Four Ways to Have Fun at College Substance-Free

Drinking and recreational drug use occur at almost every college party; however, students who do not want to partake in these activities can find a community that supports their decision to abstain. In fact, many schools offer substance-free housing to students, giving them a built-in group of friends who would prefer to spend their time away from both drugs and alcohol. These dorms and houses may have several names: wellness housing, substance-free housing, and quiet housing, to name a few. A large survey given to over 14,000 college students in 2001 found that when compared to students who lived in regular dorms or off-campus housing, students who lived in substance-free housing were less likely to binge drink, get into legal trouble, drink and drive, and slip up on their academics.

So, as a substance-free student, how are you supposed to have fun on the weekends when everyone else seems to be focused on perfecting their beer pong game?

1. See what your school is offering.

Substance-free students could consider joining a gym or exercise class.


Even if your school doesn’t offer substance-free housing, you can still find friends who don’t party every weekend on campus. Join a variety of extracurricular activities based on your interests, such as a sports team (most of them don’t allow drinking during the season) or fitness club, a cooking group, or a film society. Go to campus comedy shows or theater productions with a friend. Or go alone and start up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. College campuses are rife with evening entertainment that doesn’t involve drinking; after all, the majority of college students are under 21.

2. Go to the party anyway.

A girl says "I'm going to have more fun than any of you. Sober." She knows how to have fun sober.

Freaks and Geeks / Giphy

If you do happen to end up at a party where substances are in use, you can still have fun. There is no unwritten rule that says every student has to drink alcohol. Drinking soda all night (while probably bad for your teeth and your waistline) doesn’t make you an inherently less fun person, and really, no one is going to know the difference anyway. Make sure you pour all of your own drinks and stick with ones that you’re sure are nonalcoholic. After that, dive right in. Join in a game of cornhole, start a conversation with someone you’ve never met, and dance to whatever pop music is blaring through the speakers. You get to have all the fun, with the added bonus that you don’t have to deal with the headache in the morning.

3. Get off campus for the night.

John Krasinski dances during a lip sync battle; have sober fun by getting off campus for the night!

Lip Sync Battles / Spike

You also don’t have to limit yourself to campus. If you live in or near a city, see what it has to offer. There may be nice restaurants, fun places to get dessert, comedy clubs, lip sync battles, or live music. On holiday weekends, there may be festivals, parades, or farmers’ markets. Maybe you can sign up to complete an escape room with a few friends, attend a painting class, or take a long walk along the water. The possibilities are endless, provided you have transportation to and from school, and you don’t have to worry about being the odd man out at a house party.

4. Throw your own party.

Ben Wyatt knows how to have fun sober; he showcases a new board game here.

Parks and Recreation / Giphy

Who’s to say that you can’t throw your own party? If you’re feeling cerebral, try a murder mystery. If you're in the mood to eat, throw a “make your own ice cream sundae” social. If you want some old-fashioned fun, try a game night. Charades, Apples to Apples, and the Game of Life all offer their own type of fun. If you don’t mind people drinking around you, tell your friends you won’t be drinking but make the party BYOB and provide nonalcoholic beverages for your guests. If you’d rather people not drink around you, it’s okay to say so. Or, if you are uncomfortable with that, have your party early in the evening to let those who want to go out to drink do it afterwards. Your party, your rules.

Your college experience is entirely what you make of it, and whether or not you decide to drink or partake in other substances, you can have a fun and “normal” experience. Join a club, get off campus, and look for friends who have the same interests as you do. The rest will come naturally.

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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