in suburban locations).

Most colleges devote a significant amount of resources to issues of safety and security, and several safety measures have become standard on most campuses.

Call boxes

Most campuses have a number of call boxes prominently situated on campus that can immediately signal the campus police department. The phones tend to be located near buildings that receive a lot of late-night traffic — the library, student center, dorms. Once activated, police response time is usually very fast. Ask your school if they have a call box system in place.

Campus police

Whether as a fully commissioned police force or an auxiliary police force, campus police are usually a strong presence at universities. The department usually has a working relationship with the local city police, and most campus officers have full arresting powers.

Campus escorts

These student volunteers will meet you wherever you are on campus (library, class, another dorm) and actually accompany you back to your dorm. They are usually available throughout the evening. This is an excellent option if you’re planning to take an evening class or have evening study sessions.

ID checks

Student ID checks are becoming increasingly common, particularly on weekends when students have more visitors to campus. You may be required to show your ID when entering dorms and other campus buildings, as well as at sporting events. Many campuses also require all visitors to sign in when entering a campus building.

Self-defense, safety classes

These free classes are usually offered through the campus police department. Most safety classes occur during orientation and self-defense classes are often available throughout the course of the semester. Resident advisors should have information on the kinds of safety classes available on campus.

These are just some examples of security measures on college campuses. Before you commit to a college, you should investigate that school’s security measures, as well as recent crime statistics (available in an annual report that all colleges and universities are required to produce).

Give campus security the same attention you give to academic programs and professors, and make sure that you’re in a comfortable and safe environment.

• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email

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