NAPERVILLE, IL – Nothing quite compares to campus life, especially when you’re experiencing it for the first time. 

Being away from home for the first time brings excitement but also a fair amount of challenges to the college freshman experiencing life at a whole new level.

While some new adventures, both academically and socially, will come from this, a few dangers can creep in as well.

The Naperville Police Department is holding a College Safety Presentation for Students and Parents on Thursday to make first-year students more aware so they can safeguard themselves when they get to campus.

Police Sergeant Derek Zook, a School Resource Unit Supervisor District 203 with the Naperville Police Department, told WGN News Now that the first step to being safe is simple: download the campus map to their cellphones and learn the safest routes to their classes.

LEARN THE CAMPUS

“Be familiar with how to get from their dorm to their classrooms, how to utilize the proper routes, especially at nighttime, if you walk at nighttime use the most lighted route to get back to your place. Also be familiar with your campus police. Do they have a police department, or do they use a local jurisdiction? A lot of college campuses are also offering security escorts where you call the number and they will escort you from your classroom back to your dorm room, ” said Zook. “We also talk about situational awareness. Be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on around you. A lot of these kids have spent the last 18 years with their parents doing everything for them. Now they’re out on their own with this newfound freedom and they don’t know what to do with it. “

Zook advises students to sign up for Campus Safety Alerts, and suggests they check to see if their campus has public transportation or safe ride programs. Students should also keep their head out of their phone when walking, and if using earbuds police suggest wearing only one so they can be aware of their surroundings. Experts also advise students to always tell someone where you are going and when you’ll return, whether it be a roommate or a friend.

PARTIES & BARS

A similar directive is recommended for students when they go to a party or out to a bar – never go alone or stay after your friends leave the party.

Zook also has these suggestions, “Be aware of your drink especially. Don’t leave it alone. Don’t walk away from it, don’t leave it unattended. Take it with you or have someone watch it for you. You don’t want anything bad to happen to your drink. Always keep control of that or track that. If you want to walk to and from parties, make sure you’re with someone. The buddy system. Make sure you let someone know where you’re going and how to get a hold of you.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

As for social media, Zook said students should be aware of what they’re doing. Police remind students that anything posted online is permanent, even if it’s later deleted.

“Everyone has a camera nowadays and everyone is on some sort of social media platform, so what you do may end up on TikTok or some other platform and may at some point in time, cause you some negative impact in your college career or your career after college,” said Zook. “So, if your parents wouldn’t accept what you’re doing then you probably shouldn’t be doing that. And understand that may end up on a social media platform that you don’t want to be out there.”

Police also advise social media accounts be set to private, location services are disabled and that students avoid geotagging and never post that they are alone.

Zook encourages students to always keep their cellphones fully charged in case of an emergency; and believes phone tracking apps are a good idea, but is something that students and their parents need to discuss before they go off to college.

He added students and parents need to have constant and open communication to help make campus life a positive and safe experience for all.

You can see Zook’s interview in the video above.