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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

In the hysteria of my senior year of high school, there were three things of which I was absolutely positive. The first was that every adult I interacted with would ask me where I was going to college. Second, there was a part of me that knew I was going to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And third, I was told unconditionally that UW was a “major party school.”

Okay, maybe the Twilight vibe is a little overdramatic, but this was a major fear going into college. I had never drunk before, and I was about to begin my college education at the top-ranked party school in the nation. Even though I knew that UW was my dream school, I became very afraid of the entire drinking culture; I want to drink alcohol in college, let alone see or hear about it. Well, that has changed a bit since my arrival. Although I still have yet to drink any alcohol, I’ve become much more comfortable with the atmosphere and more at ease with my values as to why I don’t drink. The other day, talking with my best friend from high school, she reminded me of something I once told her: “When I’m in Madison for Halloween, I’m going to lock myself in my dorm room and never leave.” Yeah, that didn’t happen at all. You know what did? I went out and had fun, and still didn’t drink. It’s totally possible to stick to your values and still enjoy going to school at this amazing campus.

Here are some important things to remember if you want to stay sober, or drink in moderation, at the reigning party school in the nation.

1. Know why you choose not to drink.

This is first because it’s the most important. Really think about your reasons for choosing not to drink alcohol. Is it because you might lose a scholarship if caught? It’s illegal? It goes against your values? You like a sense of control? Whatever it is, think on it. Evaluating why I have chosen to stay away from alcohol has helped me to continue my sobriety. If you can lay out the reasons why you have chosen to live alcohol or drug free, it helps you to stick to your values and know why you’ve made the decisions you have. This can even go for if you’re choosing not to drink at a single event or party. Have a test on Monday? Yep, that’s a pretty good reason to take it easy on the weekend.2. Use these reasons to explain your decision in “I” statements.

If you choose to tell people that you do not drink, they’ll definitely ask why. Which is why it’s great we’ve already brainstormed reasons why! But, it’s very important that when explaining your decisions to use “I” statements. For example, “I don’t drink because I can’t risk losing my scholarship.” Use “I” in your statements, instead of general statements like “Underage drinking puts you at risk to lose scholarships” or “Drinking makes people lose control.” These make it seem like you’re trying to lecture when in reality they weren’t looking for reasoning from you, for them. I’ve met a lot of people who really admire the decision to not drink and they are often curious why I’ve made that decision. More often than not people really respect and admire students who haven’t drunk before.3. Don’t be afraid of student organizations with a stigma of drinking.

For much longer than I knew I wanted to go to Madison, I knew I wanted to join a sorority. But as recruitment became a reality, I became fearful that my new sisters would make me drink or do things that go against my values. This, however, could not be further from the truth. If you want to join a club or sorority you are afraid might make you drink, honestly, take a chance. If the people in this club really care about you like they should, they will respect your decision.4. Recognize you will be around lots of people who choose to drink.

This is just part of going to a big school. No matter how picky you are about the people you surround yourself with, people on your floor, in your classes, in the same clubs, or even your friends, might drink. The reality of this is, still be friends with them! Just because you don’t want to drink with them does not mean you can’t be friends. This also means you should respect their decision if that means going out and they should respect your decision to not drink. It goes both ways. 5. Not going out doesn’t have to mean staying in.

There’s this really false idea that people who don’t like to party choose to spend all their Fridays binge-watching Netflix while spooning out gobs of Ben & Jerry’s. False! While I definitely love those nights once in awhile, just because you don’t want to go out and drink doesn’t mean you have to stay in and hide. There are so many things to do in Madison that even thinking that parties are the only activity on a Friday is crazy. This city is amazing and has so many things to explore that limiting yourself to nights in doesn’t do Madison the justice of all its awesomeness (completely sober), like events, activities, venues, and restaurants. But, if you do choose to go out to a party, know you don’t have to drink there to have a good time! You can meet people, just hang out and talk, or my personal favorite, dance!6. It’s completely fine to fake it.

If you’re out and someone keeps offering you drinks or you just feel uncomfortable without something in your hand, just fake it. I personally like to just pour myself some lemonade or if someone hands you something you can always just not drink it. Pretending is perfectly acceptable if that’s what you want to do.7. When, or if, you decide to try alcohol, it’s okay.

The day will come eventually, maybe legally on your 21st birthday, or maybe earlier. The day will come, and when that day is, just know you’re doing it because you want to. That’s what’s amazing about knowing why I don’t drink: when the day does come that I drink, I’ll know I’m doing it because I want to. It won’t be because I’m looking for approval from others, just something for myself.The decision to drink alcohol or not to is an important, but not defining, decision in college. The reality is that UW is an amazing institution with some extra partying on the side. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t love your time here without alcohol! When you understand why you stand where you are, and respect other’s decisions as well, you can have an amazing, sober experience at the best college in the world. Madison may be a “party school” but it’s also an adventure waiting to be explored, no alcohol necessary.