Bullying can take many forms, from peer pressure to hazing, none of which are good. You have a right to make your own choices and not be subjected to violence, abuse, or stress for wanting to do so. All types of bullying can lead to mental distress, and in extreme cases, injury and death. The cure for bullying is simple: Respect others and treat them the same way you would want to be treated. Read on to learn about what constitutes bullying and how to combat it.

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Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is when an individual or group of individuals tries to influence your behavior, thoughts, or actions. It can happen at all ages of life, though the situations tend to change as an individual gets older. Often, people who are trying to fit in with a certain group (i.e. the “cool” kids) will succumb to peer pressure and do things that they wouldn’t otherwise, such as smoke a cigarette, skip class, or buy certain expensive clothes. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to fit in, if a group of people is subjecting you to peer pressure, it may not be the best friend group for you.

You own your body, so you don’t have to do anything just because someone else wants you to. Try to find friends who value the same things you do, and ones to whom you wouldn’t feel bad saying “no.” While peer pressure is often more subtle than someone saying “I won’t be your friend if you don’t do drugs,” it is still easily recognizable. If someone is trying hard to get you to do something, despite resistance, that is peer pressure.

Peer Pressure at Parties

College, particularly freshman year, is a time of transition. There isn’t much close supervision by adults or parents while students are away at college. Naturally, students may want to experiment with alcohol or recreational drugs. Peer pressure, whether intentional or unintentional, may influence students to try drugs or alcohol when they otherwise would not have chosen to do so. Peer pressure doesn’t even have to be spoken. Often, people model themselves on the behavior of the people that they are surrounded by. If you are the only one not drinking at a party, you may be more inclined to accept the next drink that you are offered.

Verbal peer pressure can range from someone offering you a drink or drugs to someone impolitely asking you why you’re not drinking or doing drugs to someone pressuring you to take a shot or smoke a joint. The easiest way to avoid peer pressure like this is to avoid situations where you will be surrounded by people who are partying, especially if it’s not your scene in the first place. However, you shouldn’t have to avoid parties just because you don’t want to drink or do drugs. You can make yourself nonalcoholic beverages and tell people, “I’ve already got a drink, but thanks” every time they offer you another one. It’s also perfectly okay to tell people, “No, thanks. I don’t do drugs.”

If you get into a situation where you feel uncomfortable, you have every right to leave. Otherwise, stand up for what you believe in, and eventually, once people get to know you, they’ll stop asking. If you see someone else being pressured, step in. It’s okay to be an individual and not follow along with the crowd.


Hazing is any situation that is intended to cause an individual embarrassment, humiliation, or debasement. With or without willing participation, these situations run a high risk of inflicting emotional or physical harm. Unlike bullying, which is generally intended to single an individual out, hazing is often intended to be an inclusive measure. It may be used as initiation into a sorority or fraternity, a sports team, or other extracurricular group. Otherwise, bullying and hazing have a lot in common. Many schools have instituted antihazing policies, and hazing is currently illegal in 44 states because it tends to go wrong. For example, in 2011, a Florida A&M University student died as a result of hazing.

Hazing may include beating, branding, forcing a new recruit to drink copious amounts of alcohol, kidnapping underclassmen at night and depriving them of sleep while forcing them to cater to the whims of upperclassmen, forcing a student to eat something that isn’t food, or forcing inappropriate and unreciprocated sexual acts. A survey of 325,000 NCAA student-athletes found that 80% had experienced some sort of hazing when they were initiated onto their teams.

If you have been a victim of or witnessed hazing, speak up. Not only can hazing be emotionally traumatizing for the individuals who experience it, but participants may have felt peer pressure to go along with the rest of the team within a hazing ritual despite not wanting to take part. Nobody benefits from hazing, and it should be reported to a coach, administrator, or trusted individual. There is an antihazing hotline that students may call anonymously if they would like to talk to someone outside of their schools (1-888-668-4293) or students can visit the Stop Hazing website.


Many people believe that bullying is predominantly a problem in K–12 schools, but bullying can and does occur on college campuses. As you get older, bullying is often referred to by the specific form it takes. It can include stalking, harassment, cyberbullying, hazing, or hate speech. In reality, any aggressive behavior in which one person exerts power over another to coerce or intimidate is bullying. Peer pressure, then, can be a form of bullying. These behaviors almost always violate college policies and state and federal laws.

These offenses are serious for a reason. Experiencing any type of bullying could damage mental health and self-esteem. It can also increase the likelihood of suffering depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. If you are being bullied, it could be difficult to concentrate on schoolwork, work-study, and extracurricular activities, and you might try to avoid campus gatherings altogether.

Speaking Out

If you are being bullied, you might feel like there’s no one on your side. That simply isn’t true. Real friends, trusted mentors and professors, and your residential assistant are just a few of the people who would be glad to listen and help connect you with additional resources.

If you have concerns about a friend or classmate who has been bullied or if you have been a witness to any such behavior, it is your responsibility as a member of your campus community to speak out against what you have seen.

It is important to report any instances of bullying so that you can stop the aggression before it gets worse. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Education mandates that every school, colleges and universities included, have at least one employee (usually called a Title IX coordinator) that makes sure the school is in compliance with Title IX of the Educational Amendments. These amendments prohibit sex and gender discrimination in education. If you are reporting an instance of gender-based bullying or discrimination, you may alert the Title IX coordinator.

Otherwise, the Office of the Dean of Student Life is also a resource for students grappling with bullying. Depending on the size of your school, you may be able to contact the dean through email or make an appointment through the dean’s office. The dean is an expert on student life and will be able to connect you with appropriate resources to help stop the bullying.

If bullying, no matter what kind, is threatening your immediate safety in any way, please alert the police and campus security. These departments can follow up, help you file a report, and protect your safety.

Respecting Others

These instructions are so obvious, and yet, with so many instances of bullying around the globe, there are clearly people who are not following the golden rule: Treat others the way that you want to be treated.

Teasing is sometimes a sign of affection. Other times, it crosses the line. Before you make a joke about someone you know, ask yourself if it seems hurtful. Would it bother you if the roles were reversed? If so, keep it to yourself. Also, be mindful that some people may be more sensitive or self-conscious than you are. That is not a character flaw of theirs. They are not to be blamed for feeling hurt.

It’s easy to accidentally hurt someone’s feelings or take a joke too far, but it can feel awful. If this happens to you, apologize immediately. It takes guts to admit that you were wrong, and the gesture won’t go unnoticed. It is always best to apologize, even if you think someone is being overly sensitive. Do not blame that person for his or her reaction. Be honest: “I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t think about how it would affect you. I wasn’t considering your emotions. It won’t happen again.”


For everyone:

  • Stopbullying.gov
  • Crisis Call Center
    • Call 1-800-273-8255 toll-free or text ANSWER to 839863 (standard data rates apply).
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The Samaritans
    • Call 212-673-3000 toll-free.
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • Calls are confidential and anonymous; caller ID is not used.

For teens and adolescents:

  • Thursday’s Child
    • Call 1-800-872-5437 toll-free.
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For LGBT+ youth:

  • The Trevor Project
    • Call 1-866-488-7386 toll-free.
    • Chat and text options are also available.
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Page last updated: 12/2016