Tolerance and equality are widespread norms in the official policy of many European countries. The educational system is an arena which even more than others is meant to foster equal opportunities by giving individuals the opportunity to strive for social mobility through their educational performance. Despite this, young people from ethnic minority backgrounds experience different forms of stigmatization in school and higher education, ranging from feeling marked as different to experiencing more explicit racism. This article analyses young people’s coping strategies in order to combat or avoid such stigmatization. We will analyse the possible reasons why young people choose a particular strategy in a given situation, how successful that choice is, and changes in their choice of strategies over time. We will discuss how earlier experiences of support, encouragement and respect (or the lack thereof) inform the extent to which young people choose more approaching than avoiding strategies as a response to perceived ethnic stigmatisation in the educational setting. The empirical basis of the article is a sample of 50 biographical interviews with young people of ethnic minority backgrounds living in Norway.