Most parents know the reputation that college has for being a rowdy experience full of alcohol use — much of it underage. This, in turn, can lead to drunk driving charges and a host of other issues. For parents, these issues clearly outweigh the benefits of drinking, and they hope their children won’t do it. For students, though, drinking often has an allure that causes them to ignore the risks. Why is this?

When asking college students why they drink — rather than, as many studies have done, how much they drink — a common thread becomes clear. It’s a social issue.

Meeting new people

For instance, one college senior said that her drinking habits had changed. By senior year, she knew a lot of people and had plenty of friends. They saw drinking as a way to catch up — much like young professionals or any other adults.

When she was a freshman, though, she admitted that she had been drinking even though she was under 21. The reason she gave was that she wanted to meet new people. Many college students get to campus that first year and suddenly do not know anyone, after years of knowing plenty of friends in high school. They see partying and drinking as a way to fix that and make new friends.

A wider study showed that this was a common trend. A full 74.4% of students claimed that they used alcohol as an ice-breaker, while the exact same percentage said it “enhanced social activity.” More than 60% of young men said it helped them bond, while more than 61% said it helped them connect with peers. More than half said that it gave them romantic and/or sexual opportunities they may not have had otherwise.

In other words, college students don’t always drink just because they like drinking on its own. They do it because it makes the college experience a more social experience, in their eyes, and it is that social connection that is most important to them. Even the girl who was catching up with old friends as a senior was still thinking about the social aspect.

After an arrest

If underage drinking or drunk driving leads to an arrest for your child while at school, make sure you are well aware of your legal defense options.