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Efficacy of Alcohol Interventions for First-Year College Students: A Meta-Analytic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

NCJ Number
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology Volume: 82 Issue: 2 Dated: 2014 Pages: 177-188
Date Published
12 pages

The authors review research on the effects of alcohol use by first-year college students, noting adverse consequences on subsequent years, compared with outcomes for students who participated in behavioral interventions; they also recommend strategies to prevent alcohol misuse among first-year college students.


Alcohol use established during the first year of college can result in adverse consequences during the college years and beyond. In this meta-analysis, we evaluated the efficacy of interventions to prevent alcohol misuse by first-year college students. Studies were included if the study reported an individual- or group-level intervention using a randomized controlled trial, targeted 1st-year college students, and assessed alcohol use. Forty-one studies with 62 separate interventions (N = 24,294; 57 percent women; 77 percent White) were included. Independent raters coded sample, design, methodological features, and intervention content. Weighted mean effect sizes, using fixed- and random-effects models, were calculated. Potential moderators, determined a priori, were examined to explain variability in effect sizes. Relative to controls, students receiving an intervention reported lower quantity and frequency of drinking and fewer problems (d+s = 0.07–0.14). These results were more pronounced when the interventions were compared with an assessment-only control group (d+s = 0.11–0.19). Intervention content (e.g., personalized feedback) moderated the efficacy of the intervention. Behavioral interventions for 1st-year college students reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Interventions that include personalized feedback, moderation strategies, expectancy challenge, identification of risky situations, and goal-setting optimize efficacy. Strategies to prevent alcohol misuse among first-year students are recommended. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2014