Underage Drinking in College: Facts for Parents


Whether your child is heading off to college for the first time this fall, or is already in college, it can be an exciting yet nerve-racking time for parents. You’re probably worried about much more than your children’s grades. Parents are concerned as to whether they’ve prepared their children to make responsible decisions.

These decisions include choosing not to drink alcohol underage while in college. It may seem like a losing battle, but there is actually a lot that parents can do. See the latest info on what parents need to know about underage drinking in college and how they can speak to their students about it.

Know the Risks of Drinking in College

A study performed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reveals startling facts about the prevalence of drinking among young people. The study shows that 49% of full-time college students, ages 18 to 22, reported drinking alcohol in the last month and 28.9% reported they participated in binge drinking. The prevalence of alcohol on college campuses has become commonplace in modern society. This is to the point that most parents won’t even bat an eye at these numbers. These reflect a growing apathy toward the role of underage drinking in college. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

The numbers behind the real risks associated with underage college drinking are so shocking that they would give any parent pause. The same study estimates that each year, over 1,500 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die as a result of unintentional injuries related to alcohol. This includes motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol.

It may not seem like it could get any worse, but there are further consequences of underage drinking in college — that can stay with students for a lifetime. The same study reports that nearly 700,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. Moreover, researchers estimate that 1 in 5 college women will be the victim of sexual assault while in college and that most sexual assaults involve alcohol or other substance.

We’re not bringing up these statistics as a scare tactic for parents or to be overly alarmist. The purpose is to illustrate that underage drinking in college is more than a harmless rite of passage. It’s a serious issue that presents real repercussions for students.

However, parents should not feel as though confronting college underage drinking is a losing battle. There are plenty of strategies parents can pursue to curtail underage drinking in college to keep their students informed and safe as they enjoy their college years.

What Can Parents Do to Prevent College Underage Drinking?

College underage drinking doesn’t need to feel inevitable. There is actually a lot that parents can do to keep their children informed. These are just a few of the tactics that parents can use to give them an edge in the fight against underage drinking.

College Drinking Prevention Tips:

1. Start the Conversation About Underage Drinking in College

College drinking prevention begins with starting the conversation. It may seem like a small gesture, but it can go a long way. By showing their children that they are involved, parents can keep students informed of the dangers and consequences of underage drinking.

We understand that this isn’t always a comfortable conversation. Many parents are hesitant to broach the subject of underage college drinking with their children. Because of this, Talk It Out NC created conversation starters to help parents get going. These conversation starters include suggested goals for what parents would like to achieve through these conversations. They also include personalized action plans in addition to tips on how to talk to teens effectively.

2. Stay Open-Minded When Listening to Your Child

One of the most important things that parents can do when it comes to college drinking prevention is to remain open-minded. If your student knows that you’re listening to them, they’re going to be more likely to listen to you. Start a productive dialogue with your child to learn more about their college experience, their friends, and how they feel about the role of alcohol in college.

When you take the time to really listen to your student, you may be surprised by how much you can learn. You can also ascertain your child’s own opinions on alcohol, and what made them arrive at those viewpoints.

3. Make Your Student Feel Comfortable Talking to You

Another key benefit of starting the conversation about underage drinking with your child is that you begin to develop a deeper bond with your child. As a result, your student will feel more comfortable approaching you about problems or concerns they may have at school.

Establishing this level of trust can start by taking the pledge with your child. By taking the pledge, parents agree that they will support their teenager by not punishing them if they call when they are feeling unsafe. When a teen can approach their parents about important issues without fear of punishment, they are more likely to feel comfortable discussing these kinds of topics.

4. Remind Your Kids that Underage Drinking is Illegal

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remind your student that underage drinking is illegal. It may seem sometimes as though college underage drinking isn’t a big deal, but nothing could be further from the truth. Underage drinking in college is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 and comes with real consequences.

Being caught drinking underage in college can result in a criminal record that can follow students for the rest of their lives. Being caught drinking underage is a criminal offense. These criminal offenses will go on a student’s criminal record and could result in the loss of scholarships or worse, expulsion.

5. Show Your Student They Can Have Fun Without Alcohol

Because of peer pressure and social stigma, there can be a false conception that students need alcohol to have fun in college. This just isn’t true! College is a wonderful and exciting time. All students need to have fun are their friends.

Sporting events, board game nights, video games and pizza parties can all be a blast without alcohol involved. Show your student how they can have a great time without having to drink underage.

Parents Can Make a Bigger Difference Than They Realize

It’s easy to feel like your kids don’t want to listen or are always tuning you out. It’s especially true when they always have a phone in front of their face. The truth is that your children actually are listening, whether they show it or not. By simply sitting down and discussing the dangers of underage drinking in college openly and honestly, parents can go a long way toward keeping their children safe while also getting the most out of their college experience. Talk it out with your child today and see how we can stop underage drinking together.