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Dealing with peer pressure after high school

Peer pressure in college can be hard to recognize because the act of peer pressure goes far beyond just saying “all the cool kids are doing it”. If you are unaware of what to look for before joining organizations and clubs, it can be easier to fall victim to peer pressure.

Peer pressure is defined as “influence from members of one’s peer group.” There are four types of peer pressure; spoken, unspoken, direct and indirect. 

Spoken peer pressure involves an individual person or group of people directly asking, suggesting or persuading another individual to behave in a specific manner. In most cases, spoken peer pressure is an exchange between two parties.  Unspoken peer pressure occurs when a group of people chooses to behave in a specific way that later encourages another person to follow along without direct instruction.  

Direct peer pressure is commonly recognized as the most powerful form of peer pressure. Despite its name, direct peer pressure is expressed through the implication of actions rather than the direct instruction of an action. Unlike direct peer pressure, indirect peer pressure can be much harder to pinpoint. When individuals feel the need to act out in order to gain group acceptance, they are falling victim to indirect peer pressure. 

The illustration of peer pressure in film and literature has blurred the line between fact and fiction. In movies like Finding Nemo and Mean Girls, peer pressure is illustrated as a very blatant act of encouragement from a group of people to an individual. However, peer pressure in college can look very different.

For some, peer pressure can look like a pushy roommate “encouraging” you to go out after you have already said no. For others, peer pressure looks like a friend handing you an alcoholic beverage after you previously mentioned that you had no intention of drinking. The effect of peer pressure can alter interpersonal relationships  and create an unsafe environment for individuals. 

There are a number of ways to handle peer pressure. Pay attention to how you feel. If an individual or group asks, directs or suggests you to do something, determine how you would feel if you follow through with their request. Pre-plan your response to uncomfortable requests and be prepared to use your excuse whenever you feel unsure about a situation. If you have a designated excuse, it will be easier to avoid situations that push you past your limits. 

Additionally, surrounding yourself with people that have similar values and beliefs can help encourage you to just say no.  Students are less likely to fall victim to peer pressure if more than one person says no to an uncomfortable situation. 

When joining on-campus organizations, become knowledgeable about the mission statement and how they correlate to your personal beliefs in order to eliminate the risk of peer pressure. Although peer pressure can be harder to scope out after high school, it can be avoided. 

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