Safe Passage: Understanding Prospective College Students’ Concerns on Campus Safety

Raquel BermejoAssociate Vice President, Market Research and PlanningMarch 14, 2024
Blog on campus safety: Blurred image of three people walking across a campus.
Research shows that concerns about safety are a factor in college search.

Understanding prospective students’ fears and perceptions regarding safety not only fosters a sense of trust and security but also plays a crucial role in shaping their decision-making process.

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking part in a conversation hosted by Harrison “Soup” Campbell of ZeeMee and campus security and safety expert Philip Tyler from Gonzaga University. The conversation started with a single stat from RNL and ZeeMee’s research, in which 62 percent of more than 10,000 12th grades surveyed told us one of the things that made feel worried about college life was their own safety on campus (Read the full report, College Planning and Student Emotions).

Other research has already proved that the perceptions of safety for both prospective students and their families about campus safety are important in the school selection process. Of course, safety and security concerns don’t end when the students enroll. According to research by ADT and The Clery Center, more than 82% of college students report feeling concerned about their personal safety, with more than half stating that they are very or extremely concerned. Interestingly, the same research showed that nearly all college students consider their personal safety on a daily basis, three-quarters of them try to protect themselves by always carrying their phone, and 43 percent feel safer when walking in groups of pairs.

What’s important for enrollment offices to understand is that the time to talk about campus safety is before the students even set foot on your campus. It is an important topic, not always pretty, and a topic that may make us feel uncomfortable at times (like all important topics should). But it is very important and if we sweep it under the rug, many potential families and students may look elsewhere and not give an institution that might have been a great fit a second thought.

Practical takeaways for campus safety

Gonzaga’s security expert Philip Tyler shared these important takeaways for enrollment officers.

Safety matters: Crime and safety play a significant role in the college selection process. ​Admissions offices should prioritize campus safety initiatives and communicate them effectively to prospective students and their families.

Address fear of crime: Understand that fear of crime is a concern for students and their families. Take steps to create a safe and secure campus environment, such as improving lighting, increasing security patrols, and implementing safety measures in parking areas. ​

Personalize safety measures: Recognize that different student demographics may have varying perceptions of safety. Tailor safety measures to address the specific concerns of different groups, such as providing resources for self-defense or implementing programs to address sexual assault.

Enhance public safety services: Students’ perceptions of campus public safety officers and services are crucial. Invest in training and professional development for officers, ensure their visibility on campus, and foster positive relationships between officers and students. ​ By prioritizing campus safety, addressing student concerns, and effectively communicating safety efforts, admissions offices can create a welcoming and secure environment that attracts and retains students. ​

Read more findings on college planning and student emotions

College Planning and Student Emotions Report

Find out more about how stressed students are, which aspects of college planning produce the greatest anxiety, and what excites them about attending college. Download your copy now.

About the Author

Dr. Raquel Bermejo

Dr. Raquel Bermejo analyzes existing search, inquiry, and conversion data in addition to conducting original research with college-seeking students and parents to understand trends and student behaviors. Her research informs and enhances the services the...

Read more about Raquel's experience and expertise

Reach Raquel by e-mail at Raquel.Bermejo@RuffaloNL.com.

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