U of SC safety concerns- real or unfounded?

Hi all- my son was accepted to U of SC with significant merit and is very excited. However, he has spoken to some kids who either attend now or recently graduated. He is hearing that the social life is a bar culture and kids go into Columbia and Uber home. Columbia’s violent crime rate has me concerned. Can anyone comment on the bar scene and/or the Columbia crime rate? Thank you!!

There is a big bar scene which I saw when visiting last year. Can not comment on safety /crime. I think though partying is happening at all schools - perhaps more behind closed doors.

Not sure what you mean by “go into Columbia” as U of SC is literally in the heart of Columbia a few blocks from state capital. I suspect the kids are walking to the bars then Uber back late at night. Obviously they need to follow basic safety tips - don’t leave alone and double check the license plate before getting in the Uber.

My DD is also in with significant merit. I looked at comparative crime stats on bestplaces site and violent crime wise Columbia is less than Atlanta, higher than Raleigh NC and in the same range as Charlotte NC and Knoxville TN. The crime around campus seems to be similar to other urban setting schools - mostly theft, a few regular assaults and a couple sexual assaults.

My oldest attends UNC. Chapel Hill is rated as very low crime rate, but those same crimes have occurred near campus there too.

Being drunk does increase vulnerability to crime, including fights / assaults, theft, and various sex related acts up to and including rape. It also add vulnerability to accidental injury or loss.

Thanks everyone. Does the social scene revolve largely around bars in Columbia and, if so, does that put students at significantly greater risk, being in Columbia at night? We were unable to visit due to COVID so I have no sense of the area at all. My son is a social cat who loves a good party, tho not much of a drinker (yet, anyway, hope it stays that way).

My husband has heard of “Five Points” which he believes is pretty safe. Do most kids hang out there, or do they go to a different part of Columbia to socialize?


Hello. I’m a current student at South Carolina. I’m involved in greek life and spend a ton of time in Five Points. The social scene is entirety bars. In fact, the school doesn’t really have the traditional house parties or dorm parties that most schools have. That said, Five Points, like any other downtown/bar scene, can be dangerous if you don’t exercise common sense. In all honesty, Five Points is flooded with students and police every single night and is pretty safe. I wouldn’t worry one bit.

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@markhanik Thank you! Back in my day, many moons ago, kids had fake IDs to hit the bars. What do kids do now?

I visited with DD19 a couple years ago and whole family liked it. DD19 had a really hard time deciding between UofSC and UNC (her dream school). Going with DD21 next month to visit.

Unfortunate that with COVID can’t get the same experiences. DD19 went to several college’s admitted students days to help her decide and UofSC was hands down best run one.

We ate in another part of downtown (not Five Points) after dark and felt safe. Also felt safe walking around and near campus after dark in the evening but we weren’t out until bar closing time.

Campus is beautiful (saw some ranking had it 12th most beautiful in US). Older parts of the campus you can definitely tell you are on campus separate from surrounding area and some of the newer/expansion parts are a little more mixed into surrounding area (mix of commercial retail, apartments etc). For example, business school and athletic center both of which are very nice, are like that.

Everyone I know who goes there or knows someone who goes there have had really good things to say about it.

I also really loved Columbia and what I believe is Five Points. My son and I went out to eat near the bars and it was a really nice crowd. Everyone was watching a big basketball game going on and the food was great.

We visited SC right after this occurred in the Five Points area and my daughter ultimately ended up elsewhere.


Yeah fake IDs are a must at the school! However, the bars really will let you in with anything that says you’re 21 even if your picture doesn’t match.

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If you’re intending to send your child to a school in a medium to large city, then you have to accept that there’s a chance that certain crimes could happen.

There are plenty of small colleges out in the middle of nowhere, where city influences won’t be an issue. However, keep in mind that some of the worst crimes (sexual assault, burglary, and others) could be committed by fellow college students, right on campus, in dorms. Thorough background checks are not typically run on incoming students (especially at large universities) - so you have no control over or knowledge of who is living near your child. Better to equip them to protect themselves in these situations, rather than relying on how safe someone tells you a campus or city is.

Plus, when they graduate, their job could be in a big city. Never too soon to learn “street smarts”!

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I have a daughter at USC who is OOS with merit. We are from NoVa. She loves it–wanted a larger campus/city setting, SEC football, warm weather, etc. and didn’t like any Virginia schools. As with any college campus, there will be crime and risks. College students are naive and easy targets. One of the bigger problems I’ve seen (I am on a parents’ page on FB) is that once kids move off campus sophomore year (most do this as there is limited dorm space), they leave their doors unlocked and can be targets–some have had theft, but others have had people enter their apartments/homes and had confrontations. Younger people can have a false sense of security, especially after being in dorms where everyone leaves doors open and feels safe, and some claim to “not want to carry a key”. Asking for trouble. Columbia is a city and always has an element of feeling “sketchy” to me in some areas (I just drove down with my D after the winter break) but she knows to keep her guard up and is careful/has good common sense. The kids who want to go to bars all get fake IDs freshman year but it’s not any more of a “party” school than any other. If you’re a serious student, you’ll do well and be able to balance work and play. I happen to love Five Points–cute student area with bars, restaurants/cafes and some cute shops. I would not be caught dead there at night but only because I’m an old parent! When I’m down there and go out, I stick to bars/restaurants in the Vista which is also very nice but not where students typically hang out. Yes, kids Uber to and from the bar areas because most live off campus and not walking distance. The freshman who live closer can walk.


Residential college students tend to skew toward higher SES backgrounds, so they mostly grew up in areas with lower crime. So habits formed at home where unlocked doors or other items typically did not result in theft get carried to colleges that may be moderate to higher crime areas.

Of course, when the student’s first experience with alcohol is at a fraternity party or a bar near college, that often means taking additional risk of inexperience (fights, sexual misconduct, etc.).

Agree, but we come from a very safe/sleepy suburb in NoVa and ALWAYS lock our doors and use our alarm system at night. When I was in college at the University of Florida in the early 90s, we had 5 kids killed by a serial killer. I’ve never been the same and my girls have been raised to understand that a false sense of security can really be dangerous. It’s on the parents to instill in their students that they need to be safe–not be paranoid, but use common sense. There is a current issue at some of the bars in Five Points where girls’ drinks are getting drugged. Several police investigators are involved and some bars have been under surveillance. Again, go in groups, be smart, but know the bad stuff is going to be out there. The Uber kidnapping/killing two years ago was horrific but has made for some positive change in Uber procedures.


First semester freshwomen are likely at higher risk, due to being less likely to be aware of how sexual predators work (e.g. drugging other people’s drinks) as well as likely being inexperienced with alcohol to begin with.


Our USC tour guide referred to Vista as “where you go when your parents come to visit.” :grin:

Agree not all are on same safety level page when they get to college. My Ds definitely have common sense safety in mind. D23 got frustrated with suite mates often leaving suite door unlocked (dorm had exterior suite doors like an old motel).

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My son is a Jr and Sami’s death was horrifying and felt by the entire community. But it shouldn’t be a deterrent for attending Carolina.

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