“It will get better.” This is the common statement to victims of bullying, often made by celebrities – celebrities who were once bullied themselves. And there is also this common belief that once a victim leaves high school and moves onto college, it’s over.

It’s Not Over

Not so fast. Bullies move onto college too. And, if they have not had to suffer consequences for their bullying, and if that bullying has gotten them what they need psychologically, they will not have a sudden epiphany and change their ways. And after college? They move into the workplace too. They need consequences, and they need therapy to understand why they bully.

Common Psychological Traits

Here’s the thing: both the bully and the bullied suffer from self-esteem issues. They respond to those issues differently. The bully achieves power and self-confidence by bullying; the bullied allows his lack of confidence and assertiveness to show, and becomes a target. Both need help.

College Bullying Can Be Physical

Hazing is a haven for bullies on college campuses. While much of it can be rather harmless, fun, and good-spirited, bullies take advantage of those who appear to be good targets and turn it into meanness. And once they have identified their targets, it can continue well beyond the normal hazing that freshmen experience. Parents of students who have been bullied in high school need to get their kids into assertiveness training before they leave home for college. Just the physical “appearance” of being self-confident will send a bully elsewhere.

College Cyberbullying is Pervasive and on the Rise

Research indicates that cyberbullying in college is common and on the rise, as students plug in to more and more devices and find more and more avenues to reach out. After all, the main question is how to stop cyberbullying.
A lot of cyberbullying in college relates to relationship issues. A boy or girl gets dumped and seeks revenge; a boyfriend is stolen, and a girl and her friends turn into “mean girls.” There is a lot of slut-shaming, spreading of rumors and gossip about sexual orientation, and attempts to humiliate and dominate in other ways. A bully may impersonate the bullied online, share highly personal information (whether true or not), and encourage other students to shun or “unfriend” the victim. Sometimes this digital intimidation includes threats.

The Unique Challenges of College Bullying

When students are bullied in K-12 setting, they usually have a support system – parents, some teachers and guidance counselors, and even private therapists who can help them work through these issues and find ways to cope.
On a college campus, away from home and that support system, however, the victim is more or less on his/her own. And because campuses are communities that foster and almost demand independence on the part of their student body, victims of bullying can feel isolated and alone. Here are some strategies that a victim can use:
• Do not engage the bully, especially if that bullying is digital. A quick, simple response, such as “pretty lame” is sufficient. The more a bully is engaged, the more s/he is encouraged to continue.
• Find a niche. If a victim is of a minority group (ethnic, LGBTQ, etc.), s/he can find groups of like students of which to become a part. These can be critical support systems.
• Use campus counseling services. They can give a victim strategies for coping.
• Focus on an area of strength. Students who are considered “nerds” are often the victims of bullying. And yet, they are also the students who excel in specific areas – they can fix computer problems; they can write essays and papers; they can help with difficult STEM assignments. Once they become known for these strengths, they become valuable to other students and will be sought out for their expertise. This provides the self-esteem and confidence that they often need to become resilient. And those who need their help will certainly not participate in any bullying tactics. The great result? They no longer feel alone and isolated.
• Change Residency. If the bullying is occurring in a dorm, then it is imperative that the student change residency. That may involve a change in roommates, a move to another dorm, or even securing an apartment with a roommate who is compatible. Just getting out of a bullying environment can do wonders for emotional comfort.

The Extreme Results of College Bullying

Current statistics on college suicides are that there are 7.5 suicides per every 100,000 students. While there are multiple causes, bullying is certainly one of them. Causes of campus suicides list depression as the primary cause, but that depression can be the result of bullying.
And students who do not take this most extreme measure often drop out. While depression is also stated as a leading cause of dropping out, there needs to be more research into the causes of that depression. Bullying is certainly a factor in this emotional presentation.

Lest We Become Complacent

So, no, bullying does not stop with high school graduation. Some recent studies of college students show the following results:
• 15% of college students state they have been bullied
• 22% of students report that they have been cyber-bullied
• 21% of students have been bullied via texting
• 25% have been bullied via a social media site
• 42% state they have witnessed bullying of other students
More light must be focused on this issue. Once students reach college, they tend to believe that they must handle their issues on their own – after all, that is what growing up is all about. But the playing field is not level. Students must be encouraged to report bullying incidents, to seek help in dealing with it, and they may need help in finding support groups that can mitigate the horrible effects of this social issue.

Author's Bio: 

Amanda Sparks is a professional marketer and psychologist, researcher of mental health issues and bullying. She is currently working as content manager at Essay Supply, a writing company with the dedicated approach.