Picture this: A room jam-packed with college students reeking of Natty Light and sweat. A little grinding action in the corner and a girl dancing in the middle of a table, thinking she’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. Boys who look barely old enough to have finished high school wearing neon green shirts that say “sober monitor,” holding the key to popularity and new friends in their hands—aka warm keg beer. The latest hits playing in one room and body-thumping techno music blaring in the basement. Failed attempts to pick up girls and drunken PDAs with complete strangers. The beer pong champ running the table and a floor so disgusting you wouldn’t dare take off your shoes. Welcome to your first frat party.
We want you to enjoy new freshman experiences, but we don’t want you to look like an amateur—so here’s a guide on how to navigate the frat party scene like you’ve been there for years.
Do: Know which frat house you’re at
Chi Psi, Chi Phi, Phi Psi, Psi U—it gets a bit complicated when they all sound the same. “There’s nothing worse than calling a fraternity by the wrong name,” says Alaine from Miami University in Ohio. Also, make sure you know how to pronounce the name (Sigma Chi is pronounced Sigma Kye, not Chi like a Chia pet), and are familiar with the frat’s nickname (Sigma Phi Epsilon is usually referred to as Sig Ep). Ask a friend which house you’re going to before you actually get there.
Don’t: Wear a “new student orientation” lanyard around your neck or carry around a campus map
I know it’s convenient to put your room key and ID card in a plastic holder hanging from your lanyard, and this is perfectly acceptable during the day (at least during the first week), but put these important items in your pocket or purse when you go out at night.
Do: Dress for the theme, but don’t go overboard
Wear something versatile so you can easily party-hop. Think a bright shirt for an 80s themed party that can double as a glow-in-the-dark shirt at a highlighter party. Do not wear a full sexy cop or bunny costume. Not only will you look out of place if you go to another party, but you will also be a perfect target for real cops looking to catch underage drinkers. Sarah from the University of Michigan says,“My best friend and I once went to a formal-themed frat party, but accidentally walked up to the wrong frat house and saw everyone wearing pajamas. We thought they had told only us to wear fancy dresses as a joke, but luckily realized the party we were looking for was down the block.”
Don’t: Go alone
The last thing you want is to be alone when that creepy senior offers you a mystery drink he got from a closed room. You will probably feel awkward in a huge party setting all by your lonesome, anyways. At the same time, don’t go out in a huge group. Megan, a recent University of Michigan graduate, says, “Don’t go with, like, 17 people. Go in pairs.”
Do: Pick one or two friends to go to the party with you
If you don’t want any trouble at the door, make sure these friends are girls. Or guys that are willing to say they are rushing the frat—brothers usually won’t let in guys who aren’t part of the frat. Alaine says, “Don’t try to bring a lot of guys with you to a fraternity house… HINT: they’re trying to meet girls.”
Don’t: Go home with someone without at least telling your friends first
If you decide to “hang out” at someone’s place, let your friends know who the person is, where they live and when you expect to be home. If this “hang out” turns into a sleepover, be prepared for the morning after.
Do: Wear cute, classy clothes and dress for the weather—and the walk
If it’s 20 degrees and the party is across campus, don’t wear your brand new 4-inch stilettos. I also suggest you invest in a party coat—something cheap that serves the purpose and isn’t a black North Face. I know this from personal experience: I’ve set my North Face down one too many times at frat parties only to find that it’s missing at the end of the night. This will happen when there’s a room full of 20 identical coats. To avoid this, try putting your coat in a secret spot like behind the couch or in a random closet (but don’t forget where you put it!).
Do: Pick a wing-woman and mingle
Feel free to talk to new people even if they don’t approach you first. If you want guys to approach you (and trust me, they will), make yourself look available and interested by standing in an area that is somewhat open with music that isn’t too loud. Before you know it, two guys will be heading your way to talk to you and your friend. Just hope you both don’t have your eyes on the same guy! Allie, a senior at Princeton says, “Try not to hang around with more than one or two other girls so guys will feel more comfortable talking to you! Even if you arrive to the party with all of your girls, don’t feel the need to stick with them—branch off with a friend to go get a drink. This will make meeting new people a lot easier.”
Don’t: Ask a random guy for a drink
Ben Kassoy, a recent graduate of Emory University says,“Do some searching or strike up a conversation before you immediately request alcohol.” If you choose to drink, be safe about it: Don’t put your drink down and come back later and drink from it, don’t take a drink from the mysterious punch bowl and don’t let anyone else get your drink for you. The only way you will know exactly what you’re drinking is if you watch where it comes from and never leave your glass unattended. Your best bet is to drink a can of beer that you open yourself (or, of course, even better would be to not drink at all).
Do: Know the house rules for beer pong and flip cup
These are great party games—when you know how to play the right way. Ask for the next game and wait around for your turn so you don’t miss out. Alaine suggests “enlisting the [cutie] nearby to play with you.” If you’re nervous about drinking when you play these games, no one will know if it’s just water in your cup.
Don’t: Wander into a random person’s room
Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the crazy party and hang out in one of the brothers’ rooms but only do this if you consider the guy to be one of your friends, not just one of the frat bros. It’s smart to bring one of your girlfriends with you too. If you do get stuck alone in a room with a guy and feel uncomfortable, tell him you have to go to the bathroom and then leave.
Do: Bring tissues, hand sanitizer and emergency tampons in your purse
Frat bathrooms are gross (imagine puke in the sinks and pee in the showers), and you don’t want to be unprepared so make sure you have these items handy. “Few frat house bathrooms are always stocked with TP,” Alaine says. If you are friends with one of the brothers, ask to use another, cleaner bathroom. I’m not making any promises, but there’s usually a more sanitary bathroom reserved for girlfriends, frequent attendees of the frat and the brothers themselves.
Don’t: Give out your number to just anybody
Be selective with who you give it to. Not every person is worthy of your digits. What should you do if a guy asks for your number and you don’t want to give it? Allison from the University of Michigan says, “Normally I’d just give him the wrong number or act like I need to leave really fast and tell him I’ll let him know it when I come back and then never come back.” Looking for a different approach? Allison uses the following line on boys: “How about you give me your number and I’ll text you with mine.” But she doesn’t actually text them her number. Sneaky!
Do: Use knowing the brothers to your advantage
Whether he’s your closest guy friend from high school, your older brother’s best friend or your roommate’s boyfriend, this will get you VIP treatment at the party. That means no waiting in line, special mixed drinks and a place to store your coat. If you’re the lucky girl who personally knows a guy in the frat, call or text him when you arrive so he can come to the door and let you in. “At one of my first frat parties, I walked to the front of the line and named some guys I knew who were in the frat and friends with my older sister in hopes of getting in. This didn’t work, so I called one of the guys I knew and he came right out and let us in,” says Maddie* from Michigan State University.
Don’t: Be the first one to arrive or the last one to leave
It’s weird if you show up right at the Facebook event start time and realize you are the only guest there besides the guys in the frat. Instead, show up about an hour into the party and stay for a maximum of two hours.
Do: Be nice to upperclassmen girls
Chances are they know the guys in the frat, and if these girls get a bad vibe from you, they will tell the brothers. Befriending upperclassmen girls will help you learn the ins and outs of the particular frat, including which guys you should avoid. “Nothing will ruin your night like pissing off one of the guy’s girlfriends,” Alaine says.
Don’t: Stick around if the cops show up
It’s rare, but it’s happened before. Don’t run away either. Instead, casually leave without drawing attention to yourself and make sure you leave your drink behind if you had one. Never walk along the streets with a red plastic cup in hand.
Do: Have a DW (designated walker)
If you and your friends choose to drink, it’s safe to take turns being the semi-sober one so there is always someone to look after you and your friends. The DW should make sure everyone gets home safely at the end of the night and have the number to a reliable taxi in case someone needs to be picked up.
Don’t: Flirt with multiple brothers, and don’t get caught making out with every guy that comes your way
This is an easy way to get a bad rep and you don’t want that, especially not on your first week on campus.
Do: Have a good time and enjoy your first of many curfew-less, party-filled nights
We hope these tips help you survive your first frat party. Stick to our dos and don’ts and you will never make any of the usual first-year party-going mistakes. Every collegiette deserves to be in the know and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Good luck!