8 Risks Students Should Consider Before Heading Back to College

College is a unique life-stage, and, likewise, it presents some unique risks you and your family may not have considered before. Don’t be a statistic – understanding the risks of college life can help you take steps to protect yourself this school year.

Many of these areas of college life are particularly risky during the back-to-school season, as students adjust back to college life and freshmen  just start out in college. Before you arrive at school, it is important to have a plan in place for these risks. There are many ways to ensure you will have a safe, healthy semester. Here are 8 risks to consider, and some ideas for mitigating those risks.

1. Theft

You bring a lot of stuff with you to college, as well as some pretty expensive items. Your laptop, smartphone and bike are college basics that carry hefty price tags… and could be attractive to thieves. More than 30,000 burglaries are reported annually related to college students, including 15,000 residence hall burglaries, according to government data.

Being diligent about protecting your stuff can help – always lock your door, never leave your things unattended, avoid bringing valuables to school, and stow your belongings safely to keep them in top condition. You may also want to look into getting a lock for your bike or laptop as well as engraving certain belongings. A safe can help protect any valuables you must bring along.

Besides being mindful of and taking good care of your possessions at school, certain insurance can help you protect your belongings. Talk with your parents to see if they have a homeowners insurance plan that will cover you (and note special coverage limitations, both for eligibility and the amount of coverage you’d receive), and if it would make sense for your family to use it for your things while you’re away at school. Consider the deductibles as they compare to the cost of your more expensive college necessities as well as whether a claim filed for your belongings would affect their premium. If you do not qualify under their coverage or decide it’s not a good fit, consider renters insurance. Some plans are designed specifically for college students and feature liability protection as well.

2. Fire

Each year, fire departments respond to over 3,800 fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks, according to the NFPA. And that’s just ON campus. Fires are a serious risk on and off college campuses, both to your health and safety, but also (and more likely) your stuff, thanks to fire, smoke, or water damage.

There are many things you can and should do to check for fire safety in your residence hall or off-campus apartment, like ensuring fire alarms are in working order and that there are two ways out of your room. Don’t delay – September and October are peak months for fires in college housing, according to NFPA research. You are at increased risk at the beginning of the year, so make sure you check for fire safety as soon as you get to your residence hall or off-campus apartment.

3. Your Health

Hopefully you’ll have a happy and healthy school year, so make sure to take care of yourself! Ensuring that you get enough sleep, enough water, eat right and take time to relax and de-stress will go a long way to staying healthy at school. Taking care to wash your hands and maintain proper hygiene and cleanliness in the dorms will help you fend off germs and lower your chances of catching something going around the dorms, like the flu or a cold.

In addition to healthy habits, health insurance can help students protect themselves from the costs of healthcare should an illness or injury occur. Talk with your parents and an insurance agent to determine what kind of plan is right for you – if you’re under 26 you may opt to stay on your parent’s plan, your school may offer a plan or you may be eligible to enroll via the health insurance Marketplace.

4. Binge Drinking

This is particularly important for first year college students living at school to be mindful of – the first six weeks can be the highest-risk time period for freshmen. All students can benefit from learning about the warning signs to help a friend in need, and an understanding of how choosing to drink can your health and studies.

5. Classes

In the past 12 months, 47.4% of college students found their academics very difficult to handle. Establishing good study habits, learning about your school’s additional resources, and setting up a routine for balancing classes, studying, and other facets of college life is paramount to keeping up.

6. Finances

Sixty-five percent of college students surveyed grade themselves a “C” or worse in managing their money. That’s not a huge vote of confidence for your financial health. In fact, 33.2% of students surveyed reported that, within the last 12 months, finances have been traumatic or very difficult for them to handle. Most often students leave college due to money matters – 54% of students stated the major reason they left college was, “I needed to go work and make money.”

7.  Your Education Investment

For many families, college is a large investment. Many families also don’t know much about the details of their school’s refund policy in the event of a medical withdrawal from school. Accidents, illness and mental illnesses can be disruptive to a students’ education, and many schools do not refund 100% of tuition after a few weeks into the semester. Tuition refund insurance can help complement a school’s refund policy if you are forced to withdraw for medical reasons.

8. Travel

Travel is a part of life for many college students – whether it’s commuting, traveling away to school or studying abroad. There are many different types of insurance and benefits that can help students protect themselves while traveling or while away. Some protections to consider are travel insurance for trips and roadside assistance if you have a car on campus. Some student benefit plans combine many protections in one product, like the Student Protection Plan.

How do you stay safe at school?