For many of us, college means freedom. Now out of our parents’ homes, we are accountable for ourselves in ways we never even imagined. Not only do we have newfound responsibilities, but we also have fewer restrictions on how we spend our free time. In other words, if we want to stay out until 4 a.m., we can, without worrying about calling home first or sticking to a pre-planned curfew.
Of course, some people adjust better to balancing school and a social life than others, and while many find that college has helped them to grow up, others get a little power-hungry and find their little “balance act” spinning out of control.
This month, I would like to share with students some of the ways you can maintain your grades and overall safety, without remaining confined to your dorm room. For legal purposes, I will not endorse or discourage certain behaviors. I know that each of you will assign a different priority to the social scene, and that’s okay. However, as you continue to shop and pack for college, I hope you remember that with great power comes great responsibility (thank you, Spiderman!), and keep some of these tips in mind.
The Freshman 15: Ways To Party Smart In College
1. Remember why you came to college in the first place.
Okay, so maybe “going out” was one of the things you were looking forward to when you enrolled in college, but that certainly wasn’t the only reason. College might become the most exciting part in your life so far, not so much because of the partying you choose to do, but because of the people you meet, the clubs you join and the opportunities you come across. Being able to go out and decide when you’re going home is an added bonus, but it is not what your tuition pays for. Ultimately, whether you like to go to bars or hang around at frat parties, remind yourself that as fun as all of this may be, your schooling should come first.
2. Get your work done early on.
This means that if you know you’re going to be out late on Friday and/or Saturday night and you have an assignment due Monday, do your assignment before you leave your room. Finish as much work as you can by Friday afternoon so that you have nothing hanging over your head on the dreaded Sunday night.
3. Go out with a group.
Every club has its creeps. If you arrive with a protective barrier of friends, it will be much easier to avoid said creeps and feel more secure in your surroundings. Although I would choose a party over a club or bar any day of the week, I always feel more comfortable when I’m there with several friends, especially if a few of them happen to be male (and look like they could throw a decent punch!). Going out with a group of friends is generally a lot safer than going out by yourself.
4. Behave yourself in the dorms.
I don’t care what you do in your spare time; if it’s illegal or prohibited on campus, don’t do it there. Obviously, it is important to make wise choices wherever you go, but if caught doing something risky at the school, you could get kicked out of campus housing. Be aware of the rules — the last thing you want to do is lose your dorm room because of one stupid decision.
5. If it’s questionable, don’t put it on Facebook.
As many will tell you, professors and prospective employers will stumble upon your social media outlets from time to time; some will even seek them out. You can keep your privacy settings as restricted as you would like, but you never know what photos, statuses or fan pages will slip through the cracks. Not only should you avoid being photographed in certain situations, but you should also be sure to untag any pictures that do come up (or ask your friends to take them down!) and avoid posting anything inappropriate on your own page in the meantime. Although your Facebook page shouldn’t reflect the type of worker you’ll be, many employers will still assume that it does, and it could ultimately play a role in your selection for a job or special program.
6. Avoid clubs and parties on a school night.
There will be exceptions from time to time (a close friend’s birthday, a mostly-mandatory sorority social that happens to fall on a Thursday, etc.) but for the most part, save your exciting nightlife for the weekends. During the week, focus on school and other major responsibilities. There is never a need to go out 5 nights of the week.
7. Choose a designated driver.
I know that most freshmen are not 21 (the legal drinking age), but I’m going to say it anyway. If you and your friends are going to a club or a party where alcohol will be available, make sure that someone in your group commits to not drinking that night and will be able to drive the rest of you home. Some schools may offer shuttle and taxi services as well, but have your plans ready before you go out so that you can make sure you’ll get back safely.
8. Watch your drink carefully.
It doesn’t matter if you picked up a beer or a cup of water; keep an eye on your drink. Don’t drink from a cup you set down, especially if it was out of your sight at all. You never know who might slip something in. It’s a sobering thought (pardon the pun) but it’s important to guard your drink to avoid a potentially bad situation.
9. Say “no” when you need to.
You are not obligated to attend every social event that has ever existed, so prioritize. If your grade is on the borderline in one of your classes and you really have to study, sometimes it is better to stay home or in the library than trying to cram everything into one weekend. If you’re too tired to endure a night out, it’s okay to stay in. There will be other nights, so if you are going to go out, make sure you aren’t dreading it (and that you’re able to commit!).
10. Keep a calendar.
Make sure you manage your time effectively. When someone invites you to a can’t-miss party, jot down the details in your datebook or calendar so that you can work around it. That way, if your crush’s birthday festivities are at the end of next week and you have a big project due the following Monday (because things always tend to work out this way), you know how to budget your time on the project beforehand. (For more tips on time management in college, click here.)
11. Get some sleep.
The old joke goes: “Social life. Grades. Sleep. Pick two.” Of course, at times it might be hard to figure out how you’re going to obtain all three of these, and often people will choose to sacrifice sleep in favor of the other two. If you aren’t getting enough sleep most nights, your immune system may weaken (if you don’t believe me, just ask how many times I went to the health center my first fall semester of college), and your schoolwork may suffer as well. Make sure that you don’t go out every night and that you aim for 8 hours most nights.
12. Know your limits.
If you are going to drink, don’t drink to the point of excess every time you go out. Be mature and protect your reputation; you don’t want to be known as That Girl/Guy and you don’t want to be a total spectacle. When you become completely out of control every night, nobody is laughing with you anymore.
13. Find out who your real friends are.
If worst comes to worst, your friends will take care of you. They will not leave you stranded outside a club, or abandon you when they see you in a situation you don’t seem remotely comfortable with. Right away, it’s important to figure out who you can trust.
14. Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
The point of having a social life is to give yourself a break from your daily grueling tasks. It is supposed to give you something fun to do. If you aren’t having fun or if you feel uncomfortable every time you go to a club, then maybe that scene isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t cool, but rather that you would have more fun doing something else. Find something you do enjoy, and spend your free time doing that.
15. Keep things in moderation.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy… but all play and no work makes Jack flunk out of college. Remember that the college experience is multifaceted and that you will learn nearly as much outside of the classroom as you will inside of it, but that college itself does not break down into Academics and Partying. Take advantage of every aspect that your school has to offer and don’t limit yourself to those two categories alone.
My questions for readers:
- What do you most look forward to in college?
- How do you plan to maintain a social life?
- What questions do you have about college life that you would like to see featured in a future Freshman 15?