Health and Wellness Center - Penn State Altoona

Health Education

Advice for Parents of First Year Students

Congratulations! Your son or daughter is a Penn State Altoona student!

You have spent the past eighteen years or so preparing your child for this next important stage in his/her life. You have taught your teen essential life skills, such as how to make good decisions that will help them to succeed in college.

Chances are high that your son or daughter will be faced with the decision whether to use alcohol and/or other drugs while they are attending college. The truth of the matter is your son/daughter had to make these choices in high school. And, most likely you have had many discussions about alcohol and other drugs with your son/daughter.

We hope you will continue these discussions with your student BEFORE he/she arrives at college and DURING the time he/she is in college. Studies show that parents continue to exert significant influence on their college student’s decisions, especially in regards to alcohol and other drug use.

Please note—evidence suggests that the first 6 weeks of the first semester are critical to a first year student’s academic success. Some students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college and this may interfere with a successful transition to campus life.

The following are helpful guidelines:

  1. Listen—Don’t lecture. Research shows that scare tactics don’t work.
    Encourage open communication that encourages your son/daughter to ask questions and to share his/her concerns.
  2. Make your expectations clear —let your son/daughter know what you expect about such things as:
    • Attending classes
    • Choices regarding drinking
    • Study time vs. social time
    • Drinking and driving
    • Drug use
  3. Make sure your student knows the University’s alcohol and other drug policies as well as PA laws and penalties for alcohol and other drug related offenses. Remember to include that the decision to use alcohol or other drugs in college may have a negative impact on their career.
  4. Get the facts and share them with your student.
    Students grossly overestimate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. Young adults are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink in amounts they perceive to be the norm. You can play a vital role in providing accurate information and help to dispel the myth that “everyone drinks in college and gets drunk.”
  5. Prepare your son/daughter to handle potential alcohol/other drug related situations by asking the following questions:
    • What will you do if your friend passes out from drinking? (Make sure your son/daughter understands that passing out is NOT “sleeping it off” and the person requires emergency treatment)
    • How will you handle it if your roommate often gets drunk and interrupts your sleep or studying?
    • What if a friend tells you he/she uses “study drugs” and offers you one?
  6. Identify “protective factors” (strategies that can reduce the risk of harm if a student chooses to drink) and encourage your son/daughter to use them if drinking.

Through Health Education, we strive to help students gain knowledge and skills to make proactive decisions, promoting their health and well-being.

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