College parties are a rite of passage and part of the undergraduate experience.

Aren’t those who party in college more of the frat-boy and sorority-girl type who barely turn in assignments? While those are movie stereotypes, college parties can get a little crazy — especially if you go to a school known for its party culture.

There are many types of parties, and some will set the tone for your social life and offer networking opportunities beyond your college career. Not every college party is strictly focused on drinking until everyone passes out. Here are a few things you should keep in mind before going to your first big college party:

Everyone will be there, creeps included

You may see your long-lost childhood best friend, or find the sock the dryer ate when you were five. College parties can be huge, and chances are you’ll see a ton of people you know and don’t know.

If you plan on having a good conversation, get that in early before people start drinking. Scan the scene, and look for a good exit strategy if your introvert Spidey senses red-flag you that it’s time to go.

Don’t wear your high school sports jersey, vacation gear or what you wore all day. Dress to impress, especially in an outfit that’s comfortable and makes you feel fantastic. Dark colors are priority choices, in case of the inevitable spills.

It’s sad, but true: Women must be especially wary that creeps may try to take advantage of you. If you choose to drink, be cautious and observant about who orders or makes your beverages. And no matter what, don’t go home with someone you just met. Horror stories about college date rape are all too common — so much so that North Carolina State University students invented a nail polish that detects date-rape drugs to keep others safe.

People will get messed up, but you don’t have to

There comes a time when every person gets a little too messed up, and you vow: never again. For your safety, it’s best to spend that time in the company of a small circle of trusted friends at home who aren’t driving.

Binge-drinking leads to dangerous situations, and 8.5 million college students binge-drink. About 25 percent of college students say alcohol has caused them to fall behind, miss class and receive lower grades.

If you plan to go to a party, know that some people will go with the intent of getting messed up. There will be loads of booze and maybe also drugs. Being out of control in a big crowd will cause more drama and a potential emergency situation that you don’t want to happen. It doesn’t make sense to go there, and it’s OK to opt out.

Be prepared before, during and after

You or a friend may have a little too much because you’re new to drinking. Before heading to the party, it’s important to have a plan of action in mind:

– Have a designated driver. Being a designated driver is an honor, not a drag. Let a friend know where you’re going, and arrange for a just-in-case pickup.

– Uber has surge times and prices, and so do other similar cab apps. Get to know a local cab or ridesharing company and have the number handy.

– Hydrate before, during and after. Replace electrolytes with Gatorade and similar sports drinks.

– Eat a small meal before you drink, avoiding cheese and salsa. Bread is good. Keep crackers in the car with your water.

– Check in. Use the buddy system and text each other when you get home safely. Use apps that track you by GPS to keep each other safe — some safety apps can call for help. Don’t drunk text your ex.

It may not be your thing, and that’s OK

Big college parties may not be your thing, and there’s no shame in that. You tried it on, and it didn’t fit. You don’t have to drink to have fun or go to every big party.

Don’t give up on parties altogether, though. Some are more small and intimate, where the vibe, crowd and opportunities to meet new people are more your style.

Going to your first big college party is a rite of passage, but it’s important to be responsible. Have a safety plan.

Everyone will be there, and you’ll look amazing. Stay hydrated and eat something. It’s OK to leave early, and it’s OK if big parties aren’t your thing. Remember, your college experience will be filled with wonderful memories and stories — whether you party hearty or stick with a small, close-knit group of friends.

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