There’s something indescribable about college parties. Whether they’re sweaty over-stuffed frat parties or pre-gaming in your best friend’s dorm room, college drinking is fun. Ask most alumni and the years they wish they could go back to are their college years. There’s something that seems completely okay about binge drinking on Saturday at 9:00AM before a football game and vomiting during half time. And there’s nothing like dropping on one knee and hearing “chug, chug, chug” booming around you as you try to ignore your gag reflex and the beer bubbles popping in your nose.  But let’s be serious for a second – college drinking needs to have some rules.

As much as everyone wants to act like college parties are the most nostalgic parts of their lives, there’s a lot of danger that comes with drinking. There’s no need to lecture about the health concerns associated with drinking, that’s the stuff we do know. It’s time to actually get real and talk about the shit that happens on campus.

Rule 1: Know Your Limits

Drinking is all about knowing how much you can take and stopping before you get to a level that becomes unsafe. If you don’t know your limit, take it nice and slow. Taking a shot doesn’t affect you immediately; it can take up to 20 minutes to fully affect you. So if you’re going to be pounding shot after shot with no break in between, say goodbye to any hope of making it through the night. Whoever says it’s cool to drink as much as possible in one night is an idiot. It can be super fun to get drunk and loosen up, but it’s also important to value yourself and your body! Make sure to pace yourself throughout the night.

It’s better to bring a pre-measured mixed drink out with you. Bringing straight alcohol in a water bottle leads to sipping and not controlling the level of alcohol you’re consuming. That can cause overdrinking and become unsafe. If you’re testing your limits, be sure to do so with a friend you trust. Just in case you drink too much, you should be able to count on the person you’re with to help you. Parties are not the place to experiment with your tolerance.

Quick Tip: If you don’t know your drinking limits, or it’s your first time drinking, GO SLOW. It’s okay to not have drinking experience before college! No one should be judging you for taking your time with drinking. Experiment with some beer or wine before you start drinking hard liquor. And if you decide to take shots your first time drinking, don’t keep up with everyone around you. Drink and take breaks in between to let the alcohol fully affect your body. Trust me, if you try keeping up with everyone, you’ll either black out or get really sick. Either way it can lead to embarrassment and dangerous situations.

Rule 2: Respect The Buddy System

It doesn’t matter how well you know your campus, do not walk around alone. Almost every horror story starts with, “It was the first time I ever walked home alone!” Don’t let that happen to you. It’s always better to walk somewhere with a friend, and even coming home at night, walk with some people from the party. Just don’t walk alone.

Quick Tip: If you lose your friend, or feel uncomfortable walking home with the people you’re with, call someone you trust and talk to them the entire walk home. Call them before you leave the party and don’t hang up until you’re in your dorm room safe. If you feel like no one is picking up your calls, call campus police and ask an officer to walk you back. Even though it might feel super awkward to walk back with an officer, it’s way better to be safe than sorry. And after being on a college campus for almost two years, I can tell you, I would rather some of my friends had gone through the five awkward minutes with a cop than have walked back alone.

Rule 3: Blacking Out Is Not Cool

First off, blacking out is not healthy. No matter how entertaining it is the morning after to hear about who you made out with, or that you walked home singing to no music while barefoot, it’s super unhealthy for your brain. When your brain is so incapacitated that you cannot remember events from the night before, it’s alarming. Blacking out on occasion, although not recommended, is not the end of the world. However, if you find yourself blacking out most weekends, or even often enough that you can count on more than one hand, it’s time to reevaluate. Drinking in college and getting to a blackout level is something that becomes normalized. It’s important to understand everyone around you is binge drinking and abusing alcohol. However, just because it becomes normalized does not mean it’s safe. College is one of the only places that drinking to that extent is socially acceptable. Just remember, alcohol is poison and consuming poison can kill you.

Quick Tip: If you do find yourself, or a friend, blacking out often, or drinking to the point where parts of the night are blurry, take a serious break from drinking. Drinking can become an addiction really fast. And although it’s a fun part of the college experience, you don’t want life long consequences. If it means talking to a counselor, or even just having the willpower to take a break on your own – do it. You only get one body so take good care of it.

Rule 4: You Don’t Have To Drink

That’s right, no one’s going to hate you for not wanting to drink. People have plenty of sober friends that they still take out on the weekend. If you feel more comfortable hanging out sober, or going to parties sober, do it! Don’t feel obligated to explain your sobriety to anyone. Anyone who demands an explanation, or tries to pressure you to drink, can screw themselves because they’re not respecting you! Whether you stay sober all of college, for the first year, or just one weekend – it doesn’t matter. It’s your college experience and the only person you need to focus on is yourself.

Quick Tip: If you are sober, don’t let your friends take advantage of you. Sometimes kids forget that just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you want to take care of their drunk asses. If you find people using your sobriety to their advantage, that’s really unfair. By the time they’re in college, people should be mature enough to fully respect you and your decisions.

College social life can seem really important but the only person you need to worry about impressing is yourself. You’re on your own, so be mindful of your limits and your body. You can choose to do anything you want, or don’t want, to do and no one automatically deserves to know your reasoning. Take care of yourself, and whether you’re drinking water or vodka, cheers my friend!