A person trying not to drink alcohol at a college party.

How to Avoid Social Drinking in College

Last Updated: Fri, March 29, 2024

College is by far one of the most common hotspots when it comes to social drinking in the United States. Somewhere along the line, college developed a very strong drinking culture that continues to thrive and grow today. Because of this, many college students are at risk of developing unhealthy drinking habits when they join higher education.

Keep reading to find out how you can avoid social drinking in college and avoid the peer pressure associated with alcohol.

Why Does College Have Such a Strong Drinking Culture?

College is very well known for its drinking culture, but it didn’t always have this problem. Only in the last few decades has college become a hotspot for harmful drinking behaviors that could lead to long-term repercussions, such as addiction.

The drinking culture in college has a lot to do with social lubrication. Alcohol makes it easier for college students to feel laid-back, socialize, and meet new people. It also helps to take the edge off when the stress of college starts to creep up.

Another aspect of the drinking culture in college is that many college students are getting their first taste of freedom. They are living apart from their parents and have more freedom to choose how they spend their time. This freedom can result in students partaking in excess alcohol consumption as well as other types of addictive behaviors.

Many college students are trying to find themselves during this transition and may rely on alcohol to help them do this.

How College Students Can Avoid Drinking

Even though college has such a strong drinking culture, that does not mean that every college student has to give in to this peer pressure. Whether you do not want to drink alcohol at all or you want to drink responsibly, there are certain things you can do to avoid falling into this trap. 

After all, you have to remember that you are in college to prepare for your future, and harmful drinking habits can start to get in the way of that.

Avoid Certain Situations

The main thing college students need to do is to avoid situations where the alcohol will be flowing. Unfortunately, this is common in a lot of college activities such as sports, parties, and other social activities. You will need to be very aware of what the situations entail so that you can avoid dangerous environments.

Parties are especially notorious for being alcohol heavy, which can lead to a great deal of problems. Unless it is a small gathering of people that you already know, it is best to avoid these kinds of atmospheres.

Find the Right Friend Groups

One of the most critical aspects of the college experience is finding friend groups to experience it with. Who your friend group is is going to have a significant impact on how successful you are at avoiding social drinking.

If your friend group is composed of people who enjoy drinking, it’s going to be much harder to avoid. You may not be able to hang out with them in certain situations, which can result in you missing out on valuable social experiences.

It is best if you can find a friend group that also limits social drinking so that everyone can find activities that don’t involve alcohol. This will also provide you with a friend group to spend time with since you won’t be going to many of the classic college activities that include excess drinking.

Keep Yourself Accountable

As enjoyable an experience as college is for many people, it can come with a great deal of stress. College classes are intense, and there are several things you have to do in order to graduate and get your degree. Part of why so many people lean on social drinking is to deal with the stress that comes with college life.

To avoid falling into this trap and relying on alcohol to numb anxiety and stress, you need to be able to hold yourself accountable. You should hold yourself accountable with your own values as well as find people who can help you stay accountable. This is another area where having like-minded friends is so important.

Practice Being Assertive

A considerable part of the problem with the drinking culture in college is that it isn’t always completely consensual. College students are often pressured to drink more than they should, and getting blackout drunk is something to be celebrated in these types of settings.

Many college students, especially younger ones, tend to feel pressured to drink whenever alcohol is provided. It is even sometimes used as a right of passage among different social groups.

You will need to practice being assertive and saying no when alcohol is offered to you in these types of situations. You need to be confident when you assert yourself. Remember that no one can force you to drink alcohol if you don’t want to.

Have Boundaries in Place

Having boundaries is especially important if you still want to be able to drink within reason but not excessively when you are in college. One of the tricky things about alcohol in college is that it can be difficult to pace yourself and stop when you reach a specific limit. The alcohol is flowing, and drunkenness is widely socially accepted and encouraged.

You will need to have clear boundaries in mind regarding how much you drink and what situation you will drink in. For instance, it is best to avoid stronger liquors in social settings as these will start to impact you much faster.


Taking part in the college experience is one of the many reasons why people attend college in the first place. However, this does not necessarily mean you have to partake in harmful drinking practices that are often associated with college life. 

College students should be wary of the college culture around alcohol and have boundaries in place for their safety. Holding yourself accountable will be incredibly important, as well as finding like-minded college students who are also rebelling against the drinking culture.

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