College is a time to improve your knowledge and skills in an academic setting, but it’s also a time to socialize and network with the people around you. It’s no surprise that most college students spend a good chunk of their free time partying, attending get-togethers with friends and trying to meet new people.
This isn’t just tolerable, it’s a good thing for college communities. It relieves stress, strengthens bonds, and encourages a diversity of people to meet each other and learn from each other. That said, partying can be dangerous—to your health, to your studies, and even to the people around you. It’s your responsibility to party safely.
Keep Yourself (and Others) Safe
Your first priority should be keeping yourself (and the people around you) safe at all times. You can improve your safety with the following:
- Pay attention to what you’re drinking. First, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re drinking at all times. You need to not only understand the ingredients in the beverage you’re consuming, but also how many alcoholic beverages you consume in a fixed amount of time. It’s easy to misjudge how much alcohol you’re consuming, especially if you’re drinking for the first time, so try not to consume more than a few standard drinks in a single night, across several hours. Also pay attention to who is mixing and/or serving your drinks, and don’t leave drinks unattended.
- Never drive drunk. Intoxication remains one of the biggest motivating factors for car accidents in the United States, yet it’s an easy hazard to prevent. If you’re intoxicated, even slightly, you owe it to yourself and the people around you not to get behind the wheel. Try to get a ride from someone, walk home, or order a ridesharing service instead.
- Have a backup plan. Things don’t always pan out the way you intend. You might get separated from the friend group you trust. You might learn that the party venue is less safe than you thought. You might accidentally drink more than you intended. In these scenarios, it’s vital to have a backup plan—a place and time to meet up with people you trust or a place where you can crash for the night.
- Stay with friends. You’re always safer in groups, especially when walking to or from a place you’re unfamiliar with. Try to surround yourself with friends throughout the night, and if you get separated, keep communicating.
- Set expectations. It’s fun to be spontaneous, but it’s much safer to set expectations for how the night’s going to play out. Understand where the party is going to be hosted and who’s hosting it, and if you’re going to venture to other locations, try to get the scoop beforehand.
- Look out for others. You aren’t the only one trying to socialize and have a good time, so do your part and look out for others—even strangers. If someone looks like they’ve had too much to drink or they look like they’re in danger, get them to safety if it’s safe for you to do so.
- Get everyone home safely. If you go home separately, follow up with your friends to make sure they got home safely.
It’s also important to maintain your focus on your academic work, and not allow your social life to interfere with your grades or in-class performance.
- Work ahead when you can. Most classes give you a syllabus early on. Pay attention to what assignments are going to be due throughout the semester, and work ahead if you can. You don’t want to spend the weekend socializing only to find out you have an essay due Monday, requiring you to stay up all night Sunday to get it done.
- Don’t disrupt your sleep schedule. Sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. Even if you feel like you can pull an all-nighter and still have energy in the morning, it’s important to try and get a solid 7 to 9 hours every night (and maintain a consistent routine).
- Be mindful of your behavior and image. Pay attention to the images and videos you post on social media. If you’re publicly revealed to be drinking underage or doing drugs, it could tarnish your reputation, or even disqualify you from certain scholarships and programs.
- Drink water, eat healthy, exercise, and recover. There’s no cure for a hangover, and it’s a bad idea to spend an entire weekend partying. After a long night out, dedicate plenty of time to your recovery, and take care of your physical health by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, and resting when you feel weak or ill.
The perfect college experience is a blend of both academic and social/recreational activities, so don’t try to exclusively focus on one or the other. Pay attention to your surroundings, exercise some self-control, and always have a backup plan; if you can, you’ll get all the benefits of partying and socializing in college, without the threats to your health or grades.