By Amy Reif
January is a great time to start looking ahead. For those of you with college-bound high school students, it’s an even better time to use one of the many school vacation days this month to visit colleges before the spring break rush.
You can get a great sense of what college life is all about when the students are around on a typical weekend or weekday. And it will probably be less crowded than during one of the special junior and accepted student days that are geared to spring break.
It’s also a great time to talk with your teen about the realities of college social life and your expectations for them while they are out on their own. When our family did college visits, my husband and I were checking out the academics, library, study abroad options and expense of college, while our son and daughter were checking out the other students and trying to get a sense of the social life on campus and whether they would fit in.
The fact is that they were going to have a lot of freedom and free time on their hands during that four (or more years) ahead. You want your child to be prepared for what he or she may face in college and make healthy choices.
You can get a head start on the conversation by attending (and bringing your college-bound senior) to the 2013 kickoff presentation of “The Perils of the College Drinking Culture,” this Thursday, January 17 at 7 p.m. at McLean High School. This acclaimed program of the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County in collaboration with the Fairfax County Police Department, provides an eye-opening look at underage and binge drinking on college campuses and the consequences of this risky behavior for our kids, including death, injury, sexual and other assaults. It includes the award-winning documentary HAZE and a terrific panel discussion and Q & A with local experts.
And while you are visiting colleges, don’t forget to ask how the school deals with alcohol-related incidents on and off campus and what procedures are in place to notify parents of any problems. Do they include alcohol education during orientation? Are there substance-free parties and dorms? Do they look the other way when things go awry off campus? You can even check the campus crime and incident reports to get a sense of campus life.
If you can’t make the first “Perils of the College Drinking Culture” forum, it will be repeated three other times throughout Fairfax County in the spring and summer. Please check www.unifiedpreventioncoalition.org for more details and additional information about underage and binge drinking on college campuses.
And don’t forget that even when your child is in college, you continue to be an important influence.
Amy Reif is the health sector coordinator for the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County.