Entering college is a pivotal period in the lives of many young adults. At the same time that students are adjusting to a new environment and separating from their parents and high school friends, they must learn how to become responsible for their day-to-day lives. They are faced with the exciting challenges of making new friends, learning their strengths, choosing what paths to take, and deciding who and what will influence them. Moreover, students do not live in a vacuum, their lives today have reached a level of complexity that is unparalleled in history. They are inundated with technology, constantly exposed to a variety of media sources, and have virtually unlimited access to information from all over the globe. Students must make choices about how to balance their time between recreational activities, academics, employment, and community service. We know that many students engage in risky behaviors during college, such as drinking heavily and using illicit drugs. Some people might consider these behaviors "rites of passage," but research during the past decade has pointed to a number of negative health consequences associated with these behaviors. Few studies, however, have attempted to understand the course of these behaviors throughout time, how they begin, and how they might impact students' achievement and health. The College Life Study (CLS), a NIH funded project at the University of Maryland, aims to fill this important gap.
What are the goals of the CLS?
- To better understand the influences that relate to the development of both positive and negative health-related behaviors in college students.
- To identify the mechanisms by which health-related behaviors, including substance use, might interfere with the course of normal developmental processes, such as healthy social relationships, critical thinking skills, transition to adult roles, and occupational goal-setting.
- To make recommendations to university policymakers, based on scientific evidence, about how and when to best identify the characteristics of students who might later experience academic difficulties, dropout, health problems, and other consequences that impact upon their ability to achieve their full adult potential.