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How to Improve Your Situational Awareness as You Return to College

As you prepare to go back to college after a long break, you might be feeling excited, nervous, or even anxious. You might be looking forward to seeing your friends, attending classes, and enjoying campus life. But you also need to be aware of the potential risks and challenges that you might face in this new environment. That's why having good situational awareness is so important for your safety and well-being.

Situational awareness is the ability to perceive and understand what is happening around you, and how it affects you and others. It involves paying attention to your surroundings, noticing any changes or anomalies, and being ready to react appropriately. Situational awareness can help you avoid or deal with threats, such as crime, violence, accidents, or emergencies. It can also help you make better decisions, communicate effectively, and cope with stress.

Here are some examples of situational awareness in different scenarios:

  • When you walk to your dorm or class, you notice the people who are walking near you or behind you. You look for any signs of aggression or hostility, such as body language, facial expressions, or verbal cues. You also notice the exits and escape routes in case you need to run away.

  • When you attend a party or social event, you observe the mood and atmosphere of the place. You pay attention to the music, lighting, and crowd size. You also monitor your own alcohol intake and avoid getting too drunk or accepting drinks from strangers. You check on your friends and make sure they are safe and having fun.

  • When you study in the library or computer lab, you scan the area for any potential hazards or distractions. You avoid leaving your belongings unattended or exposing your personal information on your devices. You also respect the rules and etiquette of the place and avoid making noise or disturbing others.

  • When you travel to a new city or country, you research the culture, customs, and laws of the place. You learn some basic phrases and words in the local language. You also dress appropriately and avoid wearing anything that might offend or attract unwanted attention. You should bring a map, a phone, and some emergency contacts with you.

Situational Awareness

Here are some other safety tips for college students:

  • Lock your doors and windows when you leave your room or apartment. Don't let strangers into your building or room without proper identification. Don't lend your keys or access cards to anyone.

  • Protect your personal information online. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Don't share your passwords or account details with anyone. Don't click on suspicious links or attachments. Be careful about what you post on social media and who you connect with.

  • Stay healthy and fit. Eat well, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Exercise regularly and join a sport or fitness club if you can. Avoid smoking, drugs, and excessive caffeine. Seek medical help if you feel sick or injured.

  • Manage your stress and emotions. College can be stressful and overwhelming at times. Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, yoga, music, or hobbies. Talk to someone you trust if you feel depressed, anxious, lonely, or suicidal. Seek professional help if you need it.

  • Join a support network. College can also be fun and rewarding if you have a good support network. Make friends with people who share your interests and values. Join clubs, organizations, or groups that suit your personality and goals. Seek mentors or advisors who can guide you academically and personally.

Having good situational awareness can make a big difference in your college experience. It can help you stay safe, confident, and resilient in any situation. It can also help you enjoy the positive aspects of college life more fully. So don't take it for granted. Practice it every day and make it a habit.

About the Author

Joseph “Paul” Manley is the Founder and Principal of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC, a Training and Independent Consulting Firm with a focus on violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant, Adjunct Lecturer, Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist, Security Expert, and Trainer.

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