We all went into college with preconceived notions of what the student body would be doing for fun on the weekend. You either had older siblings or friends who shared their wild college stories or you watched Animal House. Whether you ran with open arms towards a college labeled with the reputation of being a “party school” or you ran in the complete opposite direction of such a school, it is inevitable that alcohol will play a role over the course of your college experience.
Some consider college to be one big party, and that’s okay. As long as you’re getting the work that you’re there to do done and being responsible, go for it. But what if this doesn’t sound like you? It’s easy to get lost in the partying shuffle.
Is there pressure to drink in college?
In a survey conducted with 35 college freshmen, sophomores and juniors from schools all over the country, 29 students said they have not felt pressured to drink at college so far. Five of the respondents stated that they have felt “sort of” felt pressured to drink. One agreed that they have felt indirectly pressured to drink.
“Being the only sober one can be awkward.” Shoshana, a freshman from Ithaca College also said, “On the rare occasion that I go to parties, I feel there is an expectation to show up already drunk.”
Another freshman from Ithaca College shared, “It sometimes feels difficult to find things to do and people to hang out with on the weekends outside of the party scene so it can be lonely not drinking in college.”
No one should ever feel alone because of a personal decision to abstain from alcohol use. Despite the messages you may receive from the media about the college experience, you do not need to have a red solo cup in your hand at all times in order to have fun. In an effort to crush this stereotype, this group of surveyed students came up with quite the laundry list of ways to have fun that won’t cause a hangover:
1. Have a movie marathon.
Whether it be at the local movie theater or twelve or your closest friends gathered around your laptop on your dorm room floor, there is no way you go wrong with a good old-fashioned movie marathon. Watch new releases, old classics, nostalgic childhood favorites, festive holiday films or ones that are just so bad it’s funny, the possibilities are endless.
2. See local shows.
Check out the event calendar for your school and your school's town. Even if you're in the middle of nowhere, most colleges and college towns are always offering cool new live entertainment like musicals and plays or featuring talent acts like comedians, musicians and maybe even a hypnotist. Bonus: most of the events will probably be free or very cheap.
3. Spend time outside.
"My friends and I walk to the Tar River and relax," said Kathleen, a freshman at East Carolina University. If you're lucky enough to go to a school surrounded by nature, go out and explore! That's what it's there for. As mentioned above, immersing yourself in nature can be a great stress reliever. One of my school's area's biggest draws are the gorges, seeing them is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.
4. Play video, board or card games.
Even if you've completely tired out Cards Against Humanity, there are plenty of other fun games to play with your friends. "Jackbox Games is a game you can play on your computer or with your phone and it's pretty cheap!" Matt, a freshman at the University of Vermont recommended. Some other fun options are Bucket of Doom, Exploding Kittens, Who's Most Likely To, as well as any classic like The Game of Life or Monopoly (just a warning: this one can and will end relationships).
Check to see if your school has a book club, and if they don't, look into starting one, or just put together an informal one with your friends. There's a book out there for everyone, you just have to find it. Hint: if you loved The Fault in Our Stars back in 2013, John Green's new book "Turtles All The Down" just came out this month.
6. Catch up on your shows (or start a new one).
Whether it be West World or The Great British Bake Off, try to find people to binge watch your favorite shows with or start a new show to get invested with.
7. Get ahead on your work.
I know this might not sound like the most fun option on this list, but you will thank yourself immensely.
8. Utilize your campus student rec center.
Most colleges are home to a rec center of some sort with Foosball, air hockey or ping pong tables where you can unleash your inner Forrest Gump.
"I'd much rather spend money on good food than alcohol or drugs," said Zannah, a freshman at Marymount Manhattan College. I couldn't say it better myself!
10. Work out.
Check to see if your school offers fun workout classes like Zumba or kickboxing. If you're like me and you're not necessarily the most notorious gym buff, bringing a workout pal with you to a workout or listening to music or a cool podcast will make exercise seem a lot less like a chore.
11. Play laser tag, paintball or whatever the trendy thing is now.
Whether it be an arcade, laser tag, paintball, escape room or trampoline park, there's bound to be one of them within the vicinity of your school.
12. Go shopping.
Nothing says fun like a little retail therapy. Most major stores offer generous discounts for college students so make sure you do some research before spending big bucks on that new pair of shoes.
13. Explore town.
Maybe your school lacks the nature mentioned above, but has every store, restaurant and cool place known to man. If you go to school in a city, take time to explore. It's likely that there's something new for you to discover every single day.
14. Arts and crafts are a must.
Watch Youtube videos (or Bob Ross on Netflix) and see what you can create (or how hilariously bad it ends up turning out).
15. Just hang out with people who don't focus on alcohol.
"Mostly I hang out with friends that don't focus on alcohol. I do things I find fun and not things that are fun by society's standards," Ashley, a freshman from Ithaca College, mentioned. Try to seek out people with similar values so the idea of being pressured into doing something you don't want to do isn't even an option.
As a sophomore from Bradley University mentioned, "You can still go to parties and have fun, just don't drink. A lot of people think that by having alcohol in your system, you'll have more [fun] at a party, but that's not true. It's like a mental thing that being drunk you'll have more fun, but you can be sober and have fun."
If you still love to dance and be around people, don't let the use of substances at a party stop you from having a good time.
As you can see, alcohol is not as an integral part of the college student's ability to have fun as you originally may have thought. In fact, when the same group of 35 students were asked to identify the importance of the role that alcohol plays in their college experience so far, no one selected the "very important" option. 40% said that alcohol was not important, 25.7% said that alcohol had a nonexistent role, 17.1% said it was sort of important and the last 17.1% considered it to be pretty important.
No matter how you like to spend your free time in college, just remember that there are always other options. You don't have to pretend to be someone you're not in order to have a good time.
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