Objective: The present article examines the relation of problematic alcohol use to collegiate academic problems based on a systematic assessment of problematic alcohol use and college transcript data. The degree to which this prospective association can be explained by reference to third variables is also explored. These third variables include: students' high school academic achievement and aptitude, concurrent drug use, participation in deviant behaviors and students' investment or participation in the college experience. Method: A sample of 444 (240 female) college freshman recruited for a longitudinal study of alcohol use was followed for 6 years. Alcohol and drug involvement, general deviance, academic investment, campus involvement and several background variables were assessed during the freshman year. Additional measures of high school aptitude and achievement as well as collegiate performance were calculated based on college transcript data from all institutions attended. Results: A latent variable structural equation model revealed that problematic alcohol use during the freshman year correlated +.32 with collegiate academic problems. No evidence was found for a unique association between the two constructs when additional constructs were included in the model. Specifically, the association was substantially reduced when preexisting student differences traditionally associated with academic failure in college were taken into account. The inclusion of concurrent drug use and deviance also resulted in a significant reduction in the magnitude of the association. Conclusions: Although a substantial bivariate association exists between problematic alcohol use and academic problems during college, much of this association appears attributable to preexisting student differences on admission to college.