Students all over the country already are thinking about packing up for their freshman year at college or picking up where they left off last semester.But before you load up thousands-of-dollars worth of clothes, electronics and other gear to take to campus, consider what could go wrong in the dorms.
Fire:If there are one or two culinary freshmen on your hall, your valuables could easily be caught in the wild blaze of an unsuccessful gourmet hot pocket.
The damage:Nearly 4,000 fires break out in dorms and college residence halls every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and one fire claim could end up costing about a year’s tuition and fees at a private college – nearly $30,000 – according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Water:Dorms are prime targets for water damage – consider how the sprinkler system (another side effect of the charred hot pocket) could ruin your wardrobe or expensive electronics, not to mention the higher water damage risks posed by inexperienced washing machine operators and multiple shared hall bathrooms.
The damage: The average cost of water damage claims totalsnearly $7,000 – almost the equivalent of one year’s in-state tuition at a public college.
Theft:Even college students aren’t immune to theft. Last year,the FBI recorded 87,160 property thefts on and around college campuses.
The damage: The average cost of a burglary claim comes in at just more than $3,000- about the same amount the average college student is expected to pay for books and supplies from freshman to sophomore year.
Any of these disasters could wipe out a student’s budget, even beyond getting a degree. Even without one of these problems, the average debt upon graduating tops $27,000, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
For that reason, it makes sense to leave your most high-priced possessions at home. However, if you can’t bear to leave some things behind, here are a few quick tips for how to keep them safe on campus:
Get this: 113 phones are lost or stolen every minute in the U.S. – that’s nearly 60 million every year! Not surprisingly, smartphones rank as the most commonly stolen item on college campuses.
Why do thieves want your smartphone? In addition to making a profit selling the device itself, consider what valuable information the thief could glean from your phone. Many students download bank apps and store personal account information on their mobile devices. Plus, your home address, sensitive e-mails and other private information can be compromised when the wrong person gains access to your phone.
The easiest way to protect your smartphone and your information is to keep the device on your person at all times and set a password. You also may choose to install security software such as Find My iPhone to help you track criminals and pinpoint the location of your stolen phone.
According to the FBI, nearly 2,000 motor vehicles were stolen on college campuses in 2011. If you’re considering taking a car with you to school, make sure you follow a few basic safety rules and take smart precautions to help protect yourself in case you do become a victim of theft.
Never leave valuable items in sight when your car is unattended, and always park in a safe, well-lit area. It’s also a good idea to install anti-theft devices such as a car alarm or even hidden kill switches to make it even harder for a thief to get away in your car. Finally, make sure your car is covered with comprehensive insurance and gap insurance so you’re not facing thousands in debt in addition to being stranded onthe sidewalk.
A four-year college student has a 53% chance of having his or her bike stolen, according to the National Bike Registry. If that’s your only mode of transportation around campus, it’s extremely important to be responsible about protecting it.
Park your bike in a secure rack that’s located in a busy area, and invest in thick chain locks and secure your bike through both wheels and the frame. If your parents have a home insurance policy, some of their coverage may extend to your possessions on campus, including a bike. You also may choose to purchase your own renters insurance, which could help protect your investment in your bike.
Your Jewelry, Electronics And Other Valuables
More than 90% of college students bring a laptop or desktop computer to their dorms as well asother items that may have significant sentimental (and monetary) value such as jewelry, furniture, and other possessions. Here are a few tips to help keep high-value things such as these safe on campus:
• Invest in a safe, lockbox or lockable trunk to secure your most valuable items when they’re not in use. Even if your roommate is home, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
• Always lock your door when you leave the room unattended, even if you’re just going downstairs for a couple of minutes to pick up some laundry.
• Find out if your things are insured. If your parents have a homeowners insurance policy, it could carry over to some of your possessions on campus.
It’s not impossible to keep the things you love safe on campus, but the easiest solution for protecting your most prized possessions is simply to leave them at home.
This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley and Kelly McMutrie, contributors to the HomeInsurance.com Blog. The HomeInsurance.com blog serves as a resource center for insurance consumers across the country.