For most college students, their first party is a rite of passage. First-year students will walk through the door of a fraternity or campus house and smile in the excitement of their newfound freedom. But with newfound freedom comes responsibilities.

Alcohol is a significant aspect of the college party scene, and students have to decide if they will drink or pass on the keg. They are responsible for their decisions, and if they choose to drink underage, they have to deal with unexpected consequences.

Health risks

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 50 percent of adolescents have tried at least one alcoholic drink by the time they reach eighth grade. By 12th grade, 30 percent of students engage in “binge drinking,” which is having at least five or more drinks on one occasion, at least once a month.

Consuming alcohol at a young age may result in long-term health effects such as alcohol dependence or alcohol-induced brain damage. The NIAAA stated adolescents who began drinking at an early age displayed intellectual and behavioral impairment. Research studies also found a correlation between alcohol consumption and brain development in adolescents under 17 years old.

College students who drink underage may also see health concerns through liver damage and impaired brain functions such as memory, coordination and motor skills. There is also the risk of injuries through drinking and driving or risky sexual behavior, which is common amongst underage drinkers.

Academic sanctions

Colleges in Tennessee vary slightly in their alcohol consumption policies. However, most universities have a disciplinary plan for addressing underage drinking for a college student. At Vanderbilt University, faculty will impose sanctions on students or student organizations for violations of the alcohol consumption policy.

The consequences range from disciplinary probation to expulsion from campus. The university could also make a referral for state or federal prosecution for underage drinking or provide substances to an underage student.

The more offenses a student commits, the more severe the consequences become. It’s also important to note that the severity of the action also influences the punishment. If a student is underage drinking and driving, the minimum offense is probation and a loss of campus driving and parking privileges.

Criminal charges

As mentioned before, the universities may submit referrals for charges at the state or federal level. In the case of underage drinking, students may receive:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Possible jail time
  • Fines
  • Community services
  • Mandatory alcohol awareness classes

If the student is convicted of a misdemeanor, it may result in difficulty applying to graduate schools or finding a job in the future. It will weigh heavy on the student’s shoulders for years to come, so students should consider the consequences before picking up the beer bottle.