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Decision Factors Most College Counselors Don't Want to Talk About: Safety, Well-Being, and Sex

Choosing a college is a big decision for both parents and their children. It can be an exciting time as students look forward to new experiences, new friends, and a new chapter in their lives. However, it is also a time for parents to carefully consider some serious issues that may affect their child's safety and well-being.


One important issue to consider is the need for both a Power of Attorney (POA) and a health proxy for your child. A POA allows a designated person to make decisions on behalf of the student, such as managing finances or signing legal documents, while the student is away at college. A health proxy allows the designated person to make medical decisions for the student in case of an emergency. Without it, the campus infirmary or hospital may legally not be allowed to speak to you. These documents can provide peace of mind for parents and ensure that your child's affairs are taken care of if the unexpected occurs. Check with your family lawyer.


As a parent, one of the biggest concerns you may have when sending your child off to college is safety. While many colleges have safety measures in place, such as campus police, emergency alert systems, shuttles and escort services for late night traveling, there are crimes on college campuses that may not be widely publicized or talked about including theft, drug use and possession, and alcohol-related incidents. Talk to your child about potential risks after doing your due diligence to find out actual statistics from the school. Encourage precautions such as walking with a friend at night, avoiding isolated areas, and reporting suspicious activity to campus security or law enforcement. By having open and honest conversations, parents can help their child make informed decisions.


One issue often not featured in the college brochure is sexual assault and harassment. Sadly, studies have shown that a significant number of college students experience sexual assault or harassment during their time in school. Crucial to consider is how sexual harassment and sexual assault are handled on different college campuses and in different states. The procedures and policies for reporting, investigating, and disciplining offenders can vary widely. Some campuses may have dedicated Title IX offices or campus police departments, while others may rely on local law enforcement or honor boards to address these issues. It is important for parents and students to research the policies and procedures of the colleges they are considering and to have open and honest conversations before making a final decision. I am always surprised by how many students have no knowledge of crime statistics, including sex related crimes, on the campus they are considering calling home for four years.


In light of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, it is also important for parents and students to be aware of the current and proposed abortion-related laws in the state where the college is located. Will Plan B be available if a pregnancy occurs? Can a student be prosecuted if they cross state lines to obtain an abortion? Can a rapist gain visitation rights in that state for a pregnancy resulting from his crime?


Violence against LGBTQ+ persons on college campuses is a serious issue that often goes unnoticed or unreported. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there were 92 reported incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ violence on college campuses in 2019, including physical violence, harassment, and hate crimes. Additionally, a study by the Human Rights Campaign found that 25% of LGBTQ+ college students reported experiencing harassment or discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. These incidents can have a profound impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ students who are already at increased risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation when compared to their heterosexual peers. Parents can play a role in supporting their LGBTQ+ children by advocating for their safety on college campuses. By having open and honest conversations about the potential risks and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ students, parents can help their children make informed decisions and take steps to stay safe.


Finally, when it comes to LGBTQ+ persons, each state has its own set of laws and regulations. What will your child's rights and protections as an LGBTQ+ individual be? Some states may have laws that allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Additionally, some states may not have laws protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from harassment or hate crimes. By researching the laws and policies of the state where your child wants to attend college, you can ensure that they will be attending a safe and inclusive environment that values diversity and inclusion.


By working together, doing research, having open and honest conversations, and being aware of potential risks, parents can help ensure that their child has a positive and safe college experience. Be safe out there!


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