It's probably not the first thing you'll think about, but campus safety should be an important consideration when it comes time to make a college decision. Particularly in an era when we hear so much about sexual assault on college campuses, parents need to do some digging into issues of safety on-campus and in the area surrounding a campus before they send their children away from home for the first time.
Many individual college websites contain information on campus safety policies and crime statistics, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. You can get additional information about crime on and off campus on The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education and the FBI websites. And for qualitative evaluations, check out Niche to read what students have to say about campus safety and the area surrounding their schools.
While web research is a good starting place, you will probably feel most confident about information straight from the horse's mouth. Talk to people on the campus--students, women's groups, safety officers, admissions officials--and get their views on questions like:
What does the college do to keep the campus safe?
How does the school communicate with students in an emergency?
Does the school have police on campus or its own security teams?
How does the school handle reports of sexual assault or sexual harassment?
What crime prevention programs are in place?
How do you protect students who live off campus?
Is alcohol and drug abuse a significant problem on campus?
How do you protect students during a natural disaster?