When parents send their children to college, most worry. However, they tend to worry about their son or daughter's success in school, their finances, roommate relations, and personal choices. Now they have to face an even more frightening reality, one in which violence is growing on college campuses.

With the recent case of Annie Le – the murdered Yale med student-, parental fear just ticked up another notch. The story is even more troubling because she went missing while at her work on campus during the middle of the day. Her alleged murderer wasn’t a local transient or drug dealer but a fellow student.

Now parents have to face a harsh new reality that, when they drop their students off at school, they may never see them again. Instead of the usual weekly call about dates, exams, or roommate spats, they may instead get a phone call saying that their child has been injured or is missing.

With missing students, unsolved murders, sexual assault, and college shootings, students really need to be careful and watch out for their safety. In 2005, there were 16 million students attending 4,200 college and universities. Of all violent crimes on campuses, only 35 percent were reported according to estimates.

Granted, school campuses are safer than the community as a whole. But are they safe enough? Are there enough emergency poles around campuses that students can get to in time? Do students feel like they can come forward and report violent crimes against them?

These are questions that schools and administrators are constantly trying to address, but, in the meantime, students need to be on the lookout for their safety. All college students think that they're pretty tough and can handle themselves, but can they? Even if they say they're fine, here are some suggestions that can help them stay safe:

1. Carry pepper spray or mace.

2. Don't walk alone at night– especially if you're a petite girl. Remember the old saying, there is safety in numbers. Plus, it's more fun to be with other people anyways.

3. If you're going on a date with someone you don't know, go on a group date with friends. This will not only be more fun in case the date is a little awkward, but your friends can help protect you if your date turns out to be a shady character.

4. Learn and use defensive techniques like karate. Your elbow is the strongest bone in your body, so use it and aim for weak areas of the body like the nose, eyes, and other areas. The more you're able to protect yourself, the more likely you will be able to get out of the situation.

5. Listen to your intuition and leave if you feel uneasy. This may get you out of a sticky situation before it gets out of control. What's the worst that will happen if you leave? You might miss out on an activity.

6. Even though I'm not advocating the use of guns, and many schools prohibit their students from having them, quite a few students have opted to carry a concealed weapon. They have a more secure feeling when they have them because they can protect both themselves and possibly others.

7. Scream at the top of your lungs. A police officer gave me a sound piece of advice. He said if anyone ever tries to kidnap or hurt you, scream as loud as you can because most assailants will hurry and leave if you make too much racket. Their number one concern is not getting caught.

Although you never know what will happen from one day to the next, you can prepare yourself by learning and implementing some of these ideas into your life. This may not keep you out of harm’s way, but it will give you every chance you have to survive and get out of the situation.

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