College is not the right choice for every newly graduated high school student, but for those who choose to pursue higher education, there are risks and dangers that come along with college life that need to be understood. Parents can’t shield their college students from every possible danger, but openly discussing the risks, and risky behaviors, can help students make good choices and avoid some of these potentially scary situations.
1. Depression is a common concern among college students; depression can impact social life, academics, and health. Left undiagnosed and untreated, depression can lead to disengagement from friends and family, dropping out of school, or suicidal thoughts: itriagehealth.com reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death of people aged 15-24. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance, but can also be triggered by situational factors. College students who are experiencing homesickness, stress, unfamiliar situations, and peer pressure are ripe for depression, both mild and severe. While there is no way to prevent or cure depression, talking to a trusted friend or mental health advisor, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and quality sleep can all contribute to better mental health.
2. Even if a student is not depressed, he may still be hurting his body and his mind through lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of exercise and stress. College students rarely think about the effects that late night study sessions, caffeine, alcohol, sedentary days, and worry over classes and friends can have on their bodies. Excessive weight gain or loss, increased heart rate, damage to muscles and organs, and even hair loss can be attributed to the mismanagement of stress, nutrition and exercise in college students. For kids who are making their own decisions for the first time in their life, creating a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge.
3. Additional health concerns created by living in close quarters such as dormitories and risky sexual behaviors should also be addressed before a student leaves for campus. Common illnesses such as cold and flu viruses are spread in every public space, but many college students also contract more serious ailments such as mononucleosis, meningitis, measles, and strep throat. Shared bathrooms, iffy hygiene, and myriad germ traps make it difficult to avoid communicable diseases and viruses on campus. Sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, chlamydia, and HIV are easier to prevent but only if a student is making wise lifestyle choices.
4. Assault, rape, and even bullying occur on college campuses across the country at alarming rates. Males and females alike are at risk, but students can avoid situations that make assault and rape more likely: students should only attend parties with people they trust, should not walk alone at night, and should not consume alcohol in excess. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and often increases feelings of anger and hostility, a dangerous combination that can lead to fights, inappropriate or sexual behavior, or serious health problems. Bullies will be quick to use any inebriated behavior to embarrass and shun a victim. A victim of sexual assault or rape is never at fault, but students can and should be careful of whom they trust and aware of their surroundings.
5. With their first real taste of freedom, many college students get a giddy thrill of adulthood and apply for credit cards and student loans above and beyond tuition costs but neglect to budget responsibly. Student debt with tuition fees alone can add up to more than $75,000 at a state school, but with added living costs and entertainment, students can easily graduate from college with over $100,000 in debt. The added debt incurred by wasteful spending and frivolous purchasing can make starting life after college challenging. Students who have learned the art of budgeting before entering college have a major advantage in the debt game.
No matter where a new college student comes from, she should be aware of the possible dangers waiting on campus and have a plan for how to deal with adversity when it inevitably knocks on her door. A well-prepared student will be a successful student.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.