Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Wild parties filled to the brim with red Solo cups and loud music. This is what comes to mind for some students when they go away to college. They are away from their parents’ influences for the first time, and they are free to have new experiences at their leisure.
The typical freshman is 18 when their fall semester starts—old enough to drive and vote but still not old enough for alcohol or even cigarettes (in some New York counties). They are not able to purchase or consume alcohol until sometime in their junior year of college.
Of course, underage drinking is a problem despite the law, and it is serious one at that. But why is it an issue? Why do some choose to drink and party excessively when they come to college? I will tell you why: society.
That is not to say that one is not responsible for his or her actions. Ultimately, you decide what you do or do not do regardless of any outside influence, whether it be family or friends. However, for most if not all, peer pressure, stereotypes and societal standards play a large part when deciding on whether or not to consume alcohol.
I spoke to multiple people, from all academic years, backgrounds and ages. They all reported feeling a social pressure to drink before, both from friends and in large groups. When asked why, some said that it was because everyone else at the time was doing it.
Some said they did it because they felt college was the time to cut loose. Some said they had waited all their lives for a chance to party and drink. This trend even expands to those who are legally able to drink, although less people reported feeling social pressure to drink.
But again, the question why? Who decided college was the time to cut loose? Who decided that consuming alcohol underage was the “cool” thing to do? This is where the “society” comes in. We have movies and TV shows representing the college life as nothing but partying and hating schoolwork (so it is at least partly accurate).
Like I said, everyone thinks of college as the time to cut loose and go to incredible, huge parties. This stigma must have some effect on the students moving on to higher education. They see media that portrays college as drunken hookups and beer pong and they think,“That’s what college is like. If I’m not doing that, I’m not getting the full experience.”
There is also the other side of the coin—those who have tried drinking and decided it is not for them. A friend of mine came to college believing that he would be partying it up every chance he got.
He was surprised when it turned out he hated the taste of alcohol. Also, according to him, the people he partied with were annoying when they were drunk. So after experimenting with partying to different degrees, he found that he prefers a rare drink among a few close friends.
This has created an unexpected problem for him though—sometimes he cannot go to the same parties as his friends that drink more intensively. If they go to the “chill” parties he likes, they get bored. If he goes to the big parties with them, he feels uncomfortable.
There is no denying it; peer pressure and societal pressure to consume alcohol exists. People both underage and of age report feeling pressure to drink in situations where, otherwise they may not have.
Alcohol is not for everyone. Some do not like the taste, some do not like what it does to people and some just do not like it. As a society, we need to respect that.