Wrap It Up

condoms

Doc Seidman Says……

…..Although sex in college is a popular activity, it is not as popular as most might people think. A 2015 study by New York Magazine found that 41% of women and 49% of men denied being sexually active in college. Additionally, almost 40% of those studied claimed to be virgins. What is high, however, is the percent of college students who will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Studies put that estimate around 20 to 25% of the total student population with some students getting an STD more than once.

Let’s face it; college can be fun; too much fun at times. But too much fun can also have consequences. As the English poet William Blake famously said, “Fun I love. But too much fun is of all things the most loathsome.” Loathsome indeed. Too much fun in college can lead to a host of loathsome woes ranging anywhere from extreme hangovers to contracting an STD.

If your plan is to have a lot of fun in college- while maintaining your commitment to academics, no doubt- be somewhat mindful of the consequences. If the fun end-game is to get to “third base” and beyond, so to speak, whether you are a guy or gal, don’t forget the all-important condom. For as unsexy as condoms can be, they are an integral part of staying healthy while in college.

But condom usage among the college population is down too. Studies vary on this but they generally agree that around 50% of students claiming to have an active sex life do not use condoms. It is worth noting that the “50%” represents those students claiming to have the more “traditional” sexual experiences. Condom usage percent decreases for the “less traditional” experiences. (For more information and better definition of “less traditional” look it up yourself.) Whichever way- traditional or nontraditional-  those percentages are too low; college sexual health experts claim.

The reasons for low condom usage vary. Many blame high schools for failing to provide their students with proper sex education. Sex Ed curriculum in high school is noted to be on the decline, people who study this claim. Furthermore, close to 90% of high schools allow parents to exclude their children from these classes if they do not agree with the curriculum. And of the schools that teach Sex Ed, 30% do not allegedly teach proper condom usage procedures. This is all unfortunate as many would say that sexual education in high school is not just important, it is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

As we all well know, whereas high schools are traditionally easy to blame, also falling in the blame game column is the higher than normal usage of drugs and alcohol in college. Over 45% of binge drinking college freshmen claim to not even consider using a condom, or other type of contraceptive, when engaging in sexual activity. Many of those non-condom using binge drinkers go on contract an STD.  Sexual health experts- as well as our parents- all agree: don’t binge drink.

But before we all give up beer pong, we need to know if condom wearing completely prevents getting a sexually transmitted disease. Sex health experts want to remind everyone that some diseases such as herpes are passed along through skin contact during sex. Even if you do wear a condom, it is still possible to get herpes. But condoms do, however, minimize the risk of getting an STD. It is universally agreed that wearing a condom is a much better option than not wearing one, especially if there are multiple partners.

At this point a college parent might ask, “What more can I do to help my son or daughter maintain good sexual health while in college?”

One answer might be in choosing a college that has a good sexual health reputation. (Yes, this data exists too. College sex research seems boundless.) A recent analysis based on CDC STD reporting calculated a campus sexual health index for most U.S. colleges. The findings were based on three factors: Access to contraception, average campus sexual assault rate, and public STD data from the surrounding region. The colleges with the best sexual health reputations were Oregon State University, Boise State University, and Florida Atlantic University. The worst scores went to Marquette University, Vanderbilt University, and University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Do these findings mean anything? Do they influence admissions? Do the sexually healthy schools brag about this during their campus tours?  I would imagine these results are meaningful, however, it is doubtful they influence admissions. Some of the schools on the “bad list” such Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania are highly selective. I would imagine students might be happy get accepted, sexual health reputation be damned. As for hearing about this on a campus tour…. prognosis doubtful. The subject of sex rarely, if ever, comes up.

So, what can we conclude? For one, the vice industry seems to be alive in well in the college community (sorry, parents). Cigarette smoking is up, as is the percent of students having unprotected sex. Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise. Binge drinking remains popular, as is the use of drugs of all kinds. Research shows that healthier students are happier students. Happier students tend to retain and graduate. There’s little doubt about that. Clearly, college students can benefit by adopting healthier lifestyles.

And that’s a wrap.

The Campus Tour: Know Before They Go

college tour

Doc Seidman Says….

….Touring a college campus can be a valuable experience. A formal campus tour will give prospective students and their families an idea of what the college experience will be like. In a previous post I had some fun with the campus tour pointing out areas that you probably won’t see but should. Whereas there is some truth to that (who doesn’t want to see where the best pizza is?), it was largely written with a tongue in cheek approach. There is a serious side to the campus tour, however, and parents need to prepare accordingly. Sending a family member to college is a big investment, and like any other big purchase, important facts need to be presented and questions need to be asked before the purchase is made.

The tour usually begins with an orientation given in a small to medium sized auditorium, depending on the size of the group. Here, an admissions office representative will greet the students, present the campus strengths and review the admissions requirements.  This can last anywhere from a half an hour to an hour depending on the amount of information the college chooses to present. Afterwards, a current student will take smaller groups on a tour of the campus. Common sites include viewing a sample dorm room, the student dining center(s), a classroom building, the main library, the recreation and fitness center, as well as any other important areas the college wants you to see.

Tour guides will stop throughout the tour and discuss important subjects such as campus clubs and organizations, the athletic events offered, and the various facts about student technology needs (Wi-Fi and printing services, for example).  Whereas this is a valuable information, most colleges will only showcase the areas they want you to see. They will present the topics they want you to know. The college, after all, is trying to sell itself. They are putting their best foot forward.

If you are a parent about to send your son or daughter away to college, there are things you should also know. They might not be as sexy as the new recreation center but they are critical to your son or daughter’s success nonetheless. A campus tour guide may or may not point them out. You need to ask. More important, your tour guide or admissions representative should know the answers.

Here are five important questions:

  1. What systems are in place for advising first-year students?

The first year of college is the most critical for your son or daughter. If students aren’t happy or don’t feel comfortable, they are more prone to leave than students who are content. Colleges don’t want to lose these students. They want them there. Almost every college has systems in place to keep the freshmen students engaged and happy. Nowhere is this more important than through a robust freshman advising system. Students should receive regular advising from a full-time faculty member as well as other campus support staff. If this information is not shared with you during the tour, ask about it. A smart move would be to ask the student tour guide about the advising he or she received during their freshman year. You will most likely receive an honest, candid reply.

  1. What are the on-campus tutoring options? How is the tutoring center staffed and how many students utilize it?

Just about every college offers some type of on campus, complimentary tutoring for students. You may get to see the outside of this academic support building somewhere during the tour. This office can be an integral part of your son or daughter’s academic support as many students need some help with academics at some point.  Many students who need academic support avoid getting help from the on-campus facility. There are many reasons for this, the most notable being ego. Students feel too proud to be seen struggling in something. Try and get a peek at the inside of this building. Is it busy? Ask questions about the tutoring services students can receive. Meet some of the staff if you can. It is important that anyone needing academic help not only receives the support, but feels comfortable doing so.

  1. What are the drug and alcohol policies on campus, particularly in the dormitories?

I have yet to hear this subject come up during a campus tour. Each campus’s policy will vary so it is good to know what the policies are for each campus you visit. Some schools have strict policies while others are laxer. Will your son or daughter get in trouble if drugs and or alcohol are found in his or her dorm room? If it is a strict campus, he or she might be innocent but guilty by association. It is good to know this in advance.

  1. What happens if your son or daughter gets sick and needs to see a doctor?

Some tour guides are happy to point out the campus infirmary and the great services it provides. That’s generally all they know unless they have had a personal experience with it. For services that require care beyond the campus infirmary, details are sketchy. They shouldn’t be. This is important. Don’t let your tour guide gloss over this. Sadly, students do get sick and need care beyond what the campus infirmary provides. Parents should ask how this is handled. What are the related costs of receiving extra medical attention? Also, if a sickness forces a student to miss many classes, how does it get handled? Don’t wait until it is too late to find out.

  1. What does the college have in place to respond to the mental health needs of the students?

The subject of mental health, whereby extremely critical, never comes up. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are all too common in college and need to be properly diagnosed and treated. This should best be discussed privately with an admissions representative after the tour. How common are these issues and how do colleges respond? Students and parents need to know.

Join the Band (or something else)

trumpet

 

Doc Seidman Says…

…. There are many things you can do to help yourself while in college. You can learn how to study properly, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and make good friends. Perhaps the best thing you can do, however, is to join a club or organization.

Most college students have probably heard this advice ad nauseam, almost to the point of where they purposely don’t want to join anything out of spite. To some, being the “anti-involved” student is the desired choice. That is flawed thinking. College is all about training your brain to make smart, not flawed decisions. Therefore, make a smart decision and join something.

Being a part of a club or organization gets you involved with the campus community. It allows you to make some new friends and even have some fun. You become more engaged in your college experience which in turn makes you a happier student. Happy is good. Happy means you are going to come back to school each fall and (hopefully) graduate in a timely manner. Happy also means you will become a proud alum. This makes your college quite happy.

What to join? Most colleges, even those with a smaller student body, give you many options. They list them on their website and remind you of them when you take a college tour. Most prominently, there is athletics, both organized and recreational. Almost all colleges have some type of sporting event or activity you can get involved with. If you are not the sporty type, there is the student newspaper. Not the wordy type, there is drama or music. There are religious organizations; political organizations; service organizations, and activist organizations you can participate in. Many colleges offer a club based on your area of study. You can join the Physics Club, the Math Club, The Hospitality Club, The Spanish Club, Future Engineers, Future Accountants, Future Botanists, The Philosophy Club, and on and on. There are clubs and organizations for computer programmers, computer hackers, debaters, singers, dancers, and even magicians. But wait. The college you are joining doesn’t have a Magicians Club? You can probably start one. Almost all schools have a process for which you can start your own organization. Follow the proper steps and your club for magicians can magically appear.

When I was in college I joined the band; the marching band to be more specific (go ahead and laugh). Don’t chuckle too hard because it was the smartest thing I did while at college. I got to see new places as we travelled with the football team. I also made a ton of new friends; many of which I am still in contact with today, thirty plus years later. Being part of the band kept me engaged with the school and most certainly made me a happier student. When I had a tough day in the academic or residential world, my friends in the band were always there to pick me up. Looking back, it was probably the difference between graduating from Cornell University and transferring somewhere else.

Don’t be the “anti-involved” student. The “anti-involved” student is typically angry and bitter and won’t have the same degree of fun as their “involved” student counterparts. College is an important time in your life. Make the most of it. Be smart. Get involved. Join something.