U.S. college students focused on studies, not partying, survey says

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. college freshmen these days are a serious lot. A survey released on Thursday said first-year students report spending a record low amount of time partying and socializing compared to previous generations and that many are highly focused on their education and planning for graduate studies.

The survey produced by the University of California, Los Angeles, which detailed students’ high school habits and their initial perspectives and experiences at college, also found the lowest self-reported rates of alcohol and cigarette use in 30 years among first-year students at four-year colleges and universities.

The 49th annual “American Freshman” study indicates the first-year college students, who grew up during an economic downturn, are working toward financial and educational success and appear less concerned with having a good time.

At the same time, students’ self-reported measure of emotional health dropped to 50.7 percent, the lowest recorded by the annual survey.

“It signals that students are taking their academics much more seriously in high school, and subsequently not providing a social outlet to release stress,” said Kevin Eagan, director of UCLA’s cooperative institutional research program, which conducted the survey.

Last year, 18 percent of students surveyed reported spending at least 16 hours a week socializing and more than 41 percent said they did not party at all.

That equated to a record low amount of time devoted to socializing and partying, the survey found. By comparison, in 1987 nearly 38 percent of students spent 16 hours or more socializing. Between 1987 and 2014, the share of students who partied for six hours or more per week plummeted from nearly 36 percent to under 9 percent.

What are freshmen doing with time not spent at parties? Studying.

Nearly 50 percent of freshmen reported they spent six hours or more per week studying in high school, compared to about 34 percent a decade before then. They also spent more time on social media.

In another sign they are sober about their future, the share of freshmen planning to earn a master’s degree was nearly 44 percent in 2014, compared to 28 percent in 1974. Eagan said it is probably because of their perception that the labor market is competitive, he said.

A record 82 percent of students considered it highly important to one day be financially well off.

The survey was based on responses from more than 153,000 students across the country, according to UCLA.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Grant McCool