College Students: What They Should Know Before They Go

JULY 2, 2024

Students embarking on their higher education journey, along with their parents and guardians, must plan for safety, health and financial issues. Having a preplanned strategy can reduce stress and confusion at a time of crisis. To facilitate a smooth transition for your family, USI Insurance Services’ personal risk team has compiled a list of essential steps to take before your child leaves for college.

Safety Concerns

Violence often occurs in and around institutions of learning. As protests and acts of vandalism increase, parents and students should look beyond basic safety measures to examine the administrative response to political unrest on campus. If a school fails to meet your family’s safety expectations, evaluate other options.

Help students identify danger before crisis strikes. Create a plan for avoiding precarious situations, what to do in an emergency, and how to contact security.

Teens should be aware that according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), more than half of sexual assaults on college campuses occur from August through November. Women ages 18 to 24 who are college students are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women in general.1 Freshmen should be educated on reporting sexual abuse and how to seek help when needed. See the RAINN website for information on staying safe on campus.

Drug Use

Discuss drug use, especially fentanyl, with your teen. Fentanyl, which has become increasingly potent, is the largest drug threat in the United States. Social media platforms and encrypted apps make drugs easier to access than ever before. Guardians should be aware that youths express interest in purchasing drugs via online social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, posting a series of specific emojis to signal their interest in a sale.2

Experts are concerned that kids in middle school, high school and college are being targeted by drug dealers. Fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, Adderall and Xanax are sold to students who do not realize the pill contains fentanyl. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has reported a sharp nationwide increase in the lethality of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills. Specifically, the DEA Laboratory has found that, of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of 10 now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.3 It is impossible to tell by sight, smell or taste that the drugs are spiked.

Health Issues

USI recommends parents and guardians discuss the importance of obtaining a power of attorney (POA) with their teens. If no POA is in place, healthcare providers cannot share medical information with you if your teen is over 18 years of age. A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release also allows medical providers to share medical information with designated individuals.

Mental Health

Students are affected by a range of stressors and challenges. A recent survey of college students finds that more than half (56%) of students have experienced chronic stress (a consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time) in college. Chronic stress is linked to various mental and physical health issues.

According to the survey, nearly nine in 10 students consider their mental health poor, and 49% of students who rate their mental health as poor also fail to access mental health services. Mental health issues do not come with a one-size-fits-all solution. Keep communication open between you and your teen so you can be a resource to their recovery.

Cyber Risks

Discuss internet safety practices with your student. Educate them about hackers and how to protect their private information. Use USI’s cyber checklist and implement the following best practices:

  • Limit use of public Wi-Fi
  • Never share passwords
  • Do not access bank accounts or financial sites on shared computers
  • Install antivirus protection on all computers and mobile devices
  • Use strong passwords (minimum of 12 characters) and two-factor authentication when available

Remind your student that inappropriate comments, explicit photos, and material online can expose your family to liability. Risks may include legal responsibility for libel or slander, as well as difficulty obtaining gainful employment in the future.

Auto Safety

Consider having your teen leave their vehicle at home. Many colleges offer transportation options to and from campus. If your teen is attending college more than 100 miles away and leaves the vehicle home, you may save premium and simultaneously reduce liability exposure.

If your teen takes the vehicle to school, establish rules before departure. First, no one is permitted to drive the vehicle except your child. If your child permits another person to drive the vehicle and an accident happens, the owner of the vehicle has liability exposure, not the driver. Consider increasing liability coverage on the auto policy and umbrella policy to offset this risk.

Stress to young drivers the dangers of texting or taking their eyes off the road to glance at phones. Teenagers are more likely to read, send texts, eat and listen to loud music while driving. Invest in Bluetooth technology to facilitate hands-free calling.


To learn more about teen safety at college, please join us on July 23, 2024, for USI’s Personal Risk Security Update webinar with Jim Warwick of S3G.

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