Home and Community Safety & Health Safety Sleep Nutrition Cover stories Articles mentioned in FSH Instagram posts

Campus Safety & Health 101


Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Fall is a time for new beginnings – particularly for college freshmen, many of whom will be living away from home for the first time.

Leaving the proverbial nest can bring many new experiences and responsibilities, as well as challenges.

Let’s look at some of the issues students may face being on their own – and what can be done to make college a positive time in their lives.

Mental health

With increased academic expectations and a new, unfamiliar environment, it’s not surprising that feelings of anxiety and depression are common among college students – particularly freshmen.

Add the responsibility of having to take care of tasks such as laundry and cleaning, and “it’s a lot to take on at once,” said Dina Matic, a licensed clinical psychologist and former staff psychologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Parents can help prepare their teens by gradually allowing them more independence while they’re in high school, Matic said. This will help make the transition “less intense.”

She added that new college students need to hear that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling. “Encouraging students to prioritize their self-care, connect with others and take part in activities that they enjoy will help prevent mental health concerns, as well as overcome existing challenges,” Matic said.

“Of course, we all sometimes need extra support. Students who continue to struggle should not hesitate to reach out to their school’s counseling office, where providers are trained to help in a safe and confidential environment.”


Having easy access to a campus dining hall can spell trouble in the form of poor nutrition and, in turn, a few added pounds – commonly known as the “freshman 15.”

Clarke University in Dubuque, IA, offers tips to avoid weight gain:

  • Eat a healthy, well-rounded breakfast every morning.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand.
  • Make sure to drink eight glasses of water a day.

Try to steer clear of “high-fat offerings” such as french fries, fried chicken or cheeseburgers. Instead, make use of the dining hall salad bar if one is available. But remember to make smart choices there, too. Skip the creamy dressings, bacon bits and mayonnaise-based salads.


Sleep isn’t just important for health and wellness: It can have an effect on classroom performance too, according to a recent study conducted by researchers from several universities.

Using trackers on 600 first-year college students, the researchers found that students who got less than six hours of sleep a night “experienced a pronounced decline in academic performance.” Each additional hour of lost sleep was linked to a nearly 0.1 decrease in grade-point average.

According to Oregon State University, college students can get better sleep if they:

  • Maintain the same sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Avoid bright lights before going to bed, including from smartphones.
  • Don’t engage in stimulating activities, such as homework, before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment with dark curtains or shades, eye masks, ear plugs, and white noise.

“A popular belief among college students is to value studying more or partying more over nightly sleep,” Carnegie Mellon University researcher David Creswell said. “Our work here suggests that there are potentially real costs to reducing your nightly sleep.”


Being away from home can require thinking about personal safety in a new way.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Division of Public Safety has advice. A simple but important piece: Lock the door to your dorm room – even when you’re inside.

“Theft is the most common crime on college campuses,” the university says. “The best way to stop theft is by locking up your residence and vehicles. It also protects you from people who may have ill intent.”

Other tips from the U of I:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t let your music or phone distract you.
  • Don’t hold the door open for “piggybackers” – any unauthorized person who’s trying to gain entry into a building by closely following someone else in.
  • Walk in groups of three or more.
  • Use free services that can escort you around campus, and report any suspicious activity to campus police.

Most of all, “trust your instincts,” the university says. “If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation, leave right away and go immediately to an area with lights and people.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)