How to Drink Safely at Your First College Party

Students playing a drinking game at a college party.

Stas Ponomarencko /

Disclaimer: Student Caffé does not endorse the underage use of alcohol but solely aims to provide information about drinking responsibly. The law dictates that it is illegal to drink or possess alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Choosing to drink underage is breaking the law and at your own risk.

Attending a college party is a unique experience, one rivaled maybe only by attending a party hosted by graduate students. There are often lots of sweaty bodies pressed into one room or house, a large amount of alcohol, a game of beer pong or flip cup, and some music playing in the background. People may be dancing, mingling, or gathered around a central event (like a football game on TV), cheering or booing as they see fit.

I can picture my first college party. I went to meet a boy (duh), and it happened during freshman orientation week. He invited me to one of the campus-owned houses where a lot of upperclassmen lived. I went inside, found him, and actually saw that it was a pretty low-key party (it was early). Lots of boys, just a few girls, and pretty much only beer. No hard alcohol. Someone handed me a drink, which I proceeded to drink (wrong choice), but eventually I got so weirded out by being surrounded by all these people I didn’t know that I left early (good choice). Parties I attended after that, however, were significantly less low key; campus security routinely made an appearance to shut parties down when quiet hours began and to maintain safety and order.

Looking back, I think it was nice to ease into the party scene, but that’s not always the way it goes. So, when your first college party is one that consists of general mayhem, how do you stay safe and responsible?

Students toast their drinks over pizza. They appear to be drinking safely at college.

Nejron Photo /

Eat a really good dinner. If I knew I was going to go out drinking, I’d always order a chicken strip melt for dinner (which is the most beautiful combination of fried chicken strips, bacon, pepper jack cheese, and toasted bread). This isn’t because I am a glutton, but because eating food high in fat content can actually slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Maybe not the healthiest option, but it’ll help prevent your night from getting too wild too fast.

Use the buddy system. There’s a reason that everybody from elementary school teachers to Girl Scouts to evening joggers advocate for the buddy system. It works. Go to the party with a friend. Watch out for each other. If one of you is planning on staying sober, that’s even better. Arrive together and leave together; you’re more likely to get home safely if you’re not wandering campus alone, drunk, in the middle of the night.

Pour all of your own drinks. This is the mistake that I made at my first party: I didn’t see my drink being opened and decided to drink it anyway. Unless you completely trust all of the people who you are at a party with, you should never accept an open drink. This is because there are some people who are interested in using date rape drugs to facilitate sexual interactions.

For every alcoholic drink you have, drink a glass of water. You want to prevent yourself from drinking too fast, and splitting apart each alcoholic beverage with a full glass of water will do just that. It will also help keep you hydrated (alcohol is a diuretic) and maintain your blood pressure. Not only that, but the more water you drink tonight, the less likely you are to have a hangover in the morning.

Know your limits. It’s really easy, especially if you’ve never been a big drinker, to get carried away with the party scene and get incredibly drunk without meaning to. Your limits will differ based on your size and body type, but you can generally estimate how much alcohol it takes to change your blood alcohol content with this calculator. 0.08 is the limit for driving, and anything above about 0.3 starts getting dangerous. Know what you can handle and keep track of how many drinks you’ve had. You don’t want to end up in the hospital, or worse.

Be very wary of punch bowls. Since you didn’t see the punch (jungle juice) being made, you should probably avoid it altogether because of the possibility of drugs, but I’m aware that doesn’t always happen. If you need a more compelling reason to avoid the punch, here’s one: You have no idea how much alcohol is in there. One solo cup of punch may be the equivalent of two or three drinks, and since there’s so much flavorful Kool-Aid or juice covering up the alcohol, you may not even be able to taste it.

Students taking a selfie at a college party.

wassiliy-architect /

Plan out how to get home. If you’re not on a residential campus and can’t walk home from the party, you need to figure out how you’re getting home. It may be obvious, but it still needs to be said: Do not drink and drive. Not only are you putting your life and the lives of any passengers at risk, but also you’re risking the lives of any pedestrians or other drivers. Call an Uber, call a sober friend, take the bus.

These tips are just a few to get you started on safe partying and responsible drinking, but there are any number of other tips that you could listen to: Drink a Vitamin Water or Gatorade before you go to bed, eat while you’re at the party, avoid drinking games that will get you very drunk very fast, and eat eggs in the morning to combat a hangover. But really, you are an adult now, and your choices are your responsibility. So have fun, but stay safe while doing it.

About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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