Pick one: 4.0 or Alcohol?

In college, it’s pretty clear that a lot of students consume alcohol on the weekends and even days other than friday and saturday. However, at an academically-strong university such as Penn State, one would think that even people who drink on the weekends are able to maintain high GPAs. So, I decided to look into the matter.

Northwestern University made a compilation of studies which looked into the effects of regular alcohol consumption on academic performance. First, it was found that binge-drinking, even on the weekends, correlated with an increase of absences in classes, especially those that the students disliked. Prior to this class, I would say that drinking alcohol causes students to miss class. However, now I’ve realized that correlation does not equal causation. There could be a confounding variable, such as spending a lot of time with friends. Spending time with friends could mean drinking more alcohol and also spending less time studying.

The studies also found that high risk drinking has a negative correlation with GPA. According to the article, “Among drinkers, the lower the GPA, the higher the percentage who drank or were heavy drinkers.” This makes sense in theory because people who are always drinking on the weekends heavily clearly do not have time to study for big exams or write papers. Also, I considered the different ways that correlation would not equal causation here. Again, confounding variables can occur, such as high involvement in extra-curriculars that focus heavily on drinking and allow for less time for academics. Also, reverse causation could be relevant here– I know that a poor GPA would drive me to drink!

Despite my previously mentioned theories, in the grand scheme of things, academics and GPAs are probably more important than alcohol, so it might be smarter to focus on the academics while at school. Throughout all of the studies, it can probably be concluded that a 4.0 is hard to achieve with constant heavy drinking, so guys, please– lay off the drinking, at least before big exams.


6 thoughts on “Pick one: 4.0 or Alcohol?

  1. Xiaotong Wang

    While the process of reading, I am pretty agree with this article because the theories is convincing, but when I start to write the reply, I became hesitate. There is a kind of people who missed lots of class because of drinking in school days, but on the another hand, there’s another kind of people who drink a lot, even during the week days, and their GPA is as high as 4.0. Like what Andrew said in class, personal differences maybe worked in this study. People with high level of self-control would keep themselves from drunk but just use alcohol to blow off a little bit. However, those people with poor self-control would be too drunk to attend to class everyday.

  2. Caitlin Marie Gailey

    I agree with many of the other commenters that this isn’t necessarily true. Although I think we rely on anecdotes a lot more in this situation I think it is worth noting that we are one of the highest ranked universities in the world, in addition to continue for having a reputation of partying. I know there are many outliers on campus who don’t accessively drink that contribute to the higher GPA but it should also be noted that there are many who’s GPAs lack. Removing outliers I think it can be said that most students are able to maintain a balance between drinking and school. I think hardly in life are there only two options to one story and you can maintain good grades while binge drinking as long as you are smart about it. So far it seems like Penn State students have pretty much got that balance handled. In addition I agree that there are many confounding variables. I wonder if the study took into account third variables that could alter this information, like other reasons for skipping class. Some of the most popular that come to mind are non alcohol related illness as well as weather patterns. These among other thing could cause people to believe they can’t succeed if they drink but I believe that isn’t the case.

  3. Julia Molchany

    I cannot argue with the fact that the consumption of alcohol may cause a student to miss class. But in general, I strongly believe that students can drink on the weekends and still maintain a passing to excelling GPA. You made a point of saying that students who drink on the weekends do worse in school because they do not have time to do homework or study. Based on the number of days in the week, even if students go out from Thursday-Saturday for say, five hours per night, they still have approximately 153 hours to complete their work. Here is the link to the annual survey taken every year by Penn State students that outlines the schools drinking habits: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/assessment/pdf/174.pdf. While the number of students who participate in drinking might surprise you, Penn State has about an 86% graduation rate. If the amount of students who consume alcohol correlated with the graduation rate, it seems that the number would be much lower.

  4. Joseph Daniel Girardi

    I think it’s very possible to consume alcohol and still do well in school. Throughout most of my high school career and so far here at PSU, I tend to drink almost every weekend. However, I don’t at all during the week. I always had a 4.0 in high school and so far here at PSU I’m hovering around a 3.0. Most of my friends tend to be in the same area. I think this argument is a lot like the “fast food as part of a healthy diet” argument. If a person spends a bit more time studying, they’ll compensate for the night they went out drinking, just as if a person exercises, they’ll work off that cheeseburger. Of course there’s people who take it to an extreme, in which case they are making bad decisions. I think low-risk drinking is fine for the those who want to do well in school. Obviously high-risk drinkers will have a much harder time keeping up.

  5. Asia Grant

    I believe the points you have made valid and make sense in the broad picture, but I wanted to know your opinion on outliers of this trend. I know a handful of people at Penn State who are able to stay above a 3.5 GPA who would consider themselves as “binge drinkers”–so do you think the relationship between alcohol and grade are really that profound? They sacrifice things like sleep and food (which I do not recommend) so they can spend hours studying and then reward themselves on the weekends by letting loose. But they are able to manage their time according to the lifestyle the desire and adjust, so would you say that time management is the bigger issue at hand?

    Also, reverse causation can definitely be a potential answer–people are receiving lower GPAs which leads them to drink more.

  6. Charlotte Moriarty

    I think a definite co-founding variable exists here. Unless drinkers are sitting alone in their room drinking (I hope not) most people who drink are with a group of friends. So, those who spend more time with friends may or may not spend less time studying. Just a thought…in a time where grades are just one factor in getting a job could spending more time with friends develop social skills that are imperative for landing a job? Interesting thought. It seems college graduates who took part in internships and had strong relationships with professors landed jobs more often than those who did not!

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