How to Handle Peer Pressure in College

Posted: January 19, 2023 | Author: Clare-Estelle Perkins | Read Time: 3 minutes

How to handle peer pressure in collegeCollege is a great time to make lifelong friends and connections to help build your future. Getting established socially can be a top priority. And being in a new environment with people you don’t know is exciting but can also be daunting. Peer pressure is something that everyone should be aware of when preparing to create new relationships. Here are some ways to recognize peer pressure and deal with it.

What is Peer Pressure & How to Spot It

The definition of peer pressure is simply when members of the same social group influence others to do things they would otherwise choose not to do. That being said, most peer pressure is less easy to spot. Sometimes a group can make subtle signals and hints (without saying anything at all) that imply that you must dress or talk a certain way or adopt particular attitudes about politics, school, religion, etcetera, in order to win acceptance and approval.

New students may feel pressure to conform to fit in or be accepted, so as not to feel awkward or uncomfortable. When people are unsure of what to do in a social situation, they naturally look to others for cues about what is and isn't acceptable. Peer pressure can also be very dangerous. The inclination to participate in a reckless or dangerous activity because your friends do can be very harmful.

When you are in a new environment, you feel more inclined to change yourself or your behaviors in order to feel a sense of belonging. It is more important that you know what you believe in for yourself and not change it for the approval of others.

What to do When Peer Pressure Happens

Education yourself

The smart thing to do is to educate yourself about the activity, think it through, and come to your own conclusions before diving into a potential hazard.

Go with your gut

If everything and everyone seems fine with it, but something feels off to you, go with your gut. Your instincts are usually right.

Own your different opinion

People gravitate towards confident people. If you can assert yourself in your beliefs and opinions, things are more likely to turn out smoothly. 

Observe the dynamics of these peers

Maybe these people are not for you. Assess how much pressure you feel to fit in and decide whether or not you are comfortable with this crowd. SUU has many clubs, some of which you may have better luck finding your people in.

Make an excuse

If you don’t feel particularly strong about a topic or activity but you are uncomfortable with it, make up a reason to excuse yourself. For example, say you have to go eat, or your roommate needs you for something, and politely leave.

Have a backup plan

If you are going somewhere new with new people, make sure someone you trust has your location and can pick you up if you need. Your family, a friend, or a roommate.


Navigating the mass of college students to find the group you fit with best is challenging. These tips can help you find the right people for you without the stress and pressure of feeling like you need to change, and avoid the peer pressure you might feel as a college student.

Tags: Mental Health Student Life

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