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Adjusting to the independence of college life

July 02, 2002|by ASHA PATEL

When kids go off to college, parents and students have one thing in common: fear. But that's where the similarity ends. Students may be scared because they don't know if they'll make friends easily, or if they'll like their roommate, or even if they'll like the school.

Parents are scared because they know that when their children are at school, they can for the most part do whatever they want whenever they want. I think all parents know curfews don't exist in dorm life.

But try this: Freshman Daniel Reardon and junior Alexander Klochkoff died on the University of Maryland at College Park campus this past year. Reardon's blood alcohol level was 0.50 - state law says at anything above 0.08 it's illegal to drive. Klochkoff died from a GHB, or gamma hydroxybuterate, overdose - a drug that can cause states of euphoria and hallucinations, as well as comas.

That may be a little scarier.

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At college life for the first time, it's a shock to realize that you're finally your own person. You're off learning about what you think you're destined to do for the rest of your existence, and you're unbounded, unconfined, and totally independent.

Finally, right?

For Klochkoff and Reardon, having no limits turned into tragedy.

Freedom is a luxury that college makes a reality for so many unprepared students. You may be on your own at college, but it's important to remember that you have an obligation to other important people.

Remember your parents? They are the ones who helped you get where you are today. I'm sure they expect that you care enough about them to make responsible decisions.

You also have an obligation to yourself, to keep yourself healthy and safe. This fall, your parents may not be able to help you with that anymore. They simply won't have the same control. That's the time to remember your obligations.

My best friend's roommate drank too much alcohol one night and had to be taken to the hospital. Her body was too small for the amount of alcohol she had consumed in the time during which it had been ingested.

At the hospital, the doctor diagnosed her with alcohol poisoning and told her friends if they hadn't gotten her medical attention within an hour after she was checked in, she might have died.

Her friends almost didn't take her in because they were afraid of getting her in trouble for underage drinking. She was in the hospital overnight, and taken home early by parental request.

I'm not telling students not to drink at college, because that is almost inevitable. I'm also not telling parents their kids will be the same people they were in high school, because that is also unrealistic.

College is one of the biggest steps in a young person's life and one that comes with a lot of change. Both parents and children have to be open-minded about it.

To those almost-college freshman I say: Realize that your parents don't want to get a call in the middle of the night saying their son or daughter is in the intensive care unit.

Parents: Do all you can to avoid that phone call. Talk to your children about drinking, and perhaps, responsible drinking.

College is all about having the time of your life and taking advantage of the best four years you'll ever experience. Right? I agree. Just be sure to do it responsibly.

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