The Story Behind Spring Break

Liberal Arts Studies

Though the tradition itself is relatively new, spring break is a common feature of college life for many American students, and some consider it to be one of the highlights of the collegiate experience. While many students use their week-long March vacation to relax and recharge, others use the opportunity to travel to exotic locations and engage in behavior that is often perceived as risky. Although spring break traditions sometimes vary from school to school and region to region, the experience itself has become a symbol of modern American college life.

The History of Spring Break

The concept of spring break began in 1938 with a swim forum event in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. By around 1960, however, students had begun to come to the town in great numbers, and local businesses took advantage of this influx by offering specials such as all-you-can-drink beer for $1.50. Eventually, the town gained the nickname "Ft. Liquordale" and became the primary destination for students interested in partying during spring break for years to come.

As the crowds became larger year over year, they also became more difficult to control. By 1985 more than 370,000 students were travelling to Ft. Lauderdale to enjoy their spring breaks. However, rowdy behavior led to at least 2,500 student arrests that year, and the events surrounding spring break were finally shut down by local officials. Drinking on the beaches was prohibited, and students were informed that they were no longer welcome to the city. However, a number of alternative locations quickly rose to become primary spring break destinations thereafter.

The 3 most common spring break destinations today are Panama City, Florida, South Padre Island, Texas, and Cancun, Mexico. Panama City hosts more than 370,000 students each year, while South Padre Island has around 150,000 student visitors and Cancun about 100,000. In Texas and Florida alone, students on spring break spend about $1 billion, giving a big boost to local economies. The average "spring breaker" spends around $1,100 in one week, which is more than the average family of 4 spends on food in a whole month.

Risky Behavior

Media depictions of spring break typically involve college students dressed only in bathing suits, heavy alcohol usage, wild dancing, and unprotected sex. These depictions are not inaccurate, however, and underage drinking and unprotected sex are often top concerns for city officials during spring break events. In South Padre Island, police report an average of 25 arrests per day during the typical spring break week. In Panama City, where the spring break season extends through March and into April, are were almost 700 arrests in the first few weeks of March alone. As a result, police departments and emergency rooms must increase their efforts to make certain that college students are not harmed by alcohol poisoning, heat stroke, and other injuries.

A survey given to female college students regarding spring break activities indicated that approximately half of the respondents were drunk all day during spring break, and approximately 40% drank until they passed out, while a similar study of men showed even higher numbers. Additionally, in a survey of female spring breakers, 74% said that spring break involved increased sexual activity compared to normal campus college life, while 57% indicated that being sexually promiscuous during spring break was viewed as an acceptable way to fit in.

Further Studies

If you are interested in learning more about spring break activities, you may want to consider studying fields like social work, psychology, or criminology. Students in social work programs learn about how to counsel students about making responsible choices and how to deal with the consequences of irresponsible ones. The field of psychology, on the other hand, focuses on the conscious and subconscious factors that influence the decision-making process. This field can teach you about the reasons why people's attitudes toward certain behaviors, like excessive drinking and unprotected sex, change in different circumstances. Finally, as a student of criminology you will study why people commit crimes in society as well as how government agencies deal with this behavior.