Effect of Alcohol Use on Academic Performance of College Students

You might remember that, around the time you were finishing high school, there were at least a few people around you who were talking about the fun life at college that was awaiting you. By fun, they usually implied a lot of networking and non-stop parties. But they didn’t mention anything about studying hard.

Why do some people have such a distorted perception of college life?

Typically, having entered the university, students have to adjust to a new micro-society. They want to get recognized by others and integrate into the new circles quickly and painlessly. That’s why, at parties, they engage in social drinking to become part of the group.

Unfortunately, the behaviors formed by social drinking grow incrementally and very soon become the part of college student’s identity. But while students might get the recognition they longed for, such distractive behaviors ultimately have a negative impact on their academic performance.

So, a seemingly innocent cup of beer with your college friends can turn into an alcohol abuse problem, which has an impact on your future as you switch your perspective from building a successful career to simply trying to fit in. And, if your academic performance started getting worse, it could mean that the problem already exists.

How does research interpret the connection between academic performance and alcohol use?

Apart from social drinking, studies also list other reasons for increasing alcohol consumption among students. For instance, a study involving 114 male and 86 female students showed that while the majority of students (59%) started consuming more alcohol because of their peers, 20% of participants also mentioned their parents influencing their alcohol consumption behaviors.

This study also confirms the negative impact of alcohol use on academic performance. Reportedly, 66% of students said they missed a class or failed a test due to a hangover. Also, 96% of the participants say they’ve been sanctioned in school or at home as a result of alcohol use.

An IJPM study investigated student registries in several universities in the Netherlands. The study found that there was a link between students dropping out during their first year at a university and alcohol dependency. In this study, students also confirmed that alcohol use impacted their GPA.

A general research overview on the effects of alcohol on academic performance supports the statements from the previous study.

The scientific papers reviewed in this research came from different decades and used different approaches to studying student behavior. But all of them confirmed that alcohol use first impacted the quality of learning, which consequently influenced academic performance.

For instance, one study listed in this research overview examined the neurological effects of alcohol on learning capabilities. This study has proven that alcohol alters the structure and function of the brain, leading to learning impairment and other consequences reaching far beyond adolescence.

Some studies also indicate that poor academic performance caused by alcohol use can lead a student to even more alcohol consumption.

For instance, a study from Ethiopian scholars, which involved 725 randomly selected students from different colleges and universities, has shown that students whose academic performance got worse because of problematic alcohol use tended to increase their alcohol consumption.

From these studies, we can draw a conclusion that once a student engages in regular alcohol consumption, it has an inevitable impact on their academic performance. However, this situation also creates a vicious circle – a worsening academic performance can push a student to consume alcohol even more.

Of course, you can take the results of these studies with a grain of salt. Ana Mayer, a writer and researcher at TrustMyPaper, says that in this case, you also need to take into account such factors as each country’s economic advancement and social progress, which also have an impact on drinking habits.

But what matters is that all of these studies show the same pattern – the increased use of alcohol leads to poor academic performance.

How to Talk to a Student about Alcohol?

Now, let’s talk about how you can communicate the impact of alcohol use on academic performance to a student. Whether you are a parent or a worried college teacher, you need to plan your conversation right.

Here are a few recommendations.

1) Don’t take a derogatory tone

It can be hard to see a young person ruining their life, especially for a parent. That’s where you can make a mistake and try to shame a student for their choice, thinking that this shame will help them quit drinking.

However, this approach can and will backfire. Your goal is to help a student pay attention to their academic performance while normalizing their relationship with alcohol. You don’t want them to start hating drinking because it’s running their life. You should help them understand that the consumption of alcohol should be responsible.

2) Ask about the reasons for increased alcohol use

What pushed a student to consume alcohol more?

Maybe it was a lack of confidence, a fear of missing out, or the desire to relax that lead a student to start binge drinking. In a calm and understanding tone, try to figure out the reason for increased alcohol use and build your conversation around it.

3) Show facts and explain the consequences

There is a chance that a student will react negatively to your attempts to change their relationship with alcohol. They might even say, “If others are doing it, why can’t I?’

If your conversation takes this turn, your task is to support your claims with the facts. You can show a student how their academic performance worsened within a certain time span and ask whether there’s a connection with alcohol use but do it carefully. Remember, your task is to be objective.

4) Provide valuable and authoritative resources

Next, offer a student a variety of resources to read about the impacts of alcohol on academic performance and their life in general. For instance, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has great resources on the impact of alcohol on health and the quality of life.

At Hello Sunday Morning, students can also get other information about normalizing the relationship with alcohol, its effects and also find support from others struggling with the same problem.

5) Show trust

There is a chance that even after the most informative and well-wishing talk, a student will still feel hostile and won’t take the conversation seriously.

Your task here is to trust their judgment. They might not show it, but it is possible that this talk will stick in their head, and they will start changing their relationship with alcohol when they are ready.

Wrapping Up

Starting a college or university is both an exciting and stressful time in a student’s life. To deal with this stress, they might engage in harmful behavior, including binge drinking and increased alcohol consumption, which, as evidence shows, has an inevitable impact on their academic performance.

But the realization of the problem is the first step to solving it. The goal here is to help a student understand that alcohol doesn’t resolve issues and won’t lead to anything constructive. Drinking with your friends every day might make you look cool. But does it help in the long run? Hardly.

Author bio: Erica Sunarjo is a researcher, writer, and editor at Supreme Dissertations. She partakes in different projects that allow them to grow her list of experiences and expand her interests.


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