How to Avoid Drinking in College: 6 Tips & Alternatives


Going to college can be an exciting adventure. It’s a time filled with freedom and new opportunities. While college is a time of learning, making friends, having fun, and finding yourself, it can also come with peer pressure to drink alcohol underage. Not your jam? Don’t worry, we got you!

First, despite the fact that so many movies and television shows depict alcohol-fueled college parties, that’s not what you’ll find on most college campuses. In fact, a recent study found that only 51% of full-time college students reported drinking alcohol in the last month. That means nearly 50% of students were NOT drinking and understand that they don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

So, if you’re wondering how to avoid drinking alcohol in college, we’re here to tell you that lots of your fellow college students feel the same way. And that it’s totally possible to navigate college without underage drinking.

Consequences of Underage Drinking in College

Let’s start with the legal stuff. There are legal consequences of underage drinking. In the state of North Carolina and most other states, it’s illegal to drink, possess, or attempt to buy alcohol under the age of 21. This can result in a citation such as a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge.

There are also health risks of drinking alcohol underage. It can lead to impaired brain development that may affect your judgment, memory, impulse control, and other issues. Additionally, drinking alcohol in college can lead to poorer academic performance and putting yourself in unsafe situations.

How To Avoid Underage Drinking in College

You’re making the right choice to avoid underage drinking! To support you in your journey, here are six steps to avoid alcohol and still have a fulfilling and fun college experience:

  1. Find Alcohol-Free Events on Campus: All colleges host alcohol-free events. These can be anything from movie nights and art events to coffee house meetups. You’ll find lots of great opportunities to socialize without the presence or pressure of alcohol. Check out your school’s online calendar for events, and look on social media to find more.
  2. Get Involved: Clubs/organizations, sports teams, and study groups focused on other interests can help you build a supportive network of friends. Often, organizations will set up in a popular place on campus like a student union at the beginning of the school year so that you can learn more about their organization and mission. Your school’s website will also likely have information about different student organizations, clubs, and more. Need some ideas of where to start? Check out this sampling of representative options at local schools:
    • Are you interested in gaming? Join the UNC-CH Game Development Club. They aim to publish one video game per semester, so you’ll be working on projects to hone your game development skills!
    • Curious about getting into media, podcasting, announcing, or presenting? Join NC State Student Media! Learn new skills and meet new people.
    • Want to work out while making friends? Duke has several recreational sports clubs — from volleyball to cycling to ultimate frisbee and Krav Maga.
    • Love history? Join the Wake Tech History Club and make new friends while studying history in the 21st century.
  1. Make Friends Who Don’t Drink Alcohol: The saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Finding like-minded friends who don’t want to drink alcohol underage can make avoiding alcohol much easier. You can still have fun, make friends, and socialize.
  2. Host Your Own Alcohol-Free Event: Grab some friends from the dorm or your apartment building and organize a frisbee golf tournament, hike, or a trip to attend a new play. Ask your friends to help you brainstorm sober activities they want to experience. There are always plenty of things to do instead of drinking.
  3. Be Prepared to Navigate Peer Pressure: In college, some people are determined to find ways to make any activity about drinking. That means that even if you join a study group or club, it’s no guarantee that someone won’t try and bring alcohol into the mix. The best way to navigate peer pressure to drink alcohol — no matter where or when it shows up — is to be prepared. Think ahead of time how you may respond if someone wants you to drink underage. Practice ways to say “No.” By the way, “No” is a full sentence. You don’t have to elaborate if you don’t want to! Here are some handy ways to say no to alcohol underage, no matter the setting:
    • “No, thank you. I have a big test/game/day coming up, and I want to be sharp for it!”
    • “I’m okay. I’m trying to stay away from alcohol for my health.”
    • “I’m driving later, so I’ll pass. I can drive you home if you want!”
  1. Commit to Having Fun Without the Booze: You can still attend parties and tailgates where there may be drinking and have fun without alcohol. Be confident in your decision. You got this!

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol in College

If you do succumb to peer pressure to drink alcohol and want to stop, there’s always help available. Knowing where to find support can make all the difference. Many campuses offer recovery communities and programs designed to support students in making healthy choices.

HBCUs involved in the Collegiate Resilience: Healing Post COVID-19 program are providing support for students and helping them avoid pitfalls like underage drinking and substance misuse. These resources are great examples of how colleges create safe spaces for students to discuss challenges and find alternatives to drinking alcohol.

If you need help to stop drinking alcohol, start with a search on your school’s website to find a recovery network. You can also reach out to your academic counselor, residence hall advisor, or a trusted professor. Additionally, local communities near campus may offer opportunities at churches and other organizations.

Talk it Out, Take the Pledge

College can be one of the best times of your life, and you don’t need to drink underage to have all the same fun. We hope you’ll use this advice about how to avoid drinking in college. Find alcohol-free events and like-minded friends, and be strong in your healthy decision to wait to drink until you’re 21.

Ready to commit to not drinking alcohol underage while at college? Take the Pledge today to help prevent underage drinking and promise yourself to make healthy, responsible choices at college. Your future self will thank you!