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First Year Students

Welcome!  The Excitement of the First Year

Welcome to Vanderbilt and some of the most exciting times of your life!  The thrill can last the whole first year (or longer) or a few weeks or a few hours; it’s up to you to balance the exhilaration with good decisions, stress management and plenty of rest!

During the first three or four weeks, your focus may be on making new friends and enjoying yourself, but this can also be the most important time of your college years.  It sets the pattern for friendships, studying, prioritizing, even health. You have been successful in your skills at decision-making and prioritizing (or else you wouldn’t be here at Vanderbilt), so don’t let the fun times lead to regret or embarrassment. Stay true to your values and priorities; take care to schedule study times, fun, and healthy habits into your daily life.

College is a great time for trying out new things: friendships with different types of people; a new sport or physical challenge (Vanderbilt has a great Outdoor Recreation program); new fields of study or research; new living arrangements. There is great fun in trying out new things but there is the risk of adding more stress by extending your schedule beyond what is reasonable.

Stress during your first year of college is to be expected. How you deal with stress is a reflection of how well you have prepared for this time in your life. If you have handled great stress earlier in you life with great aplomb then you have a foundation base for success in dealing with whatever life throws at you. If you need a little guidance or advice, feel free to use campus resources such as the University Counseling Center or the  Office of Religious Life. Also, use your resident advisor, any Dean of Students staff or faculty member with whom you feel comfortable talking.


OK, not all students are interested in drinking; many students at Vanderbilt don’t drink at all.  Believe it or not, there is a lot of support for the non-drinker on this campus. There are many activities, both during the day as well as late night, where alcohol is not present.


Surviving the Vanderbilt Social Scene

Coming to college may have been one of the first times you had to make new friends . . . you may have been going through school with the same friends you had in first grade or maybe you went to boarding school and had really close ties to those friends.  Coming to Vanderbilt may have tested your people skills for the first time.  Starting over is challenging, at any age.

So are you making Friends or Drinking Buddies?  Some first year students may be disappointed by a friend int his/her first year, but you need to ask yourself, “What is my definition of friendship?  My unspoken rules?”  Like if we go out together, we come back together . . . no friend left behind!

Friends intervene with friends!  Friends stop one another from doing something they will later regret . .  like hook up with someone questionable, drinking excessively, or taking drugs.  Watch out for signs of alcohol overdose/poisoning. People do die from drinking too much alcohol or suffocate on their own vomit or enough vomit gets into the lungs for infection to set in.

Do you ever get panicky if you don’t go out?  Are you afraid that you might be missing out on something?  This may not be normal anxiety.  Talk confidentially with a therapist from the Psychological and Counseling Center to reduce this type of anxiety.

Do you consciously self-medicate your social anxiety? The first step is to recognize what you are doing.  The next step is reflection . . . what is it about social scenes that worries you so? Start confronting irrational beliefs and if you can’t, find a trusted friend or therapist who can help you confront these thoughts.  Try dealing with social scenes without alcohol; taking along some close friends who understand that if you feel really uncomfortable, you all will leave together and do something else.

When a Friend Lets You Down Due to Drinking

It’s Sunday afternoon and you are mad. Why did your roommate act so ridiculous last night? You are fuming, but your roommate doesn’t notice. You’ve got three choices: stay fuming; get over it; or say something. The most constructive course is to say something, but only if it is assertive and not aggressive.  If this is a onetime thing, the feedback will probably help your roommate to stop and reflect about their drinking.  If this behavior is a pattern, then a different approach may be needed.  To help you with an intervention with a problem drinker, you need some advise and support in order to be successful. Come by the Center for Student Wellbeing for a confidential consultation.

What’s Normal Drinking Anyway?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises no more than 1 standard drink per day for women and no more than 2 standard drinks per day for men. (See

OK, what’s a standard drink? An alcoholic beverage that has 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol in it: 12 oz. Domestic beer; 1.25 oz of 80 proof; 1 oz of 100 proof; 5.5 oz of unfortified wine; 3.5 oz of fortified wine; 10 oz wine cooler.

However, there are some people who should not drink alcohol at all:

  • women who are pregnant or trying to conceive;
  • people who plan to drive or engage in other activities that require attention or skill;
  • people taking medication, including over-the-counter medications;
  • recovering alcoholics;
  • persons under the age of 21;
  • people with certain physical ailments or diseases, i.e. peptic ulcers

Other people may have a high risk or potential of drinking problems:

  • people from alcoholic or addicted families;
  • people from families with depression history;
  • people from families with disordered eating conditions


If your drinking is causing you problems, then it’s time to take a long hard look at it.  If you find that you can’t cut down, call the substance abuse therapist at the University Counseling Center (UCC) and make an appointment (322-2571).