Dealing with High Pressure Groups

What are high pressure groups?

It's a good feeling to be wanted, and it's flattering to be asked to join a group. Now that you're in college, you'll find yourself invited to spend time with lots of organizations: fraternities, sororities, intra- mural teams, clubs, religious groups and organizations of all kinds. Most rely on your free choice for joining; however you may encounter some who use coercive techniques to win you over or use them to keep you from leaving.

At any given point in time on the campus there may be some organized and/or informal religious, political, or social groups that use high-pressure recruiting tactics. These groups take advantage of some students. 


Why Are High Pressure Groups So Harmful?

  • They tend to isolate you from family, friends and other groups.
  • They may ask you to give up control of your life, thoughts and decisions.
  • They tend to focus on guilt and shame.
  • They may promote crises with school, your career or your love life.
  • They may resort to frightening you to the point that you stop making decisions and asking questions for yourself.
  • They may scapegoat others, projecting blame or even hate on individuals or groups.


You Can Take Steps to Deal with These Groups

Reach out and get the opinion of someone you trust who is not a member of the group, such as a friend, parent, professor, counselor, residence hall staff member or a member of the clergy.

  • Don't be afraid to take a stand.
  • Learn to say "No."
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions! Be skeptical.
  • Take along a friend who is not a part of the organization. They may confirm your suspicions or see/hear things you do not. Strength and wisdom in numbers.
  • Call a phone number below for help and information.

How can I identify these groups?

Ask yourself these questions: If you can answer yes to any three statements below, you should share your concerns with someone you trust who is not a part of the group and seriously reconsider your involvement:

  • Speak in a derogatory way about your past political, religious, or social affiliation?
  • Describe your parents as unable to understand or help you with religious, political, or other matters?
  • Label your doubts and questions as signs of a weak faith?
  • Invite you on a retreat but can't (or won't) give you an overview of the purpose or activities before you go?
  • Insist that you spend so much time with them that you can't get your studying done or you don't have time for your other friends and activities?
  • Pressure you to get others involved in the group?
  • Discourage you from keeping in touch with your family and friends or not allow you to talk to your friends or your family alone?
  • Deflect questions you ask about their group and tell you they'll answer your questions later?
  • Claim to have the answers to your problems and that you can't find answers anywhere else?
  • Pressure you to give them money?
  • The group seems to be perfect and claims to have "all the answers."?
  • Does the group feel as if they are victims of persecution? Is there an “us versus them” ethos?

For more information or if you wish to report high-pressure group activity on campus, please call the Office of the Dean of Students at 271-2835 or the Counseling Center at 271-3731. All calls are confidential.

Adapted from:

Student Psychological Services, University of California Los Angeles: (

Northern Illinois University, Division of Student Affairs:

Rutgers Division of Student Affairs:


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