At least eight U.S. college freshmen have died so far this semester, many of them in alcohol-related incidents, according to Times Higher Education. Colleges are encouraging freshmen and their parents to talk about alcohol and drugs even before they arrive on campus.
A freshman at Texas Tech University died of alcohol poisoning in late August. An international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during the school’s move-in weekend. A Towson University student in Maryland died after falling into a glass door during a party, the article notes.
“It’s a huge transition and all the support systems are different,” said Pete Goldsmith, Dean of Students at Indiana University at Bloomington. “For students who have lived in very structured situations and environments, going to a college campus when very suddenly they have this new kind of freedom and new choices to make, it can be pretty overwhelming.”
Because in many cases only a few hours of orientation are devoted to drinking and drug use at most schools, they are trying to reach incoming students and their parents before they arrive. “We urge parents to have conversations with students about drug and alcohol use,” Goldsmith said. “We encourage parents to think through what their own expectations are for this first year. Parents and students are so focused on getting into college, there’s not always a lot of attention given to what’s going to happen once they’re actually there.”
Students who arrive at school may fall under the spell of “the college effect,” says Amy Murphy, Dean of Students at Texas Tech University. Even if they arrive at school with healthy attitudes and behaviors, they are exposed to unhealthy influences once on campus. These influences make them more likely to participate in drugs and drinking, she said.