When your student begins college it is likely that they will form entirely new social groups. The most influential reason why new students drink is because of social reasons. Friends can influence them in two major ways. First, there is active social influence, which occurs when a friend explicitly suggests that they engage in some behavior (e.g., “Let’s go get drunk”). Second, there is passive influences such as when they think everyone is doing it and that it is an acceptable thing to do. Part of reducing social pressure is not only helping your student resist active influence attempts but also helping your student to put into perspective the fact that (1) not everyone is necessarily doing it, (2) even if people were, this does not make it right or a good thing to do, and (3) friends may respect your student for not drinking.

There may be times when they may be put in situations where they are pressured by one or more peers to perform behaviors she would rather not engage in. For example, they may be pressured by someone to have a drink when your student doesn’t want to. Students need to develop skills to resist such pressure and affirm their own values, beliefs, and attitudes.


Students are exposed to a wide range of pressure lines to try to get them experiment with drugs or alcohol. Here are some examples of what they might hear:

Come on, everyone has tried it.

If you won’t drink with us, then why are you hanging out with us?

It’s all part of growing up and being in college.

We drank once before, so what’s the problem now?

You will love it!

Students need to develop adequate responses to such pressure lines. What they need most are simple but effective “one liners” that will diffuse the pressure without making a big scene or issue about it. It is difficult for parents to provide such responses to the student because parents usually are not aware of the current language that students use with one another. It is probably more useful for parents to tell their students that they will probably be exposed to pressures to drink and for the student to try to think of short yet effective responses to pressure attempts.

You’ll have an incredible time if you do.

Come on, take a drink. It will get you in the mood.

Everyone is doing it.

You’ve been working too hard. You deserve to go party.

You can study tomorrow.

Often such simple phrases as “It’s just not for me, it’s not what I want” or “I don’t drink” will work quite effectively. We have evaluated a wide range of possible responses and students clearly prefer simple, straightforward “outs” to the pressure situation. Encourage the student to think about such “one liners” beforehand to be prepared if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.