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