Parents: A Primary Influence

As a parent or family member you continue to be a primary influence in your UCSC student's life. You are key in helping them choose the right college so that they get the best education possible. At the same time, you also need to ensure that when they go off to college they live in a safe environment. There are three distinct stages in which you contribute in critical ways to the decision making involving your college-bound family member.

Parents and Family of a College Frosh—Staying Involved

Pay special attention to your your students' experiences and activities during the crucial first 6 weeks on campus. With a great deal of free time, many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, and the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. You should know that about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.

  • Call your family member frequently during the first 6 weeks of college.
  • Inquire about their roommates, the roommates' behavior, and how disagreements are settled or disruptive behavior dealt with.
  • Make sure they understand the penalties for underage drinking, public drunkenness, using a fake ID, driving under the influence, assault, and other alcohol-related offenses. Indicate to them that you have asked the college/university to keep you informed of infractions to school alcohol policies.
  • Make certain that they understand how alcohol use can lead to date rape, violence, and academic failure.

Family of a College Student Facing an Alcohol-Related Crisis—Getting Assistance

  • Be aware of the signs of possible alcohol abuse (e.g., lower grades, never available or reluctant to talk with you, unwilling to talk about activities with friends, trouble with campus authorities, serious mood changes).
  • Do not blame them, but find appropriate treatment.
  • Call and/or visit campus health services and counseling and psychological services and ask to consult with a counselor.
  • Indicate to the Dean of Students, either in person or by email, your interest in the welfare of your son or daughter and that you want to be actively involved in his or her recovery despite the geographic separation.
  • If they are concerned about their alcohol consumption, or that of a friend, have them check out for information about ongoing screening for problems with alcohol.
  • Pay them an unexpected visit. Ask to meet their friends. Attend Parents' Weekend and other campus events open to parents.
  • Continue to stay actively involved in the life of your family member. Even though they may be away at college, they continue to be an extension of your family and its values.

In 1999, a majority of college and university presidents identified alcohol abuse as one of the greatest problems facing campus life and students. A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges presents a series of recommendations to college presidents, researchers, parents, and students to deal with this continuing public health problem in a scientific and sensible way. We encourage parents to continue to educate themselves by referring to and using the materials at

Resources Are Available

For family who want to talk to their college-age children/family member about the consequences of college drinking, a variety of helpful resources are available.

The Task Force’s award-winning website,
features a guide along with links to alcohol policies at colleges across the country, an interactive diagram of the human body and how alcohol affects it, an interactive alcohol cost calculator, and the full text of all Task Force materials.