For Students, Faculty, and Staff: MyU One Stop

Introduction To Alcohol Unit

The purpose of this unit on college drinking is to present parents with a realistic picture of the issues and challenges college students and their families will face related to alcohol use during the college years.

College students have a perception of college drinking based on the images they receive from television and films, news stories, their friends, and their families. Our hope is that by providing accurate and up-to-date information to parents, students will receive messages from home that will help them make thoughtful and responsible decisions about alcohol use.

We know that it can be difficult for parents to talk with their students about sensitive topics such as this. This unit includes national data on college drinking, information about resources on campus, and talking points for discussions about drinking and the potential consequences of alcohol abuse.

Myths & Facts: Everyone knows that college students drink

One of the stereotypes of college is that weekends are focused on cheap beer and creative combinations of alcohol. We've all seen Animal House or other films that lionize college drinking, and we've read the news reports about alcohol-related injuries and deaths among college students. These stories make college drinking seem rampant.

In reality, every student's experience with alcohol is unique. Some students drink to excess far more often than is healthy. Other students don't drink at all. The majority of students are somewhere along the wide spectrum between the extremes.

Students and parents alike have expectations about alcohol use that may prove to be unrealistic. Among the myths we often hear are the following:

Myth: I don't need to worry about my daughter drinking. She doesn't like the taste of alcohol.

Reality: Many college students don't like the taste of alcohol when they arrive at college. The so-called alcopops (alcoholic beverages that taste like soft drinks or fruit juices), Jell-O shots, and mixed drinks make alcohol more palatable. Whether or not a student likes the taste of beer or wine does not predict drinking patterns.

Myth: My child drinks beer but not hard liquor. It's not a problem as long as he stays away from the hard stuff.

Reality: The alcohol content of a properly mixed drink, such as rum and cola or gin and tonic, is approximately the same as the alcohol content of a can of beer or glass of wine. Students often believe they can drink more beer because it's not as potent as liquor; as a result they end up consuming as much or more alcohol as if they were drinking liquor.

Myth: Fraternities and drinking go hand in hand.

Reality: The data indicates that fraternity members are more likely than non-fraternity students to engage in heavy drinking, but heavy drinking is not part of all fraternity social functions, and some fraternities specifically prohibit drinking. Even in houses where parties include alcohol, individual members can choose not to drink. Sororities nationwide prohibit alcohol in chapter houses.

Myth: If college students don't drink, they have trouble finding friends.

Reality: When asked how many drinks students have had in the past week, about a third said they had no alcohol. Many students who do not drink have an active, satisfying social life. Students can attend parties and drink soda or water, or they can find alternative activities such as attending athletic events, bowling, films, comedy shows, or non-alcoholic parties.