College Student Alcohol Use & How to Talk to Your Student

College is a time for students to have a number of new experiences that will impact their personal development.  In this crucial time of growth, students can be influenced by factors such as being away from home for the first time, new friends and the pressure felt to fit in, and other social and emotional issues.  Alcohol use may be one of the experiences a college student will explore and (it) is tied to many of the influences listed above.  We want parents to be aware of the changes their students may face at college and be equipped to talk with their student about these issues.

Please talk to your student about alcohol use and risky behaviors that may affect his or her academic performance and social life as well as the legal issues that may compromise their future goals or success at St. Olaf College.  We encourage you to speak with your student about alcohol prior to their arrival on campus and periodically throughout their college career.  When speaking with your student consider the following:

  • Be honest and straightforward with your student.  Talk about expectations—both yours and theirs.
  • Remind your student of legal issues—alcohol consumption is not tolerated at any level by those under the age of 21 in the state of Minnesota.
  • Discuss the alcohol policy at school.  At St. Olaf College the possession, distribution, or consumption of alcohoicl beverages is prohibited on the campus. Encourage your student to make choices consistent with the policy to avoid legal issues or college sanctions.
  • Normalize the fact that not everyone in college drinks.  In fact, 22% of St. Olaf students do not drink during their time at school.

Reinforce protective behaviors if your student does choose to drink:

  • Alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic beverages
  • Avoid drinking games
  • Set a limit to number of drinks he/she will have
  • Eat before/during drinking
  • Keep track of the number of drinks consumed
  • Pace drinks to one or fewer per hour
  • Stay with the same group of friends while drinking
  • Use a designated driver
  • Have a friend let them know when they’ve had enough
  • Do not accept open drinks from someone else and do not drink from a cup that has been sitting unattended.  The risk of someone else adding something to a drink is real.

Teach your student the signs of alcohol poisoning and encourage them to look out for their peers:

  • The person is unconscious or semi-conscious and cannot be awakened when touched, spoken to, or shaken
  • The person has cold, clammy or pale or bluish skin
  • The person has slowed breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute or longer than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • The person is vomiting while sleeping/passed out or is not fully conscious during or after vomiting
  • The person drank a large quantity of alcohol and collapsed

A person does not need to exhibit all of these symptoms to have alcohol poisoning.  When in doubt, seek help.

While your student is on campus, there are numerous resources to help your student succeed:

  • The Wellness Center- students can talk to peer educators one-on-one about health and wellness issues or attend one of our programs on issues of alcohol and other drug use, sexual health, mental health, nutrition, or fitness.
  • The Counseling Center- offers individual counseling, workshops, testing, consultations and referrals.  Services are provided at no cost to full-time St. Olaf students.
  • Dean of Students Office- deans serve as consultants to students about personal and academic matters.
  • BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students)- helps students explore alcohol and drug use in a non-judgemental environment.   This session is scheduled on an individual basis via the Counseling Center.
  • Online Self Assessment for Students- E CheckUptoGo.  Students input their alcohol use history and receive a personalize report to help them make safer choices.


More  information on college drinking:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)-

College Drinking-