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Articles / Applying to College / Keeping Valuables Safe in a Dorm Room

Keeping Valuables Safe in a Dorm Room

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Aug. 3, 2018
Keeping Valuables Safe in a Dorm Room

I'm about to move into a dorm for the first time, and I'm concerned about how to lock up my valuables. Should I just take my laptop and phone to the bathroom with me every time I go? Or is there a better way to keep these items secure?

Dorm-room thefts occur less often than you might expect ... and a Snickers bar is probably more likely to vanish than a laptop. Nonetheless, it's wise to be cautious, and — for a small investment — students can purchase some peace of mind, even if it turns out to be unnecessary.

While, sure, a thief can certainly run off with an entire lock box, it's easy to find boxes (or actual safes) that are designed specifically for college living and come with a cable that can be attached to a bed frame or radiator or any other large item that won't be dragged through the dorm-room door. For instance, the Sentry POO8E Compact Electronic Safe costs about $28.00 on Amazon Prime (which is free to college students for six months) and delivered right to your mailbox or campus post office. There are other similar options on Amazon or at Target or Walmart.

These boxes and safes are ideal for valuables such as cash, jewelry, passports and medications (and candy bars?) but are typically too small for a computer. However, inexpensive but effective laptop locks are readily found online as well and can be easily attached and detached as you move around. Models such as this one, cost under $10.00. Even so, “The Dean's" best bet is that you never use yours ... at least not after the first week.

And, if there's space enough in your dorm room, you can also invest in a metal file cabinet with a locking drawer. Although such cabinets may be flimsy and not much of a challenge for a seasoned burglar, they certainly will stave off invasion from a roommate's nefarious (or inebriated) friends.

Before you invest in any hardware, check with the housing office at your college to confirm that the college doesn't provide a desk drawer or closet with a built-in lock. Some schools — especially those with newer residence halls — will.

You can also purchase dormitory insurance at reasonable student rates. While this won't be much help if your passport flies away on the eve of your spring break trip to Cancun or if your history term paper is ... well ... history, when your laptop disappears, at least you'll eventually receive some compensation for your loss.

Finally, because thefts are minimal in many dorms, it's easy for students to become cavalier about security. But locking a dorm-room door is a smart strategy, wherever you live and regardless of how briefly you'll be gone. Nonetheless, more students are victims of thefts outside of their dorms than within. (Bicycle cables get cut even on campus bike racks; backpacks are lifted from cafe chair backs; wallets walk off in crowded bars or at concerts.) So chances are good that your dorm room will soon feel like a safe haven, regardless of whether or not you take these precautions.


If you'd like to submit a question to College Confidential, please send it along here.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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