Discussing alcohol with your college student – Part 1

Posted by
On March 5, 2024

Photo by Cottonbro Studio ~ Pexels

Parents you’re not done yet.

We know many college students make responsible decisions about alcohol consumption. For many students, however, transition to college life combined with the availability of alcohol and the desire to fit in to their new surroundings can lead students to make risky decisions. Dangerous overconsumption of alcohol by college students continues to be a health and safety issue in spite of laws, campus policies, and college programs.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the first six weeks of a student’s first year in college are a vulnerable time for harmful and underage college drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year. College drinking not only impacts the drinking student, but also those around them even if they choose not to drink.

You’ve gotten your kids this far, but PARENTS, YOU’RE NOT DONE YET.

Talking to your college age students about alcohol, underage drinking, and binge drinking is critical, and ongoing communication is key. When talking about choices regarding alcohol, engaging in these discussions about the choices students have and actions they should consider will help keep them safe.


Educate yourself and your college-bound students about the differences between low-risk and high-risk drinking, and remind them that any underage drinking is risky behavior and illegal.

Lower risk drinking is:

  • Being 21 or older.
  • Knowing your limit.
  • Thinking about whether or not you will drink and what you will drink before the party.
  • Eating a complete meal before drinking.
  • Alternating alcohol-free drinks throughout the evening or event.
  • Having a plan; knowing how you will get home safely.
  • Making sure you and your friends have each other’s backs.
  • Recognizing that, in some settings, the safer amount to drink will be little or none. Not all parties and clubs are equally safe!
  • Recognizing that abstaining from consuming alcohol is the safest choice.

Higher risk drinking is:

  • Binge drinking (4 or more drinks in a day for a woman, 5 or more drinks in a day for a man)
  • Pregaming, chugging, drinking games, drinking anything out of a punch bowl, garbage can, trough, hose or funnel.
  • Drinking to get drunk (intoxicated).
  • Driving after drinking or riding with someone under the influence.
  • Drinking too much too fast.
  • Going to parties where people drink too much.
  • Going to a party or social event alone or where you don’t know anyone.
  • Not knowing what is in your glass or leaving it unattended.
  • Mixing alcohol with drugs (legal or illegal) or medications.


Despite the fact that it is illegal for underage college students to purchase alcohol, many have had some experience with alcohol by the time they arrive on college campuses – 54% of high school seniors have tried alcohol in their lifetime. 79% of college students have tried alcohol in their lifetime, but many are over the legal drinking age when this question is asked of them.

Although many students entering college have some experience with alcohol, most are not engaging in binge drinking. Binge drinking is not a rite of passage. The majority of college students do not binge drink and even more do not engage in extreme levels of binge drinking.

According to the 2023 Monitoring the Future Study, among young adults, current daily drinking has decreased over the past 10 years (from 6.0% in 2012) to 4.6% in 2022. Binge drinking (5+drinks in a row in the past two weeks) among young adults among young adults rebounded from a historic low during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 (when it reached 28.1%), back to 32.2% in 2021 and 30.5% in 2022 which was even with pre-pandemic levels. However, this was still a decrease over the past 10 years (down from 35.2% in 2012). High-intensity drinking (10+ drinks in a row in the past two weeks) has not changed significantly over time, at 9.5% among young adults in 2022.

Engaging in these discussions about the choices students have, and the actions they should consider, promote safety. Next week, Part 2 of this article will address discussing your family values, practicing situational awareness, maintaining a positive attitude, and staying in touch with your student.


Article adapted from https://www.responsibility.org/prevent-underage-drinking/responsibility-on-campus/parents-youre-not-done-yet/. Please Note: Missouri S&T does not endorse or have a relationship with SOURCE and articles are provided for information purposes only.  Missouri S&T and SOURCE do not assume responsibility for error or omission in materials.  

Parent & Family Relations

Norwood 107• 320 W. 12 Street / family@mst.edu

Phone: 573-341-6323 • Website: http://family.mst.edu/

Facebook: Parent & Family Relations at Missouri S&T

Share this page

Posted by

On March 5, 2024. Posted in Parents and Family