Going away to college is a massive adjustment for students, but your student starts college classes with 12-plus years in school as experience. While new courses may be more demanding, they more or less know how to take notes, study, write papers, and take tests.
Living on their own without the supervision of parents (and perhaps in another state) can involve much more growing pains than the academic side of the equation. It is common for first-year students to run up against obstacles as they learn their new boundaries. Some can get embroiled in campus hijinks, become too active in social clubs or teams, or run into trouble when they leave campus.
Common legal issues
While it does not excuse the behavior, good students may get in trouble with the law or campus officials. Some common examples include:
- Underage drinking: Going to off-campus parties likely means someone is serving alcohol and not checking IDs. Research shows new students are particularly vulnerable to excessive drinking in their first six weeks. This can lead to such charges as driving under the influence (DUI), open container, or public intoxication.
- Marijuana use: Obviously, pot is now legal in Colorado, and the legal age to legally purchase it is 21 years old. While different than alcohol with other penalties, local law enforcement and campus officials have clear rules about marijuana possession and use.
- Property damage: Seemingly innocuous damage to campus or private property can seem funny at the time. Still, these acts often become very expensive for the student who is caught.
- Theft: Stealing school or private property is a crime regardless of how funny it seemed at the time.
- Assault: Often fueled by drugs or alcohol, young students may become embroiled in conflicts or end up in an unfortunate misunderstanding with a new love interest.
The practice of hazing has thankfully waned among college organizations, but peer pressure from new friends may contribute to some of this behavior.
There are consequences
Eighteen-year-olds are no longer minors, which means they are charged as adults. Along with legal penalties, new students may face other challenges like probation, fines or worse. It jeopardizes academic assistance and scholarships as well. Finally, they could end up with a criminal record that could follow them into the work world after college.
Regardless of the charges, students must get legal representation. Some parents may want to “teach them a lesson,” but the long-term penalties of the above crimes can involve consequences that far outweigh the lesson, impacting job prospects, housing, insurance and other parts of life. An experienced criminal law attorney can protect the student’s rights and best interests to ensure that the charges fit the actual crime and are not unduly harsh.