Though most college students begin their term of higher education with the best intentions, it is true that no amount of optimism can prepare students for the worst, and as many headlines everyday inform us, “the worst” can happen to anyone. So how do you safeguard yourself against little things like getting a cold, to larger things such as an arrest or injury? The key term in prevention in this case is awareness.
Crime and safety
San Luis Obispo Police Department Lt. Bill Proll pointed out that personal safety should always be taken seriously even though San Luis Obispo is a relatively safe community.
Proll attributes most student problems to alcohol consumption. Everything from being arrested, to falling victim to sexual assault, is more likely to occur when one or more persons involved have been drinking, he said.
“Walking alone at night is not a good idea; we recommend traveling with friends, or using the escort service if you are on campus, and parking in well-lit areas,” Proll said. “You are a lot more likely to become a victim if you have been drinking. We have had several instances over the years of girls being attacked; two were murdered, and even after that news came out, you would see girls walking home alone from the bars at night. That’s the thing that goes out the window when people drink: their common sense.”
Assault is not the only unsavory situation that can arise from drinking past one’s limits, Proll said.
“Several times a year we go to someone’s apartment or the dorms because of alcohol poisoning,” he said.
“We have numerous accidents, either bicycle, car, walking, falling, that are all centered around too much alcohol consumption,” Proll said. “Our first stance is that if you are under 21, you shouldn’t be drinking at all. But, moderation is what comes into play. If someone had one beer they generally wouldn’t end up in the emergency room, but binge drinking – over consumption of alcohol – is a huge issue.”
Proll said that although there are few cases of the date rape drug here at Cal Poly, it is always vital to monitor your drink at all times, as well as mixing it yourself.
He added that the drunk in public arrest is easily the most common arrest because the only thing the officer must prove is that the person in question cannot take care of him or herself.
“I think people think that to be arrested for drunk in public you have to be vomiting in the street or something; it’s not that,” he said. “An intoxicated female walking down a dark street at night – we don’t think that is a good choice, and it is probably because she drank too much, so she could be a candidate for drunk in public.”
Aside from the drinking issue, Proll advises students not to take San Luis Obispo’s safe reputation for granted and think they are not candidates for theft.
Car theft is common both on- and off-campus.
“If people leave their cars unlocked or their front doors unlocked and their iPod or laptop is out in playing sight, they tend to get stolen,” he said.
The popular site Craigslist.com serves as a tool for buying and selling online, but Proll pointed out that with the increase of individuals falling victim to scams, students need to be smart about their transactions.
“We always say if it sounds to good too be true, it probably is,” he said.
It’s also important for students to take into consideration that going off to college will be their first time away from home, and all of the things that are always available there, aren’t going to be as readily available here, said Dr. David L. Harris, head of Cal Poly Medical Services.
“I would encourage all students to sit down and talk to their parents, and ask to make sure they are aware of their own health problems, and how they are treated,” he said. “Also that they are aware of anything they might be allergic to – particularly medicines – and what their reaction was.”
Harris compiled notebooks for his own two children, who are attending UC Santa Cruz, containing a health history summary, listing allergies, surgeries and copies of vaccination records so information will be at their fingertips if they need it.
“For both kids, I also prepared a first aid kit and an emergency kit,” he said. “It would include things like a battery powered radio, a flashlight with extra batteries.and the emergency numbers of family and out of state friends.”
Harris said that he would encourage all students to come to school with a digital thermometer as well.
Living in a hot spot for outdoor activities, he said that two of the biggest issues he sees are too much sun exposure, and poison oak.
“This is a great place to live, and people do a lot of hiking, but you have to be very careful because there is poison oak everywhere, so you have to wear sunscreen and have some idea of how to deal with poison oak,” Harris said.
Living in close dorm quarters for the first time can increase exposure to disease, and Harris advises all student to get the meningitis vaccination, which is available at the health center.
Although the disease is very rare, it can have such serious implications that a vaccination is strongly recommended, as well as keeping tab on other vaccines, such as tetanus, he said.
Harris also recommended basic things such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and keeping up on sleep to guard against sickness and stress during the rigors of the fast-paced quarter system.
Getting the grade
It’s important to dedicate ample time to studying to keep up at Cal Poly, said Orfalea College of Business academic advisor Charity Romano.
“Students should truly aim to study 25-35 hours per week,” she said. “I know most students don’t take this seriously, but it could really hurt them in the long run. I don’t know any students who study 25-35 hours a week that are not successful!”
Agricultural business senior Todd Griffin said that the most important thing for him to focus on during the first two years of college is maintaining good grades to preserve the opportunity to apply for grad school later on.
“I would say definitely keep the grade point average up; it is really important,” he said.
He also advised students to only party with people they know and trust, and find a group of like-minded friends.
“Know who your friends are,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have a solid group of friends I made freshman year, most of which are still my friends today.”
Griffin said that getting involved in clubs as a freshman is a great experience, but be sure not to be overwhelmed.
“If you are too involved with clubs you wont have time to hang out with friends and realize college is cool,” he said.
Awareness of surroundings, preparation, and self-reliance are the best ways to prepare you for unfortunate events. College can be a stressful time, and it is important to stay vigilant, and not fall victim to something that could have easy been prevented. So go ahead freshmen, live it up – just make smart choices.