UB study tells seniors increased alcohol consumption is bad

Article suggests alcohol intake leads to lower probability of graduation

Increased drinking during your senior year leads to a lower probability that you’ll graduate, according to a UB Reporter article about a study conducted through the UB psychology department.

Except that’s not true. As a senior with an active social life who is graduating with honors in May, I questioned the validity of this statement.

The study, “The Role of Goals and Alcohol Behavior During the Transition out of College” conducted by Sharon A. Radomski, a psychology graduate student, UB professors Jennifer P. Read and Julie C. Bowker “examined whether and how changes in drinking over senior year moderate the association between achievement goals and related developmental task attainment as students move toward transitioning out of college,” according to the study’s abstract.

Basically, will increased drinking during your senior year – when you’re finally legally able to buy your own beer – decrease the likelihood you will graduate on time and achieve your career goals?

The study followed a mere 437 students, who were selected out of a larger study investigating trauma and substance abuse. Out of that statistically insignificant sample of about 21 million college students in the United States, 75 students were represented as unemployed after their senior year – not achieving their career goal.

Based off that ratio, that’s .0000036 percent of college students in America.

What the UB reporter article failed to report from the study’s findings was that for students who placed a high value on their goal attainment, drinking didn’t play a significant role in the outcome of achieving those goals.

“The association between goals and [education] attainment was not [statistically] significantly different from zero from those whose drinking increased during their senior year,” the study said.

Shocking – students who have strong academic values are able to handle drinking and completing their education at the same time.

Although it is important to study the reasons college students are not successful after graduation, alcohol isn’t the answer.

Seniors are typically 21-22 years old. One of this study’s main points was at this pivotal period “at the juncture between adolescence and adulthood” where we “begin the process of coming into [our] own as independent adults,” we should drink less in order to stay more focused on our developmental tasks and individual identity formation.

“Drinking may be interfering with who they’re becoming as adults. And that’s a big problem, one that has been grossly overlooked in the research so far,” said one of the study’s co-authors Jennifer Read, professor of psychology, in the UB reporter article.

The United States’ legal drinking age is ridiculously high because according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. government, 21 years old is the age our brains are fully developed and won’t be damaged by consumption of a beer. But now, apparently, our brains aren’t developed enough to help us graduate and achieve our “goals.”

But don’t worry; the study has a solution for us.

“Findings suggest that interventions aimed at bolstering personal goals and reducing drinking during senior year may increase the likelihood of successful transitions out of the college environment.”

I don’t disagree with the study’s idea that college is a pivotal time for young adults and yes, some students will have trouble transitioning between the college lifestyle into the real world. But telling seniors to stop drinking with their friends isn’t the way to help them be successful.

A school-wide intervention isn’t going to help seniors’ transition out of the college environment. As someone who is currently working on that transition, a cover letter workshop would be more useful.

To suggest wasting resources on instilling sobriety into newly legal college students is laughable, especially when the study only followed the alcohol consumption patterns of 437 students – .00002 percent of the United States’ college population.

The study boasts being the first one of its kind to examine the role alcohol plays on goal achievement. While this is a great area of psychology to explore, conclusions shouldn’t be made yet.

It’s possible that some, non-goal oriented students can get sucked into the alcoholic vortex this study portrays college as. But maybe those students weren’t mature enough to attend college in the first place and I’m sure it’s not only their senior year drinking habits that caused them not to achieve their goals and graduate on time.

There are many factors surrounding this topic and it’s just not fair for UB Reporter to tell me to “celebrate senior year without celebrating,” as the headline of its article states.

Rachel Kramer is a Managing Editor and can be reached at rachel.kramer@ubspectrum.com

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