The Pressures of Drinking in College

By Samantha Ryan

samantha.ryan@spartans.ut.edu

Freshman year of college is an exciting, overwhelming, and stressful time for most young adults. The opportunity of living in a new place surrounded by strangers can leave one hoping to fit in. 

They say four years of high school is preparation for your next four years of college, but can anything really prepare you for the drastic change that college is? 

Students go from depending on their parents to, in some cases, living states away from supervision. College is a first freedom for many, leaving them on their own to find their way. The expectations are high, and the excitement can be even higher.

Being independent for the first time can be scary. Wanting to find your place, group of friends, and fit in is on everyone’s mind. Peer interactions are extremely important when transitioning to college. With peer interactions, comes peer pressure. The pressure to drink in college is something every freshman student has been through. The transition of high parental dependence to increased social pressure to drink alcohol can make it difficult to say no.

“Peer pressure is consistently implicated in the excessive drinking of college students. However, both theory and empirical findings suggest that peer pressure is a combination of three distinct influences: overt offers of alcohol, modeling, and social norms,” said Brian Borsari, health behavior consultant and clinician researcher at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 

According to Borsari, overt offers of alcohol can range from polite gestures to intense goading or commands to drink. Modeling occurs when the student’s behavior corresponds to another student’s concurrent drinking behavior. Perceived social norms can serve to make excessive alcohol use appear common and acceptable to the student. 

Because binge drinking has been perceived as a popular trend in college, it can be mistaken as a norm. It is difficult enough to fit in and find your people at the start of college. The fear of judgment is a huge part of wanting to say yes to peer pressure; you don’t want anyone judging you for not partaking in the norm of binge drinking. If everyone else is doing it, it has to be cool, right?

“Sometimes I feel like if I don’t go out I am missing out on experiences that I will regret missing when I am older,” said Amanda Wolff, senior advertising and public relations major. “Whether it be parties, clubs, beaches, or bars there is always some form of drinking pressure and it is a balance of wanting getting school work done and the fear of missing out on social events.”

Whether it be the fear of missing out, or the fear of not being accepted. The fear of judgment is clearly evident when partaking in the act of binge drinking as a college student. 

Many think a big part of the college experience is to participate in the binge drinking culture. In reality, college is the experience in which you are taught lessons and responsibility that you bring with you in the real world. You are taught concepts that will better help you face that fear of judgment and how to say no to peer pressure. 

The memories made in college are something you will keep forever, which means much more when you can actually remember them. 

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