Lead researcher Maria Testa, a senior scientist at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions, and colleagues tracked 437 young women from high school graduation through freshman year of college.
They found that of those who had never consumed alcohol heavily in high school, nearly half admitted binge drinking at least once by the end of their first college semester. Young women who were already engaging in binge drinking in high school continued drinking at similar levels in college.
However, binge drinking was linked to students' risk of sexual victimization regardless of what their drinking habits had been in high school.
Of women who'd ever consumed 10 or more drinks at a sitting since starting college, 59 percent said they were sexually victimized by the end of their first semester, which included anything from unwanted sexual contact to rape.
Parents should talk with their children about drinking before the children go to college, regardless of what they think their kids' drinking habits have been in high school, Testa said. Parents should keep talking to children about drinking even after they've left for college.
The findings are scheduled to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.