Real Talk: Valuable Insurance Tips for College Students

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Mercury Insurance informs students how to protect their belongings while away at school

I thought a lot about the things I would need to bring to school with me, but never stopped to think about what I would do if anything was stolen.

College is an exciting time for young adults. Everything is new and, for those who go away to school, it’s likely their first real taste of independence.

Social calendars fill up, Facebook friend requests increase and students sift through event invites, deciding which parties to attend and whether or not they will make Sunday brunch at the sorority house.

While there are plenty of distractions, college is also characterized by hard work and responsibility. Classes are more challenging, and mom and dad aren’t around to facilitate morning wake up calls or prepare healthy home-cooked meals. Also, included among these newfound responsibilities is the protection of personal property.

“Most college students don’t think about protecting their belongings because, until this point, they’ve lived under their parents’ safety net,” said Stephanie Behnke, claims innovation director for Mercury Insurance. “Parents have a million other things running through their heads when their kids leave for college – like whether their son will brush his teeth regularly or if their daughter will make it to class on time. Talking to their children about insurance needs doesn’t necessarily top the list.”

Students bring many pricey belongings from home – electronics like laptops, iPhones, tablets, televisions and gaming systems are common dorm room items. They may also have a skateboard, bike, vehicle or combination of all of the above.

“All I was really thinking about were my classes and social calendar,” said Leighann Tomita, student at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. “I thought a lot about the things I would need to bring to school with me, but never stopped to think about what I would do if anything was stolen.”

The excitement and bustle of the social scene is a hallmark of college life, and students sometimes forget that not everyone they meet at school has the best intentions. Crime exists in most communities and college life isn’t immune to it. According to the FBI, 97 percent of crimes reported by college students in 2012 were property crimes and a whopping 41 percent of these thefts occurred on campus.

“I never thought about renters insurance until I left for college,” said Jacob Turner, student at the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, California. “I decided to take out a policy just in case anything happened. My laptop was stolen, and the policy covered a replacement. I’m thankful I made the choice to get insurance because I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t covered.”

Another on-campus threat to personal property is fires. Firefighters responded to an average of 3,806 college housing structure fires per year. These fires caused an annual average of $9.4 million in personal property damage and losses.

“Students should look into renters insurance options,” Behnke said. “They’ll be surprised how affordable this type of insurance can be. Many of these policies cover things like theft and items destroyed in fires. Laptops are an essential for most college students and experiencing a loss that isn’t covered can be tough when you don’t have the money for a replacement.”

The bottom line: with greater independence, comes greater responsibility.

To maximize your college experience, here are a few tips to protect personal property:

  • Cover personal belongings with an insurance policy. Students who live on-campus may have coverage available through their parents’ homeowner’s policy. Some companies have policy options that extend personal property coverage for individuals away from home. Students living off-campus may not be covered by their parents’ policy and should look into purchasing renters insurance.
  • Create an inventory. Record the value of all personal property to determine the right amount of coverage needed in the event of a loss.
  • Always lock doors. Talk to roommates and make sure to communicate the importance of securing personal belongings.
  • Conceal valuables. Never leave electronics or other valuables out in plain sight, and do not advertise their presence on social media.
  • Use a bicycle lock when you’re out and about or for added security while on-campus. Steel and titanium locks are difficult to cut and provide thieves with a challenge. Reinforcing these locks with cable locks, which can be threaded through wheels, will provide extra security.
  • Secure valuable electronics, like TVs and laptops, to stable fixtures with locking mounts in your room, so they can’t be easily removed. Also protect personal electronics with passwords to guard accessibility and discourage theft.
  • If you have a vehicle on-campus, install or activate the alarm. Insurance companies frequently offer discounts for vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. Students with good grades – at least a B average – may be eligible for an additional discount as well.
  • Ensure your auto insurance is up-to-date. Coverage for vehicles left at home while in school should be maintained to protect the vehicle from theft or any damage that may occur while it is parked. This will also protect you if you forget to notify your agent to add coverage back to your vehicle when you are home visiting.

Mercury Insurance (MCY) is a multiple-line insurance organization predominantly offering personal automobile, homeowners and commercial insurance through a network of independent agents in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Since 1962, Mercury has specialized in offering quality insurance at affordable prices. For more information visit or and follow the company on Twitter.

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Wendi McAden
Pacific Communications Group
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