Survival Guide for Young Women in College

 

      For many young adults, college can be a shocking and drastic transition from high school, giving them the first glimpses of adulthood and a life free of parental supervision. College can feel overwhelming and intimidating for teenagers that grew up in sheltered environments. Mass media promotes an extremely convoluted image of college, and it is so pervasive that it is difficult to believe that college is not what the media presents it to be. College is a time to learn, in and outside the lecture hall, but it is very important to have a clear understanding of your personal limits, and know how to safely stay within these boundaries to ensure you have the most positive college experience possible.


Social Safety

·      Know your limits. Many people enter college with very little idea of how comfortable they are in certain social or sexual situations. Many also enter without knowing their tolerance for alcohol. New experiences are a very big part of the college experience, but it is important that these happen with people that you feel comfortable with and will not push you past your limit.                                                                            

·      Spend time with the people that make you feel safe and comfortable. In high school, many teenagers are under the impression that they have to impress their peers. College campuses are usually large enough that you will find your niche, and it is needless to worry about impressing everyone. Friends can be one of the greatest sources of support.

·      Use your campus’ escort services. Keep the escort service number in your phone so you can easily call a representative when you or a friend are alone (especially in the evening). While you are waiting for an escort to arrive, wait in a well-lit, public location.

·      Make sure the door to your residence is locked at all times. Do not let anyone into your building complex that you do not know.

·      Be careful with your keys. Try attaching your key to a hair tie or bracelet on your wrist so you do not have to worry about it falling out of your pocket.

·      Put emergency numbers in your phone under your “Favorites” tab, so if your phone gets lost or you are unable to make a call, someone else can easily make it for you.

·      Make sure your roommate(s) know where you are and who you are with. This does not have to be a formal system. Many houses use a bulletin board in the house or social media to alert each other of their whereabouts (e.g., “going…study” or “getting…downstairs”).

·      Know the basics of self-defense. Almost every college campus offers self-defense classes and it is suggested that men and women become familiar with the basic mechanics.

·      Be aware of your surroundings at all times. When walking home or jogging in your neighborhood, make sure that you are not distracted. Simultaneously blasting music through your headphones and texting completely compromises your awareness of your surroundings.


Mental Safety

When you go out with your friends, make sure you are actively checking on yourself. It is very common for people to exceed their personal limits when they are in large social scenarios, but if you make a point to check in with yourself, you can avoid a lot of regret later. If you need to, set notifications on your phone to remind yourself to do so.

  • Before the night begins, ask yourself: Do I have everything I need? Do I have someone I can call or a place I can stay if anything happens? Am I putting myself in any unsafe situations.
  • In the middle of festivities, ask yourself: Am I having fun? Do I feel comfortable? Do I need to slow down?
  • As the night winds down, ask yourself: How and when am I getting home? If I stay later, do I still have a means of getting home? Do I need to ask for help?

·      Stay in contact with those that mean the most to you. These people know you the best and they can offer the most unbiased advice about any issues you are experiencing at college since they are an outside source. Even just a five minute phone call once a week to your middle school best friend or mom, telling them you are thinking about them can keep that door open for many years to come.

·      There is always someone you can talk to. If you ever feel overwhelmed and need someone to talk to, there is always someone available to you. Whether that person is a roommate, residential advisor, career counselor, professor, or psychologist, you are never alone.                   

·      When you get discouraged, tell yourself you’re doing the best you can do and that is all you can ask of yourself.  College is supposed to be hard, and everyone experiences moments of doubt! Managing your time and staying organized can help you manage your busy schedule. Do not stress over the little things and stay positive!

·      You do not have to accomplish everything at once. The transition from high school to college can be overwhelming. You do not have to meet your best friend, make the memories of a lifetime, and meet the love of your life in the first weekend. Take things slowly so that you can enjoy them and not get overwhelmed.


Sexual Safety

·      Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are notoriously prevalent on college campuses, and in college communities, but if you know what precautions to take, your chances of contracting one can be nearly eliminated.

  • Communicate with your partner. Asking questions and being concerned about one another illustrates respect and caring.
  • Get tested and have your partner get tested. While this is the ideal scenario, unfortunately it is not very realistic, especially in today’s hookup culture. Ensure that you stay up-to-date with your STI testing and always use protection with partners whose STI status you are unsure.
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  • See a doctor regularly. Ask about vaccines that can help protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis A & B. It is recommended that females see a gynecologist for an annual exam within a year of becoming sexually active.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. These substances are known to impair a person’s rational thinking when used in excess and make an individual much more susceptible to making careless decisions.

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·      Keep your number of sexual partners low. Every time you have sex with someone, take into consideration that your partner may carry risks from previous partners.

  • A large fraction of hook-ups take place on a Friday or Saturday night, in a dark room with loud, suggestive music, filled with many intoxicated people. This type of environment is not prone to good-decision making. Try to remind yourself of this fact. Limit your intake of alcohol, and stick with your friends to avoid making regretful decisions.
  • Start the night off by having a mental conversation with yourself (and your friends if you want) about your limits for the night.
  • Set ground rules for yourself and follow them. Let’s say you meet someone at a party and you like them. One possible rule you could set for yourself would be to not “hook up” with them until you’ve spent time with them during the day while you’re both sober and can express your feeling more readily. Getting to know someone before having sex may decrease the likelihood of awkward encounters occurring in the future. With that being said, if you respect yourself and your partner, hooking up is not something you should be ashamed of. Everyone has different personal limits, but as long as you feel comfortable and stay safe, hooking up can help you experiment and find out more about yourself and your partner.
  • Stick with your friend group. Make it a rule to not leave your friends under any circumstances.
  • Not everyone is having sex! Studies show that hook-ups are much less frequent on college campuses than people believe them to be.

 

Last Updated 12 March 2015

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