As every movie about college in America portrays, college students and alcohol supposedly go hand in hand. College is depicted as a time for drinking, partying, and experimenting.
And maybe it is. But making the right choice for you is important.
When it comes to drinking alcohol in college, there’s no definitive guide. There’s no “this is what you should and should not do” system. In spite of that, there is a middle ground, which is to know the costs associated with drinking and partying so you can make more informed choices.
Here are 5 factors to consider when it comes to consuming alcohol during your studies:
#1. Know The Cost
Financial costs aren’t the only thing associated with drinking and partying in college, but it’s a good place to start.
Pretend you go out with friends. Here’s what you might spend:
- Pregame, $5– You and 3 buddies split a $20 bottle.
- Bar, $21– You spend $4/beer, plus you purchased a round for your buddies.
- Drunk Food, $7– 2 pieces of pizza at 2am cost you $3.50 each.
- Transportation, $4– The group splits an Uber because walking seems too far.
And let’s be honest, that’s a normal night for most college students. It could be much more, so let’s round it up to $40 each night you go out.
If you go out 1x/week during a 15-week semester, you’ll spend $600. 2x/week will cost $1,200. And if you indulge on Thursdays, too, that’s $1,800/semester.
Excuse me for being a total dad here, but if you saved the money from 2 nights of drinking during an undergrad degree (8 semesters), you’d graduate with $9,600 in savings.
2. Know The Other Costs
Besides financial resources, partying in college incurs other costs, too. Part of making informed choices is knowing what the cost/benefit.
Assuming the benefit of going out is to have fun and be social, here are some other “costs” to consider:
- Lack of sleep– Research is very clear on how a lack of sleep destroys productivity and your immune system.
- Risky Behaviors– Most college kids aren’t going out to knit sweaters at the bar. Drinking increases the likelihood that you’ll drive or be driven drunk, have unprotected sex, or participate in other risky behaviors.
- Injuries– The #1 cause of death for males ages 18-26 is from injuries. Whether it’s from falling or violent incidents, much of it happens while intoxicated.
- Hangovers– Heavy drinking rarely leads to a productive next day. Drinking on Friday and Saturday sets the tone for an unproductive Sunday, which may set the upcoming week up for failure.
3. Set Guidelines
I know, I know. Guidelines, another word for rules, are what you went to college to escape. But I don’t mean the type of rules where if you don’t follow them, there’s a consequence. I’m talking about rules you create that keep you productive and maintain your peace of mind.
For example, perhaps you’ll consider having a rule in place for when you go out drinking.
- “If I go out drinking, tomorrow I have to spend 2 hours in the library.”
- “If I go out drinking, I’ll make coffee at home this week to save money.”
- “If I go out drinking, I need to go to the gym for at least an hour the next day.”
You may be able to “offset” some of the costs you’ll incur by planning around your guidelines. Sticking to your guidelines requires discipline, but keeps you focused on things that matter to you.
3. Consider Timing
One way to make informed choices about drinking alcohol is to consider the big picture. Measuring habits, not instances, is a skill you’ll need to develop during your adult life.
Instead of getting upset for one wild weekend, think about your whole semester and how often you would like to go out.
For example, if you know the final 4 weeks of the semester will require a marathon of studying and researching, plan to go out a few times during the weekends leading up to it.
4. Have An “Out” For When Peer Pressure Strikes
Unfortunately, peer pressure doesn’t go away in college. It may actually be worse at times.
The truth is, if you are already out with no plan in place, you’ll succumb to whatever the group is doing. That might mean staying out until 2am drinking even if that wasn’t your intent.
If you want to still go out and not drink (or drink only a little), mentally rehearse those conversations before you leave.
Things like: “I have an early class, I can’t” or “I’m training for a race and need to be ready for tomorrow’s session”.
You can also plan a trip home during weekends where you need to study, plan a trip away from campus, or look for a part-time job that keeps you busy during the evenings.
College Students and Alcohol- Wrap-Up
The relationship between college students and alcohol is up to each individual, so making an informed choice is the way to go. It requires extra consideration and preparation, but will pay off down the road.
You may read this guide and have thought, “Great, so what? I’m still going to drink”, and I’m cool with that. I hope you go out and make memories with your friends, and if that means drinking alcohol, then great.
My advice is simple: know the cost(s), set guidelines for yourself that reflect your goals, consider the big picture, and have an “out” ready if you need it.
An informed choice weighs all factors and keeps you in control. Making them is a critical skill you’ll need far beyond college, and it’s never too early to start.
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