If you are visiting this site, you are probably doing so to get answers to questions about your student’s health and wellness issues while attending Auburn. Your concern for your student’s health and wellness is important to us – and we hope to answer as many of your questions as possible. Whether you are worried about your student’s eating, sleeping, drinking, drug, and sexual habits, their overall mental health, or their social lives and relationships, we offer information and resources through our website, social media, printed literature, and educational opportunities to help them live a healthy lifestyle in college.
Just because our information and resources are being circulated through the Internet and throughout campus doesn’t mean that your student will pay attention to our messages – this is where your role as a parent or guardian comes in. We are working to make personal contact with students to help them live healthy lifestyles, but our message will likely be more effective if reinforced by parents and loved ones. We look forward to partnering with you to improve overall wellness on campus and help students make healthier choices.
One of the biggest concerns that parents have about their incoming college students is drinking. Alcohol will always be available to your student, and knowing how to prepare them for situations in which they are exposed to alcohol is crucial. Helping your student make healthy decisions about alcohol use will enable them to come to college educated about alcohol and its effects, and this will help them make good decisions about alcohol use. Below is a list of topics that are important to discuss with your incoming student about alcohol use.
This section is currently being developed to include topics other than alcohol use, but in the meantime, our Health Topics page is available for information and resources about other topics of concern to incoming students.
Legality of Drinking
Parents and guardians should make sure their students know that in the State of Alabama, it is illegal to possess or drink alcohol under the age of 21. Students often think that the fact that they are a college student negates the fact that they are not 21, but it does not. The consequences of underage drinking charges can often take lots of time and money to resolve, and some charges stay with you permanently on your record. Remind your student that the cost of having to go through the legalities of underage drinking charges does not outweigh the benefits of having a couple of drinks one night just to “fit in.”
Freedom from Parental Control
College students often feel a great sense of freedom when they get to college, and this feeling of freedom can often lead to experimentation with alcohol. While this developmental stage is quite normal, make sure you discuss with your student that along with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Just because they are away at college does not mean that they are not responsible for their personal well-being and decisions anymore…it means they are more responsible for making good choices to keep themselves on the right track.
If you know of or suspect that anyone in your family has an addiction to alcohol or substance abuse problems, it is time to share this with your student. Tolerance to alcohol can be up to 90% hereditary, and your student needs to know what his or her risk level is before coming to college. It is important to talk to your student about how to set limits for alcohol consumption and impress upon them that it is crucial to stick to these limits to maintain healthy habits.
Finding Social Groups
College students in general, and especially first year students, often find themselves looking for social groups to fit into. In college, it almost seems as if no semester is the same – from one semester to the next, your student might have different roommates, different peer groups in academic classes, be a member of different teams and groups, and have a different personal study schedule. “Fitting in” can easily become a major focus. It is important to talk to your student about befriending others who seem to have similar priorities and habits as themselves. There are numerous ways to be involved in social groups and have activities to do that do not involve drinking large amounts of alcohol – encourage your student to investigate ways to be involved and feel a part of a group that does not participate in self-destructive activities. Remember that your student will find a social group that best reflects how they feel about themselves. If you know or suspect that your student is involved in social groups that engage in risky behavior and heavy drinking, they may be struggling with self-esteem issues, anxiety, adjustments to life away from home, or they could be caught up in myths about how the “typical college student” acts. It is also possible that your student already established a pattern of drinking before they got to Auburn. Talk to your student about finding ways to be involved on campus without participating in self-destructive activities. You can direct them to the Office of Student Involvement, where opportunities are listed.
Myths about Alcohol Use
Myths about college life and partying can set your student up to believe that drinking is a rite of passage that all college students must go through. In a survey of Auburn students taken in January of 2011, 68.9% of students reported drinking within the last 30 days. The survey also reported that these same students perceived that 89.8% of students had been drinking within the last 30 days, proving that college students often perceive that “everyone” drinks, when in actuality, a much smaller percentage actually takes part in alcohol use. This perception can lead students to think that if they aren’t drinking as well, they are getting left behind or missing out on something. Your student should also understand that the majority of people in situations where alcohol is being used act responsibly – that is, getting a designated driver, eating before and during drinking, and sticking to their drink limit for the night. It is only the loud, obnoxious drinkers that give the impression that everyone is drunk, because they are the ones that are noticed in public areas. Responsible drinkers maintain control, and are not the ones noticed. The loud, obnoxious drinkers are often the individuals that encourage others to abuse alcohol. Tell your student to take a step back at a party or bar, and observe how many people are drinking moderately and maintain control as opposed to those who are out of control.
1 in 5 women will be the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault during her college years. In 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that young women in college experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. For more information about this topic, refer to our Safe Harbor webpage for safety tips and important things to remember that you can share with your student.
Thinking Ahead to Future Goals
Encourage your student to make a list of some goals that he or she has for himself, either in the present or near future. Your student might have a goal to get a certain grade in a class, become a member of an honor society or particular social group, to get into graduate school, or get a job after they graduate. Remind them that drinking heavily and behaving in self-destructive ways can make achieving these goals more difficult, especially if they get in trouble with law enforcement because of inappropriate conduct or underage drinking. Have them think for the future instead of for the moment.