Parties are an important part of the college experience. A balanced life-style includes having fun as well as studying, working, and exercising. Parties give students a chance to escape the rigors of classes, meet and form friendships with others, and play games, listen to music, or dance. However, with such a wide array of party options available to you on campus, you'll need to choose carefully. You must take several issues into account, including the host, the time, the location, and the mood or theme of the party.
If you plan to visit several parties on a particular night, be sure to travel with a group of reliable friends. Together, make a pact not to leave a party unless every member of the group is accounted for. Having friends with you while you attend parties will not only ensure your safety while walking or driving to your destinations, but it will also mean you have people looking out for you while you are at the party.
Remember that most parties are late-night events. Those that happen on weeknights may keep you from getting to class the next day or completing your studying for that class. Sometimes that will be a risk worth taking, but certainly not on a regular basis. Weekend parties are more numerous and are easier to fit into your schedule. You will also meet a wider range of people at these parties. However, you should not consider weekend party attendance a rule. If you have a term paper that must be finished by the following Monday, you should consider staying in to work on it. The social scene is important and must have a place in your schedule, but always make sure that academics are your first priority.
The largest parties on campus will probably be those sponsored by your college. These will also range from small to large, from general to theme-based, and from one-time to recurring events. Your college's student activities office or student programming board will plan events throughout the school year using money from your activities fee and other sources. In a sense, these activities represent your tax dollars at work, so you are well advised to take advantage of some of them.
Some events will attract everyone — students, faculty, and staff. Most campuses have fall and spring festivals that consist of live music, games, vendors, demonstrations, and other activities. Often the campus food service will have a cookout in conjunction with these activities. These all-day events are a great chance to get out and have fun while meeting a lot of people. You are likely to converse with lots of other students, whether you're waiting in line for food or enjoying the live music.
Your college will also host parties or events scheduled around school traditions. During homecoming week there may be an all-college dance and sometimes the election of a homecoming king and queen. Your school may also have an annual all-college formal dance. These events are particularly enjoyable, giving everybody the chance to dress up and offering students and faculty a chance to get to know each other outside of the classroom. Such events also do a lot to build school spirit.
Many college-sponsored parties will be one-time events organized by the student activities office. A DJ or band will be hired to play for a few hours, usually on a weekend and late at night. These events are generally successful because the school has money to bring good entertainment to campus, and students have some say in what music or theme to have for the party. These events will also be designed to appeal to the diversity on your campus. By attending these school-sponsored parties you can hear anything from country music to hip-hop, and can dance and mingle with a lot of people.
College-sponsored events have the advantage of being free or very cheap for college students. At no other time in your life will you enjoy such a broad range of subsidized entertainment. You have the opportunity to be out with good friends and meet new people, and still maintain your budget. Take advantage of these opportunities whenever they fit into your schedule.
Student organizations will also sponsor parties. These are usually very well attended because students want to support their organization or their friends. It can be great fun to see your new friends show off their culture's music, food, and traditions. Your friend in the Middle Eastern club may teach you native dances and a little bit about his culture. And many clubs will combine efforts to cosponsor dances designed to appeal to all students. The African American club may cosponsor an event with the Latin American club, bringing a great deal of diversity and energy to the event.
Many of the parties sponsored by the school or student organizations will center on dancing, music, or cultural displays. At these events, you'll see a lot of people, have some fun, and learn something new. Because these events are sponsored and monitored by the school, they are usually safe and conveniently located. However, for some students these events are too tame or are not attractive because they are officially sanctioned. If this is your opinion, beware: private parties can be a lot of fun, but they may also present more risks than college-sponsored entertainment.
Before heading to a private party, talk to your friends about expectations for the evening. Make sure that you are all watching out for each other and that you all leave the party together. Walking home is more fun if you are with good friends, and you will also be much safer if you are in a large group.
Most private parties will happen off campus. These will almost always be in houses or apartments of upperclassmen and will usually feature alcohol. The hosts will likely charge guests a few dollars at the door in order to pay for the alcohol. Rarely will these parties sell individual drinks because the hosts believe that they can't get in trouble if they don't actually sell alcohol to minors. This is not the case. The truth is that any party where alcohol is served may draw the attention of local law enforcement, and if you are caught drinking alcohol illegally, you could be penalized. While a small gathering of close friends who can legally drink alcohol is probably safe, attending a large party featuring alcohol where you do not know the hosts can put your health and reputation at risk. Carefully consider a party's host, location, and theme before you attend.
There will also be private parties held in residence halls hosted by people on your floor or students on other floors of your hall. Before attending such a party, keep in mind that more than four or five people can crowd a residence hall room and make for an uncomfortable gathering. Someone else in the building is bound to complain to an RA or security staff member if such a party grows too large or causes too much noise. It is best to avoid these gatherings and thus avoid an almost certain encounter with the college discipline system. However, if you would simply like to hang out in your room with a few friends to watch a movie, you will probably be safe and comfortable.