It’s that time again.
Kids will be moving back to campus soon. Then, a little while after they all move in, everything else starts happening all at once.
On-campus clubs and activities start recruiting new members.
Friendships begin to develop.
Social patterns start forming.
So much will be happening. For new college students, or students who are away from home for the first time; this whirlwind, head-spinning period is full of confusion, bated breath, and just plain hoping to get by.
They are in the red zone.
Unfortunately, the red zone I am talking about has nothing to do with football.
The red zone is usually defined as the first six weeks of college, or sometimes as the time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
And the red zone has its own name because it can be a very dangerous time for first-time students. And while information can’t guarantee safety, fortune favors the wary.
The red zone is the time when most campus violence happens. Hazing injuries and deaths, binge-drinking and other alcohol-related incidents, and sexual assaults all happen with an alarming frequency during this time.
The college red zone is a crucial enough period for students. This is the time when college social and academic habits are often set. Students who are away from their parents’ guidance and supervision for the first time often find it harder to avoid high-risk behavior and activities than it is to participate.
I would never tell a student to completely forsake or avoid the social element of the college experience. But I would definitely tell them to participate responsibly; for their sake and the sake of their friends and others. Keep an open eye; look out for yourself and others. If you are in a situation that you find uncomfortable, leave. If you see someone in danger of harming themselves or others, don’t stand idly by and watch it happen. If you think you need to call police or emergency services because a situation is getting out of hand, don’t hesitate! If the “friends” you’ve made so far can’t understand your decision, or get mad at you for helping someone or keeping people safe, it’s probably time to look for some new ones.
Never, ever assume that the people you met at the beginning of college are the only friends you’re going to have throughout school. Don’t think that if you do something to upset them that you’re going to go through college with no friends and no social life. It’s just not true. That kind of thinking give unbelievable power to peer pressure, and gets you in all sorts of situations you can and should avoid.
Be ready for the red zone. Don’t get caught up.
You got this.