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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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What Colleges Need to Know Now: An Update on College Drinking Research

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First-Year Students

Some first-year students who live on campus may be at particular risk for alcohol misuse. During their high school years, those who go on to college tend to drink less than their noncollege-bound peers. But during the first few years following high school, the heavy drinking rates of college students surpass those of their noncollege peers, and this rapid increase in heavy drinking over a relatively short period of time can contribute to difficulties with alcohol and with the college transition in general (Schulenberg et al., 2001). Anecdotal evidence suggests that the first 6 weeks of enrollment are critical to first-year student success. Because many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. The transition to college is often so difficult to negotiate that about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year (Upcraft, 2000).

A Rite of Passage for All, or a Habit for Some That Impacts All?

Although the consequences of campus drinking are a major problem, contrary to popular misconceptions, the majority of college students drink moderately or abstain (Wechsler et al., 2000b). For many students, alcohol use is not a tradition. Students who drink the least attend:

  • 2-year institutions;
  • Religious schools;
  • Commuter schools;
  • Historically Black colleges and universities.

(Meilman et al., 1995; Presley et al., 1996a, 1996b; Wechsler et al., 2000b).
Students who drink the most include:

  • Males,
  • Whites,
  • Members of fraternities and sororities,
  • Athletes, and
  • Some first-year students.

(Johnston et al., 2001b; Meilman et al., 1994, 1999; Presley et al., 1996a, 1996b; Wechsler et al., 1996, 1997a, 1998, 2000b).

 

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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005


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