One in six high school students on overnight stays at prospective colleges drinks alcohol during the visit

Many colleges urge prospective students to make overnight visits to their campuses, even arranging for them to spend the night in the dorms. But a new survey finds that one in six high school students on such overnight visits reports drinking during their stay.

(This may explain why so many high school students have told me over the years that that they somehow missed the official college tour while visiting campuses.)

A survey by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education at Susquehanna University (CARE) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found that about 16 percent of surveyed teens who had been on an overnight visit reported drinking alcohol during the visit.

The results don’t surprise me as going to college parties is often a highlight of a campus overnight, especially during informal visits where two high school juniors bunk in the dorm room of an older sibling or cousin. I would love to see this survey extended to find out whether the teens drank once they arrived at college and with what frequency.

(A friend taking her high school graduate to a summer freshmen orientation at UGA a few years ago said one of the slide shows featured police mug shots of teens who had been arrested for alcohol during an earlier freshmen orientation. She said the mugs of the bleary-eyed 18-year-olds and the university’s warning of dire circumstances for such offenses scared her. She was not so sure they  scared her son.)

In the survey, teens also reported engaging in sex or other intimate sexual behavior (17 percent), using drugs other than alcohol (5 percent) or driving while impaired (2 percent) during their overnight college visit.

According to the release:

The study, conducted for CARE and SADD by ORC International Inc. surveyed 1,070 U.S. teens from age 16 to 19, 270 of whom indicated they’d been on an overnight college admissions visit. It includes high school students currently making college visits and current college students reflecting on previous visits. Data was collected online between April 17 and 20, 2012.

“This information offers a cautionary tale to parents and college administrators,” said Stephen Gray Wallace, director of CARE and an associate research professor at Susquehanna University. “One in six teens who have been on an overnight college admissions visit, some as young as 16, are making poor and potentially tragic choices on campus. Colleges and universities should examine their policies on campus visits to ensure the safety of young visitors and their hosts.”

For some teens, the college visit was the first time they engaged in some of these behaviors. For example, 51 percent of teens who reported drinking during the overnight visit said they had done so for the first time. Fifty-two percent of respondents who reported engaging in some type of sexual activity during their visit indicated that they participated in behaviors in which they had not previously engaged.

“These results speak to parents about the importance of communicating about risks and setting expectations for their teens in advance of new and potentially challenging experiences,” said Penny Wells, SADD’s president and CEO. “The temptations are waiting for these young people as soon as they go off to the next phase of their lives at college. Parents should open a strong communication channel with their teens to guide them in the right direction.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

71 comments Add your comment


June 27th, 2012
10:31 am

Americans and their prude offspring are comic gold.

johnny too good

June 27th, 2012
10:38 am

1 in 6? I’m surprised it isnt more, most kids know that college gives them a little more freedom and a new environment with new people to discover.
They should also look into how many of the kids have sex on these trips
I actually remember missing two session during my freshman orientation after a night of partying lol
Disclaimer: Even if this article seems to imply that these college tour trips are bad or possibly detrimental, i agree with their overall use and purpose, there will always be bad apples in every bunch

John from Cobb

June 27th, 2012
11:04 am

Mountain Man

June 27th, 2012
11:08 am

I think that criminalizing alcohol consumption for 18-21 year olds has driven it underground and made it MORE likely to over-drink and binge. When I attended college, it was legal to drink at 18, and I don’t remember having near the issues with alcohol that we have today. When you make something forbidden, it becomes desireable.

I have refused to support MADD anymore since they started supporting the 21-year-old drinking age. Don’t get me wrong, I am 1000% in support of laws against drunk DRIVING. There is a big difference between drunk driving and just drinking. Now you have a law on the books that is rarely, if ever, enforced. What message does that send about our laws (sort of like having a 55-mph speed limit on the interstates inside the perimeter).


June 27th, 2012
11:18 am

By the time high school juniors and seniors are making college visits, nearly all of them will have made a decision about their own participation in drinking and other behavior their parents regard as risky. College merely gives them a chance to act on that decision with less chance of their parents finding out.

A more alarming discovery would be that those students who have chosen to moderate their own behavior could feel pressure from the host college students to be more adventurous. In my experience, visiting high schoolers regard the college students as the acme of authority on everything from classes at the school to how to dress, and those hosts (who usually act as guides as an on-campus job) should be made excrutiatingly aware of how every little thing they do or say will be taken as coming from On High, to the potential detriment of the high school student.


June 27th, 2012
11:28 am

” have a good time , all the time”

Studies Show

June 27th, 2012
11:32 am

In a related study, the other 5 are twice as likely to be lame.

Atlanta Mom

June 27th, 2012
11:36 am

” Data was collected online between April 17 and 20, 2012.”
This makes me wonder if this was an accurate statistical sample, or just people willing to answer an online survey. Dramatically different conclusions could result.

Old timer

June 27th, 2012
11:37 am

I read, recently that in GA between seventy and eighty percent ofhigh school seniors say it is easy to get alcohol. I am not Anti drinking…so I am not a prude, but underage kids make poor choices and many, too many, die in alcohol related deaths. I do think parents and teams need more education.

Atlanta Mom

June 27th, 2012
11:40 am

“One in six teens …. are making poor and potentially tragic choices on campus.”
Is this not the purview of teenagers–make poor choices?


June 27th, 2012
11:46 am

So these students go on college tours without their parents.. I have always gone on the tour with my daughter. It may be her decision but it is my money….
So, it goes back to parenting and the values instilled into that child or young adult(for those of you who think these teen agers are capable of getting every decision right)…


June 27th, 2012
11:48 am

In other news, the sky is blue and it is going to be hot this afternoon.

mountain man

June 27th, 2012
11:57 am

So by 16, the parents have not taught their children to make good decisions. Sad. As far as sexual activity is concerned, they better be able to make the right decisions at age 12 or 13. Old enough to get pregnant or to get someone pergnant.

mountain man

June 27th, 2012
12:00 pm

I like the fact that SADD has its name as “Students Against Destructive Decisions”. That could be decisions about drugs, over-drinking, drinking and driving, sexual behavior, etc, but may NOT include social drinking. Gets my support over MADD which is now MAD – mothers against drinking.


June 27th, 2012
12:01 pm

And this is a bad thing? The real problem here is that 5 of 6 high school students are becoming good liars.

David Granger

June 27th, 2012
12:23 pm

The drinking age should be 18. If a person is old enough to vote or to go and die for their country, then they’re old enough to drink.


June 27th, 2012
12:35 pm

When I was in college, long ago, the worst thing you could do was to drink. Naturally, everyone did. Now, after years of pot, LSD, estacy and God knows what else, it’s refresing to see things have come full circle.

Logical Dude

June 27th, 2012
12:35 pm

mountain man: So by 16, the parents have not taught their children to make good decisions.

Regarding drinking, how can a parent give any teaching on how to drink? current laws make it criminal to even give your kid a drink! Parents aren’t even able to teach kids to drink responsibly and do it within the law.

I agree with all those who say the forbidden is desirable, so kids will do it secretly, and in binges.

Legalize alcohol consumption similar to Europe, and enforce the driving laws. It’s not the drinking that’s bad, it’s the bad decisions resulting from over indulgence (such as driving intoxicated or having unprotected sex).


June 27th, 2012
12:36 pm

Right on, David – the drinking age should be 18.

I still remember, as a service member, carrying loaded guns to work, being in charge of 5 other guys with loaded guns, and yet being somehow not mature enough to walk into a bar and buy a beer. What a crock!


June 27th, 2012
12:36 pm

“I have always gone on the tour with my daughter.”

Right, cause being over-bearing and over-protective has NEVER driven young college freshmen over the edge when they are finally free of you – good job.


June 27th, 2012
12:37 pm

@mountain man and david granger;
Y’all are right on! It was 18 when I was at UGA, and on my prospective visit, it was nearly 100%. Arresting kids now for what was legal in our day is nuts! Go look at the Pandora (UGA Yearbook) form 78 or 79….it states “The number one sport at UGA is not football”……and then it shows how to mix various drinks! Every bar in town had specials… Zoo night at the B and L, Papa-Joe’s on Tuesday nights, O’Malleys on Thursdays, etc. Now its driven underground and kids get in trouble. Football players get arrested and miss games for doing what one former standout player paid for (ask an old letterman about “seagraves”! This was a big party for the UGA football team!) They should have left it at 18!! I am old enough to have been through alot, and I am not for driving drunk, etc. But it made more sense at 18……………………………

Atlanta Mom

June 27th, 2012
12:45 pm

” current laws make it criminal to even give your kid a drink!”
Not true. You may legally serve your child in your home. No one else’s child. But your own. And only in your own home.

Once Again

June 27th, 2012
12:46 pm

Which is a reduction from the 1 in 3 that drink regularly when they are in town.


June 27th, 2012
1:09 pm

The more you forbid the more they covet.

Howard Finkelstein

June 27th, 2012
1:19 pm

And yet ANOTHER storm in a teacup. When will these overbearning/over protective mommys learn that attempting to legislate morality never works.

Nixon brought about the war on drugs, which was lost before it began.

Mountain Man

June 27th, 2012
1:26 pm

Hey skipper – when did you graduate from UGA? I graduated in 1980.


June 27th, 2012
1:36 pm

@Mountain man….me too!!

Devil's Advocate

June 27th, 2012
1:54 pm

The drinking age and the point of this article are both insignificant compared to the bigger issue of good decision making that others have pointed out. I remember seeing a couple of girls coming back to Creswell after drinking during my orientation at UGA. Both were crying and ashamed because they got sloppy drunk and caught by their parents who were attending with them. If your parents do not approve of you underage drinking then it’s probably a bad decision to go out and do it on a trip with them. Just saying…

Oh yeah, there’s also plenty of “adults” who still can’t drink responsibly at 60 so age really doesn’t have much to do with it.


June 27th, 2012
2:00 pm

If you’re going to send your kid for an overnight stay at a college, expect your kid to do whatever his/her hosts are doing. If the hosts drink, the kid is probably going to drink. If the host party, the kid is probably going to party. If the hosts gets laid easily, the kid is going to get laid easily.

There is a man I greatly respected when he was here on this earth and he used to always say, “tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Warrior Woman

June 27th, 2012
2:05 pm

A more interesting study would be whether students drank alcohol on their college vists that did not do so.

Beyond that, I agree with Mountain Man. It seems the more we prohibit things, the more attractive they become to teens.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Get Schooled blog has carried a story based on the results of a study related to overnight college visits by high [...]


June 27th, 2012
2:33 pm

There are thousands alive and healthy today because the drinking age was raised. Insurance companies don’t have higher rates for those under 21 just for fun. There was plenty of binge/excessive drinking, and more importantly, the related drunk driving afterwards, when it was legal at 18.

Maybe y’all just drank too much in college to remember that!!!


June 27th, 2012
2:42 pm

This is news ? To who? Someone living under a rock?

Concerned DeKalb Mom

June 27th, 2012
2:47 pm

I had 2 different college visits to the college I attended. My first visit was with my parents. We did the official tours, saw the buildings, visited the school store, etc, etc. The second visit was by myself to visit a classmate from high school who was a year ahead of me. Went up on a Thursday afternoon, made it to a class on Friday, and had a great time with my hosts Friday night and Saturday night.

I received all the information I needed from both of those visits. Each visit told me something a little different.


June 27th, 2012
2:52 pm

During my time in college at the party place referred to as UGA, I observed many of the worst incidents of drinking were performed by kids that were closely monitored at “home” and now had the opportunity to make their own choices out of the view of parents. As a recovering cathoholic, I had experienced alcohol at a younger age. Puking in the bushes outside of the dorm on any night was a common sight. Kids today are master partiers by their 9th or 10th grade.


June 27th, 2012
3:44 pm

Mountain man @ 11:08, that’s part of the problem. Simply passing a law changing the drinking age from 18 to 21 simply makes the activity go underground. The age was raised from 18 to 19, 20, then age 21 in GA, back in the early 80’s.

The key is parents educating children about alcohol use at home so that when they (children) encounter this type environment, they know how to cope with it.


June 27th, 2012
4:33 pm

You are right……Freshmen girls at a grain-alcohol party. The ones kept on a tight leash were the most likely (as any experienced upper-classman could tell you) to er,ugh,well, let that foot slip! Things were still simpler at 18.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

June 27th, 2012
4:42 pm

Should anyone desire more insights into contemporary college life, read Tom Wolfe’s
“I Am Charlotte Simmons.”


June 27th, 2012
4:56 pm

As I read the article I thought one in six? – we have a lot of liars in our young people. I agree with the posters who talk about the kids kept on a tight leash at home. My kids both told me how funny and stupid some kids got when drinking for the first time at college. Some funny, some stupid, some really sick. My son got really tired of all the underage drinkers coming back to the dorms to pull fire alarms at two and three in the a.m. He is disabled and had a very hard time getting out of bed to get outside. They finally just let him sleep if they knew soon enough that it was a pulled alarm, which was usually three to four nights a week the first semester. My daughter witnessed alcohol poisoning not once but twice at her school in the first four weeks! Scary!! Neither of my kids drink and would be totally honest with us if they did(they did both try it). They don’t like any alcohol and hate what they witness when kids do try it for the first time or get carried away with it. We also have alcoholism in our families and they grew up with it, so, they know first hand what it can do to people.

mountain man

June 27th, 2012
5:31 pm

“There are thousands alive and healthy today because the drinking age was raised”

And a lot more could have been saved if they outlawed drinking between the ages of 30-33, which has the highest drunk driving death rate. If just saving lives is the goal, why did they not do that? If the reason was (as MADD claims) that 18-21 year-old brains are not fully developed and cannot yet make informed, good decisions, then why allow an 18-year old to join the military service? Should that not also be outlawed until 21? You youngsters are too young to remember when you could not vote at 18, but you could be drafted, sent to war, and KILL AND DIE FOR YOUR COUNTRY. They finally recognized the obvious contradiction in these actions and lowered the voting age to 18 (heaven knows they would never raise the age of conscription to 21). Then they went and reimposed the contradictory messages by raising the drinking age to 21! Georgia made it even worse by voting to allow 18-year-olds WHO JOIN THE MILITARY to drink! So the single action of signing up for the military means your brain is developed and you can now make “good choices”. Give me a break. The only reason they raised the drinking age was because they could, kids that age were a very small part of the voting population and so their rights were terminated.

Atlanta Mom

June 27th, 2012
5:33 pm

My kids gave me a good reason to not lower the drinking age to 18, and it has to do with HS. Yes, anyone who really wants alcohol in HS can get it. But, if you change the drinking age to 18, virtually all HS seniors would be legal to purchase.. While most 14 year olds will know a senior, many 14 year olds don’t know someone who is 21. And that little bump in the road may be enough to discourage, at least for a few years, the first drinking experience.

Fred ™

June 27th, 2012
6:04 pm

How nice (really), ALL day and no one pointed out the glaring grammatical error. I believe you meant to type PROSPECTIVE Maureen, not perspective.

I didn’t notice either lol but it’s was my wife’s first comment when I showed her the blog (she’s the expert in Higher Education in my house, and truthfully probably would be on this forum were she to engage here).

Fred ™

June 27th, 2012
6:08 pm

Mountain Man @ 5:31: Preach it brother. When I was in Germany, a kid of any age could order a beer and get served. It was no problem. Kids learn to drink and drink responsibly (and no they don’t drink at 5 for any of your mindless Baptists that are going to get stupid about my comment). Drinking there is no longer a “sign of being a grown up” it’s just having a beer. Therefore they don’t go bat crap crazy and sneak off to drink.

mountain man

June 27th, 2012
6:29 pm

“My kids gave me a good reason to not lower the drinking age to 18, and it has to do with HS.”

Yea, Atlanta Mom, I remember that reason being given when the upped the age. Horrors! A person still in high school might be legally able to drink!!! And that will make all the 14-year-olds start drinking!! I have news for you – with the legal drinking age at 21, 14-year-olds are STILL getting the alcohol! Not only that, but the seniors are drinking and all the college students are drinking! Just not legally. We taught all four of our kids to drink responsibility, allowed them to drink at home. I know I may not know everything that went on, but the youngest is 22, no one has been arrested for dui, none have had an accident, the girls have not gotten pregnant, and , as far as I know, the boys have not sired any children. So we make the 18-year olds second-class citizens so that YOUR children won’t be tempted by the DEMON alcohol.

Atlanta Mom

June 27th, 2012
7:26 pm

Mountain Man,
I didn’t say it would stop teenage drinking. But there is some good common sense involved. All that peer pressure stuff? If you can put it off for two years, soo much the better.
Two out of three of my children don’t drink. I think it’s because they saw such irresponsible drinking in HS (all that vomiting, don’t you know).
The third child (underaged) drinks at home, and at college. But, she doesn’t drink and drive.

mountain man

June 27th, 2012
7:38 pm

Good for you, Atlanta Mom. I was thinking for a moment you were a teetotaler out to save the world from alcohol. The trick isn’t to stop them from drinking, but stopping bad choices like drinking to excess (vomit stage). That is where it gets dangerous. But when they start out with good choices , like walking to the bar in downtown Athens rather than driving, you have less chance of a dui. Or having a DD along.


June 27th, 2012
8:47 pm

So what if they’re drinking, I drank a few years before I was legal also;and while u double talking hypocrites are at it why don’t u make it illegal for them to smoke and drink?Threaten them with jail time, huh? Can’t do it can u but u can put an adult who sells to them under the jail.

English Teacher

June 27th, 2012
8:53 pm

Perspective? Prospective? Oh, right, spell-check doesn’t help with grammar.

The drinking laws today make otherwise good kids criminals. Different states mean different laws. How many of you really know how the Georgia laws read? In Georgia, can your under 21 child drink in your home? Yes, as long as you are there too. Can other folks’ kids drink in your home, even with their parents’ permission? Nope.

MIPs (Minor in Possession) and DUIs stay with you a long time. Don’t drink and drive.

Maureen Downey

June 27th, 2012
9:09 pm

@Fred, Thanks for spotting that. Had it right in head and in the lede, but misstepped in the body. Sorry did not fix earlier. On vacation this week and only getting to the blog every few hours. (Before anyone comments: Journalists have this quirk where we spell the lead — the beginning of the story — as lede.)


June 27th, 2012
9:36 pm

I beg to differ on the arguments about the “good old days”. Drinking age was 18 when I was in college and I knew plenty of students who were not “responsible drinkers”. My freshman year of college I lost 4 friends to 2 different drunk drivers (the friends weren’t drunk but they were hit by people who were-one under age, one not) and another died from a stab wound he got while fighting (he was under age and drunk). These days students don’t need an excuse to drink, smoke, or inhale and being legal or not won’t stop the ones who feel the need to binge. And to all the posters on here “judging” the prudes and teetotallers, please keep in mind not everyone CAN or SHOULD drink. My daughter has been judged, accused of being a snob and made fun of because she does not drink, smoke, inhale (but has friends and former friends who do). She had a real problem with syncope (fainting) from low blood pressure last summer and really found out who her friends were as several assumed she was drinking, smoking or inhaling. She has told me College stories that would make your head spin and I am so glad we have a good relationship and that she has the self confidence to make the decisions that are right for her.

There is a problem when Colleges have to “require” attendance at sessions at orientation before you can register for your classes (because if they didn’t everyone would be off getting drunk or high). There is a problem when under age students get their alcohol (and sometimes drug) supplies delivered by Mom and Dad, Aunt or Uncle. One of the students in my daughter’s dorm received a “package” delivered through the mail by her Aunt. There is a problem when if they can’t get their hands on anything illegal, they will go to the store and buy cans of whipped cream or pressurized computer cleaner or rent a helium canister from the party store.

It’s not a problem that will be fixed by lowering the drinking age.