My family and I moved to a university campus a little over a year ago. Having experienced a full year of campus-living, I must admit that I’ve grown accustomed to the emptiness and peacefulness of the abandoned campus over the summer. The few families that remain on campus during “break” have the run of the place! We’ve given our girls a little more freedom and independence due to the vacant roadways and near-empty buildings. We have quite enjoyed this season. However, in the last few weeks I have seen the end of “break” creeping closer and closer. What was once a calm, quiet neighborhood now has transformed into a flurry of activity as staff prepares for students to enter the dorms. This past week, the parking lots were packed full and students began venturing around campus to explore and utilize the amenities. Each season is new and fresh and as much as I enjoy the summer, I can’t help but get caught up in the special excitement about fall.
This excitement was quickly put on pause as I read an article regarding college freshmen and some of the risks that they face. The New York Times Well-blog read, “Growing research shows this (college drop-off) is a high-risk time for depression, alcohol abuse and sexual assault. The first few weeks of college are one of the riskiest windows: Many kids are independent for the first time and living with people they don’t know with a completely different sets of norms, said Robert Turrisi, professor of biobehavioral health and director of the PRO Health Lab at Penn State.” Later in the article, a number of experts share their findings, specifically with alcohol abuse and give parents tips on how to keep the lines of communication open with their college freshman. Turrisi gave parents this evidence-based suggestion; “For kids who haven’t been drinking, your goal is to push the onset of their drinking further out. The data shows that the earlier a teen starts drinking, the greater their risk of alcohol and other substance abuse problems later on. For kids who have already been drinking and getting into trouble, your goal is to reduce the risk. Explain that college is an opportunity for them to reinvent themselves. Talk to them about what you think is a safe amount to drink and why the data support none at this age.”
Julia Routbort, associate dean of student affairs for health and wellness at Skidmore College states, “Social norms or what we think others are doing, shape our expectations. When you think every student is drinking, which is not the case, or everyone is drinking 10 shots, which is absolutely not the case, it just pushes you in the direction of that behavior. But, when you have more accurate information, we know that those students are going to make healthier choices.”
I suppose I was a bit naïve to the negative things affiliated with the start of the fall semester. I share this article in hopes that others, including those that do not have college-aged children, will learn the dangers that these young adults face. The article encourages parents to research more information by searching college websites for social norms campaigns or the alcohol abuse institute’s website for statistics and tips. Specifically, check out this link to the NIAA’s College Alcohol Policies Directory as it appears to have links to every college in the United States: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/SpecialFeatures/alcoholpolicies.aspx
Best wishes to all the freshmen out there, and be safe!