Parents... High School Students... make the most of your campus visit!

The culture of drinking on a campus will have a direct influence on the quality of life for all the students of that college or university. Many of the negative consequences associated with college drinking affect not only the students who drink but also the students who do not drink. These “second-hand binge effects” include a number of serious consequences, such as sexual assault, violence, vandalism, loss of sleep, and even the possibility of having to care for friends and roommates in life-threatening states of alcohol poisoning. Visiting a potential campus is the best way to get a true feel for the campus environment. However, taking the tour conducted by the Admissions Office simply scratches the surface. Look beyond the tour, and you may find many other clues about the drinking climate. 

Key Personnel
When visiting a campus, arrange appointments with as many of the Key Personnel as possible. Scheduling meetings may be difficult, but even if you can get in for only fifteen minutes or a half hour it will be worth the effort.

More often than not, the staff involved in the Student Life Office (also identified as Student Affairs, Student Development, and so on), which is responsible for all non-academic aspects of student life, has a better sense of alcohol issues than staff from the academic side of the campus, in particular the faculty. Through its various component offices, Student Life manages safety services for the campus community, conducts enriching learning and leadership experiences that promote personal responsibility and growth, offers support resources for students, and provides opportunities for recreation and entertainment.

Schools that take alcohol abuse seriously are willing to talk about it. As you talk with the various key personnel and other campus representatives, consider the following:

  • Are the representatives stuttering, stammering, or giving you blank stares?
  • Are their answers vague or evasive? 
  • Some administrators have mastered the cunning art of  “talking out of both sides of their mouths” and will try to double-talk their way around the issue. Answers like “it’s a problem on all campuses” or “we are no worse than any other campus” are simply ways to avoid revealing the status of drinking issues on their own campus. 
  • Ask different people the same question and check for consistency in the message the campus representatives are providing.

In addition to asking the key personnel some of the Key Questions, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be sure to request and read a copy of the Biennial Review (described later in this chapter). 
  • When possible, visit on a Thursday or Friday.
  • Schedule extra time to walk around the campus and the surrounding neighborhood. 
  • Walk around the campus late at night.

As you tour the campus both with and without a tour guide, consider the following:

  • What types of posters are hanging in the residence halls – alcohol advertisements or educational messages?
  • Are there bars in close proximity? Do they offer drink specials?
  • Are there loads of empty beer cans and twelve-pack wrappers piled near the trash?
  • Read a number of issues of the campus newspaper, if possible. You can often view both current and previous issues online. Are there ads in the newspaper for the local bars and liquor stores? 
  • Are there any alcohol or other drug-related stories in the local newspaper?

Key Personnel to Interview

Vice President for Student Life: The chief administrator in charge of Student Life issues on the campus, including residence life, judicial matters, student activities, and alcohol issues.

Dean of Students: Handles many of the day-to-day problems that arise on the campus, in particular alcohol-related judicial matters.

Admissions Counselor: Tends to be the salesperson for the campus, traveling around the country selling the campus at college admissions fairs and/or visiting prospective students and their families. 

Admissions Director: Coordinates decisions regarding acceptance of students. S/he helps ensure the campus is the right match for your child. Keep in mind that this person faces the challenge of ensuring the right match while also meeting a number of different campus quotas in terms of financial aid, scholarships, work-study, diversity, and athletics.

Judicial Officer: Handles all violations of campus policies, including the alcohol policy. 

Director of Campus Police: Responsible for campus safety and security. Because of the nature of their positions and the fact that they deal primarily with policy offenders, Campus Police and the Judicial Officer tend to have a tainted view of alcohol issues.

Coordinator of Health Education (Wellness Coordinator, Health Educator): Tends to have the most realistic view of the alcohol and other drug situation on the campus. The Coordinator conducts health-related educational programs for the campus.

Students: May provide the best understanding of the alcohol situation on their campus. However, be careful. A heavy drinker probably hangs out with other heavy drinkers, resulting in the view that “everyone drinks.” Speak with students who drink as well as those who do not. 

Faculty and academic deans: Tend to have a very limited understanding of the day-to-day challenges that students face beyond the classrooms.

Important Questions to Ask 


  • What are the class attendance policies?
  • Are there special support services for students who are having academic difficulties?
  • Are there Friday classes?  Do faculty conduct tests on Fridays?  What is the attendance in Friday classes?

Prevention Staff

  • Is there an individual staff member whose job is specifically dedicated to alcohol and other drug education and abuse prevention efforts? 
  • If so, does the staff member have a high profile on the campus?
  • Does the prevention specialist have a budget allocated for education and prevention programming?

Greek Life

  • Are there fraternities and sororities (Greek Life) on the campus?
  • If so, are they local organizations or chapters from a national organization?
  • Is there a full-time Greek Life Coordinator?

Residence Hall Policies

  • What is the Alcohol Policy for residence halls?
  • Is alcohol allowed? If so, how much? Can students have parties in their rooms?
  • What are the penalties for violating the policy?
  • Are there wellness-oriented residence halls? What are the rules in these halls?
  • How are students selected for wellness halls?


  • What is the drinking policy for athletes?
  • Are athletes allowed to drink during the season? During the off-season?
  • What are the consequences if an athlete breaks a team alcohol policy?
  • Is the Athletic Department supported by the alcohol industry?
  • Is there a Champs Life Skills Program for athletes?

Social Norms Program

  • Is there a social norms program?
  • What are the true campus drinking norms?
  • How does the program highlight the true campus norms?
  • What is the theme(s) of the program?

Counseling Services

  • Is there a Counseling Department? 
  • What counseling services are available to students?
  • Is there a Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor?
  • How dependable is the follow-up on students who exhibit alcohol abuse and other problem behaviors?
  • Are there any support group meetings conducted on campus or in the nearby community?
  • Are counseling services part of the sanctions for students found responsible for violating campus policy?

Visiting the Athletic Department
If your son or daughter will be participating in a college sport, be sure to visit the athletic department. If possible, meet with the Athletic Director and/or coach to discuss not only sports-related issues, but also the team policy regarding alcohol consumption. Talk with some of the players and casually include a question about drinking.

If your student will be visiting the campus on his or her own as a guest of the athletic department, inquire about the visitation policies.

  • How long do the student athletes stay at the campus? 
  • What do the student athletes do during the visit? Do they visit classes? 
  • Where will the visiting student athletes sleep? With whom? 
  • In addition to the host athlete(s), who will chaperone the visiting student athletes? 
  • What will happen to any host athletes who supply alcohol to the visiting student athletes?