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9 tips for a stress-free commute

Reading Time: 2 minutes Commuting to and from school can be stressful (especially for those 8 a.m. classes). Here are some ideas to pass the time and bring a little Zen to your commute.

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Reading Time: 5 minutes Find an inclusive community, mentorship programs, and even financial support at the campus diversity office.

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Reading Time: 7 minutes Making use of the disability services on your campus can play a huge role in your academic success. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this valuable resource.

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Student hacks: More freebies than you’ll ever get again

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Student life is full of challenges, sometimes triggering a major case of enough already. You’re probably aware that the campus offers a bunch of services and resources designed to help you be healthy, resilient, and successful. Do they work? In surveys by Student Health 101, you say yes: These services can make the difference between passing or failing, an A or a B, staying in or dropping out. Students often say they regret waiting until they were in a crisis, and wish they’d accessed these resources earlier. Some report that for the longest time they didn’t know certain types of support existed.

Free stuff for students

Campus resources are usually available free or at a low cost. Of course, college gym membership, counseling, and so on are not literally free; their cost is covered by your tuition. If you don’t use them, you’re not getting what you’re paying for. In a recent survey by Student Health 101, more than three out of four college students said this is even more reason to access these services. If you wait until after you’ve graduated to learn yoga or get professional help with your social anxiety, it will likely be costly.

How to know what you have

The availability of resources at any given school depends on various factors. To learn what’s typically available and how can it make your life easier, click on each resource.

Here’s how to make sure you’re not missing out:

  • Scour your college website
  • Talk with staff, faculty, RAs, mentors, and other students
  • Check out any building, event, or publication that suggests resources for students
  • Look for student jobs and other opportunities to work with campus resource centers
  • Review your orientation resources (e.g., Class of 2020 Facebook page)

Academic tutoring, office hours, and study support

“The tutoring center has helped me more than words can describe. I finally understand the work I’m doing, plus it’s free! I went from being an average student to being above average and helping other kids in my classes.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of New Mexico

“They helped me bring my essay writing up to over 80 percent grade-level, elevating my writing ability from high school to university quality in one session.”
—Fifth-year online undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

Typical services

  • Supports students through ongoing or short-term struggles, and helps students become more competitive (e.g., aspiring grad students looking to improve their grades)
  • Office hours provide individualized time with instructors or peer tutors
  • Study centers can help with time management, overcoming procrastination, note taking, effective reading, exam prep, etc.
  • Many study centers provide group workshops in key skills and specialized tutoring for different subjects (or referrals to community-based tutors)
  • Writing centers help students build college-level writing skills (e.g., via brainstorming and editing services)
  • Drop-in hours can help you find quick answers to specific questions
  • Cost if paying privately: $15–$25/hour (student tutors), $50–$75/hour (professional tutors) (various sources)

How it made the difference

“Huge! I took a coding class and had no prior programming experience. I was in office hours all the time. Without being able to go to my instructor for help, I would not have done nearly as well in the class as I did.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Missouri University of Science and Technology

“Office hours enabled me to get additional time with my TAs and further understand the material.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland

Academic advising

“It’s the difference between passing and not passing classes, going to summer school vs. not going.”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Stanislaus

“Without my advisor, I would be so lost on which classes to take when. She provides me with opportunities outside of just choosing classes to better myself in my career.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Northern Michigan University

Typical services

  • Guidance around what classes to take when, in order to meet graduation requirements efficiently, helps students get through their program more quickly and save money by taking classes in the most appropriate sequence
  • Guidance around accessing opportunities relating to degree goals (e.g., internships and conferences)
  • Support with decisions around personal goals relating to career, interests, and/or advanced degrees
  • May provide support with time management and study skills
  • Cost if paying privately: $50–$100/hour (services for students with disabilities) (various sources)

How it made the difference

“Attending academic advising made an incredible difference in relieving the stress of picking courses and making important choices regarding my studies and undergraduate career.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“My academic advisor helps identify a balanced combination of courses so that my course load is not overwhelming.”
—Fourth-year online undergraduate, Florida International University

“It made a world of difference between me going to grad school or not going… between succeeding and failing at the process.”
—First-year graduate student, California State University, Stanislaus

Recreational and fitness resources

“I wish I had started taking advantage of the recreation center and gym earlier, especially while access is free. Exercise is so important to staying healthy and happy, but I didn’t realize how big of an impact it can have.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Texas Christian University

“Changed my lifestyle and health habits completely.”
—First-year graduate student, University of North Dakota

Typical services

  • Free access to gym, weight room, track, pool, etc.
  • Free access to a range of fitness classes and intramurals (varies by school)
  • Most schools allow one guest per student with a nominal fee
  • Personal training (may involve a fee)
  • Consultation with nutritionist or fitness director (varies by school; may involve a fee)
  • Cost if paying privately: gym membership averages $58/month (Cheatsheet); personal training $80–$125/hour (Angie’s List).

How it made the difference

“It made a huge difference! Taking time between classes to work out helped me recharge and let me be ready to learn.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Guelph, Ontario

“It’s great to have free access to fitness equipment. It made a huge difference in my fitness and stress level.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Ferris State University, Michigan

“Having a gym close by is game-changing!”
 —Third-year undergraduate, Queen’s University, Ontario

Library services

“Getting support from librarians and library staff has saved me hours of work on papers and projects.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

“I rented textbooks from the library, which saved me a lot of money.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Windsor, Ontario

Typical services

  • Books, articles, and journals, hard-copy or electronic, available to borrow
  • Research assistance (e.g., finding resources, navigating databases, requesting articles)
  • Extensive online resources, sometimes including instant chat guidance
  • IT stations including free software access
  • Private or group study spaces
  • Loans and sometimes rentals of textbooks, laptops, and other materials (varies)
  • Access to software, such as Microsoft Office
  • Specialized research resources for needs relating to disability services and other programs
  • Printing, photocopying, and scanning (may involve fees)
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“The library made a huge difference. It was a place of quiet where I could put 100 percent of my focus into my work. The people within the library also helped to bring my papers to the next level.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Concordia University of Edmonton, Alberta

“The friendly support of our librarians in helping me find journal articles through the library’s online databases made a huge difference in my being able to complete my research well.”
—Second-year graduate student, Arkansas Tech University

Disability, injury, and illness accommodations and services

“It changed everything. I finally felt like I was on an even playing field with my peers and didn’t have to stress that my condition was setting me back any more.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Stanford University, California

“I got sick with mono and didn’t go for help, and my grades went down. I wish I would have said something sooner to get time to finish school work.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

Typical services

  • Works to create equitable support services for students with physical, psychiatric, or developmental disabilities and illness
  • Academic and living accommodations to help students with challenges related to disability, injury, and illness
  • Core services include learning plan development, exam accommodations, assistive technologies, resources in alternate formats (e.g., Braille), finding funding support, general advising, and personalized support staff
  • Transportation assistance for students with limited mobility
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“Disability services made a massive difference. I probably wouldn’t have made it through university without their support.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

“The Accessibility Resource Center: The accommodations they allow for me are amazing and have greatly helped me succeed in courses.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of New Mexico

“I have ADHD and never wanted to be one of those students who gets extra time and help... So I’ve never gotten help that I probably need. I haven’t overcome it and it’s probably negatively affecting me.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Counseling

“The counseling center helped me more than any paid therapist ever has. They helped me nearly overcome my phobia and deal with substance abuse and sexual assault.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Memphis, Tennessee

“It made a huge difference in helping me understand myself and relate easier to fellow students.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Berea College, Kentucky

Typical services

  • Free counseling/therapy services, confidential for those age 18+ (below that age, inquire about confidentiality law and policy)
  • Individual and group counseling, emergency psychological services, and wellness programming including workshops and groups
  • Support with issues including life transitions and adjusting to college
  • Support with anxiety, stress, depression, other mental health conditions, identity, anger management, body image and disordered eating, family issues, motivation, substance abuse or dependency, abuse, suicidal thoughts, and more
  • Emergency phone line and/or on-call staff for after-business hours and weekends (at some schools)
  • Cost if paying privately: $50–$250/hour (uninsured); insurance typically covers a portion of mental health care.

How it made the difference

“There is a good chance I wouldn’t be in university right now without it.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Windsor, Ontario

“Instead of focusing on me and my problems, I took advantage of group therapy, which allowed me to be a part of other people’s struggles and hear their experiences, difficulties, failures, and losses (and have them experience mine as well). I was able to see, learn from, grow, and get back to living my life.”
—Third-year graduate student, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, New York

“It made a tremendous difference in teaching me valuable lessons on controlling anxiety.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

“I went through an incredibly difficult family emergency while in a very demanding program. Counseling helped me understand and work through the emergency and also provided support when I struggled academically, allowing me to carry on.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

Health services

“The health center saved me a lot of money, because I don’t have good insurance coverage.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of West Georgia

“Excellent system, easy to access, and the doctors are very friendly. I wish I didn’t have so many hesitations and went to them sooner.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Mount Royal University, Alberta

Typical services

  • Consultations and treatment for injury, illness, and health maintenance via campus health center
  • Preventive health services including vaccinations (flu shots, travel vaccines, and more)
  • Smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, recovery support, and other substance use services
  • Specialist health services, including STI and pregnancy testing and birth control
  • Care with chronic allergies, illness (e.g., diabetes), and other conditions, including administering injections
  • Health care providers may include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, physician assistants, and specialists such as psychiatrists
  • Appointments are often free; tests and medications may involve fees
  • Many schools offer student health insurance and/or accept other health insurance
  • Urgent care centers: Cost will vary based on need and insurance
  • Cost if paying privately: uninsured new patient primary care visit averages $160 (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)

How it made the difference

“I love the free things they give out.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, California State University, Channel Islands

“It was so great to have assistance on campus and at such great prices for college students! I appreciate it so much!”
—Second-year undergraduate, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire

“The health center provided me with that-day doctor appointments, which minimized the amount of time I spent out of class sick.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of Wyoming

Career services

“Make use of small amounts of time you get in the day to access career support. This can make an enormous difference in how prepared you are.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Miami, Florida

“It helped me a lot in preparing for job interviews and fixing up my résumé, and the facility is really great about [facilitating] different opportunities and connections.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island

Typical services

  • Internship, summer job, and co-op opportunities, application information, and guidance on making the most of these positions
  • Résumé and cover letter review and workshops
  • Assessment of career interests and options
  • Networking assistance, including connections with alumni
  • Assistance with pursuing further education (e.g., graduate school)
  • Recruitment, job postings, and career fair
  • Exploring career options and strategy
  • Mock interviews
  • Cost of career coaching if paying privately: $100–$500/two-hour session (Undercover Recruiter)

How it made the difference

“Using this service allowed me to apply to summer jobs, confident that my documents were professional and appealing to potential employers.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of New Brunswick

“The Career Advancement Center allowed me to practice my interviewing skills with mock interviews and how to appropriately answer questions.”
—First-year graduate student, Midwestern University, Illinois

Residence life and mentoring

Typical services

  • Support through the range of challenges relating to transitions and college life
  • Formal mentoring programs can provide regular, structured check-ins (varies by school and student population)
  • Informal mentoring by mutual agreement can also be effective
  • Connections to peers and alumni
  • Cost of life coaching if paying privately: $100–$300/hour (LifeCoach.com)

How it made the difference

“It’s always nice to clear your head and speak to an actual person, and then be able to get back to schoolwork.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island

“RAs are incredibly important and useful. They’re the first person I go to with basically any question, and because they are older students, they can answer (honestly, too) any question that you can come up with.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of North Dakota

“I worked at the Solution Center, which answers the campus main line and also is the IT Help Desk. Being a freshman, I learned a lot about deadlines, how things work, where to find information. I just learned about all my resources and what to do when I have issues with something. I basically learned everything about campus, and it helped so much.”
—Second-year undergraduate at California State University, Channel Islands

“Residence Life has been the most useful resource for advice on all sorts of matters. They became my most trusted mentors on campus.”
—Second-year graduate student, Emory University, Georgia

“My scholarship advisor has been a valuable resource, not just academically, but emotionally. He has helped talk me through all of the ups and downs and put things into perspective.”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Stanislaus

Financial support

Typical services

  • Information on taxes, grants, scholarships, job openings, and more
  • Financial aid packages
  • Student loan information, counseling, and advocacy
  • Personal finance consultations for budgeting strategies
  • Drop-in sessions during office hours for information, advocacy, and financial counseling
  • Cost of financial planning if paying privately: $125–$350/hour (Bankrate.com)

How it made the difference

“The financial aid advisors are a great help; you realize the breakdown of a survival budget throughout school, until you get to where you want to be in life.”
—Second-year student, Elgin Community College, Illinois

“The financial aid office made a big difference in the amount of assistance I receive.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Cambrian College, Ontario

“Finance services can help you get a jump on financial opportunities on and around campus, such as work-study, job openings, and budgeting.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate student, Clemson University, South Carolina

“Student employment [opportunities at my school were] the top reason why I decided against transferring.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Endicott College, Massachusetts

Support for minority communities

Typical services

  • Special benefits/scholarships for veterans (via Veteran Affairs Office or equivalent)
  • International student services assist with cultural transitions and other issues
  • Native American student services may include advising, scholarships, housing, etc.
  • Chaplaincy and other religious and spiritual services offer community and worship, often in a multi-faith environment
  • Gender equity services and women’s centers provide community and support with issues relating to discrimination
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“The indigenous student support services made it possible for me to complete my first undergrad and start my second one. I wish I’d accessed the Native Student Union earlier.”
—Second-year student, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“The gender equity center changed my perspective, provided support and education, and allowed me to connect with the campus community.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Boise State University, Idaho

“The international student office provides me with the information that I need for work and study permits.”
—Recent graduate, Fleming College, Ontario

Title IX (anti-discrimination) services

Typical services

  • Promotes a nondiscriminatory educational, living, and working environment
  • Confidential resources and support relating to actions that violate nondiscrimination laws and policies, including sexual assault, coercion, and harassment, and exclusion of transgender students from facilities and opportunities
  • Coordinates, provides, and/or refers to services including victim advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, counseling, disability services, health and mental health services, and legal assistance
  • Investigates cases of alleged misconduct and applies appropriate remedies
  • Provides advocacy and training related to discrimination and violence
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent.

How it made the difference

“One girl was harassing and bullying me. The police took the situation very seriously and took me to meet with the dean. I received a no-contact order with that student and have yet to hear from her since.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Indiana University Southeast

“It helped me with my sexual assault case and made me feel like my situation mattered.”
—Fourth-year online undergraduate, University of North Dakota

“I was 20 and a student during winter term [when I was sexually assaulted]. It made me feel powerless. I had tried to be his friend. I reported to my area coordinator and then later the public safety staff. I had to give a statement at the student board. Took three months to come up with a verdict.”
—Undergraduate, Oregon

Your wish list: What you'd like to see on campus

These responses came from students at numerous colleges and universities across the US and Canada. Some of these resources may be available at your school.

  • Free coffee
  • Public sleep/nap areas
  • Dance rooms or public art spaces
  • Prayer room
  • Sign language
  • Drivers Ed
  • Easier access to rental vehicles
  • Support with budgeting, filing taxes, and legal issues
  • Summer rec. center access
  • Vegetarian/vegan dining stations
  • Groups supporting eating healthy on residence meal plan
  • Gender-neutral bathrooms and housing
  • Clubs and scholarships for first-generation students
  • Better support for transfer students
  • Resources for young parents
  • Resources for disabled students to gain life skills

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Danielle Berringer, administrative support, Accommodated Learning Centre, University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Burress, H. (2015, January 19). What factors affect the cost of a personal trainer? Angie’sList.com. Retrieved from https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-factors-affect-cost-personal-trainer.htm

Colorado Mesa University. (2015). Mentoring. Retrieved from https://www.coloradomesa.edu/student-services/diversity-and-health/mentoring.html

Costa, C. D. (2016, January 1). Why a gym membership is usually a bad investment. Money & Career CheatSheet. Retrieved from https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/why-a-gym-membership-is-usually-a-bad-investment.html/?a=viewall

Georgia State University. (n.d.). Nutrition consultations. https://recreation.gsu.edu/fitness/fitness-center/nutrition-consultations/

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2011). Treatment providers in the community. Retrieved from https://www.hws.edu/studentlife/pdf/psychotherapists_community.pdf

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2016). Sexual misconduct resources and support. Retrieved from https://www.hws.edu/studentlife/titleIX_office.aspx

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2015, May 5). Primary care visits available to most uninsured but at high price. Retrieved from https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/primary-care-visits-available-to-most-uninsured-but-at-a-high-price.html

Lifecoach.com. (2016). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from https://www.lifecoach.com/coaching-faqs

NCSU Libraries. (n.d.). Technology lending. Retrieved from https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/techlending

MacDonald, J. (2015, December 31). Financial planners: Not just for millionaires anymore. Bankrate.com. Retrieved from https://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/financial-planners-not-just-for-millionaires-anymore-1.aspx

Student Health 101 survey, July 2016.

Sundberg, J. (n.d.). Is a career coach worth the money? UndercoverRecruiter.com. Retrieved from https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/career-coach-worth-money/

University of Lethbridge. (2016). Resources. Retrieved from https://www.uleth.ca/counselling/content/u-l-resources

The University of Maine. (n.d.). Financial resources for students. Retrieved from https://umaine.edu/sss/finances/

University of Notre Dame. (2016). Want to mentor? Retrieved from https://careercenter.nd.edu/alumni-mentor/want-to-mentor/

University of Washington. (2014). Undergraduate advising. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/uaa/advising/finding-help/study-centers-and-tutoring/

The student guide to going out

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Going to a party? Or throwing one? Party-throwers and party-goers play a vital role in shaping the sexual culture of your campus. Party-throwers are the social engineers who design the spaces in which students meet, dance, talk, and sometimes drink or hook up. A well-planned environment helps everyone to make mindful decisions. And as a party guest, you can do a lot to make this easier for your host and more fun for yourself and others. Every time you demonstrate mutual respect, you reduce the likelihood of campus sexual assault and/or alcohol poisoning. Here’s how to throw a great party and be a great guest.

The minimum legal age for consuming alcohol in the US is 21.

How to make your party work for you

Invitation

INVITATION

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How invitations can set the tone and expectations

Set the tone
How you talk about a party can go a long way in helping your guests imagine what it will be like. What’s the tone or vibe you want for your party? For example:

  • If you don’t want people throwing up on your couch, don’t advertise the party with lots of alcohol images.
  • Party themes can be fun—if they’re inclusive and thoughtful. Themes based on racial or gender stereotypes set up the party for failure.
  • Consider how many guests you can realistically handle: the  more people, the more potential for problems.

Set expectations
Are there “house rules” you want your guests to know about? For example:

  • You’d like to know in advance if they’re bringing friends
  • Certain spaces in your venue are off-limits
  • Behavioral tip-offs:
    • “Costumes are optional; respect for everyone is required”
    • “Please help us with cleanup before you leave”

 

Designated greeter

DESIGNATED GREETER

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“Oh, hi there!” Why it helps to have a designated greeter

Set a friendly tone
Consider explicitly assigning someone (or a few people) the task of greeting guests and inviting them in.

House rules
If there’s stuff your guests need to know, like when this thing is shutting down, consider posting it in the entryway.

Check in with arriving guests
Are they arriving alone? Slurring their words? Wobbly on their feet? You might want to check in with someone’s friends, get them medical attention, or not serve them any more alcohol.

Send people home safely
Make sure your guests have a safe way to get home. Check in with them as they leave. Post info about taxi and ride services, as well as medical response resources in case of accidents or alcohol poisoning.

 

Check in with neighbors and campus security

CHECK IN WITH NEIGHBORS AND CAMPUS SECURITY

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Give certain people a heads-up

Here’s why that works out better for you:

Check in with your neighbors

  • Let them know you’re planning a party. Better yet, invite them! Let them know the day and time of the party (start to end).
  • Give them your phone number. Ask them to call or text if they have any concerns. Ideally, any noise complaints would be communicated to you first, rather than to the police. Don’t forget to pay attention to your phone during the party.

Check in with your campus security department

  • They will get in touch with you if something happens in your area that you and your guests should know about.
  • They may give you a call if they get a noise complaint rather than showing up and shutting the party down.
  • They may be able to help people get to and from the party safely.

Check campus policies and state laws

  • For example, if alcohol is being served and you do not have a liquor license, it may be illegal to collect money at the door—for any reason.

 

Dance and Chill Space

DANCE SPACE & CHILL SPACE

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Why parties need several spaces and options

Not everyone has fun the same way all the time.

Dance space
When you’re putting together the playlist or choosing entertainers or DJs, think about how well they fit your values and priorities for the party. Avoid music that seems derogatory or aggressive.

Chill space
Provide a quieter, more well-lit space where your guests can hang out, catch their breath, and talk. Play softer music. It’s a good idea to stock this space with cold water bottles and low-salt, high-protein snacks.

A set-up that makes room for conversation will help your guests communicate more clearly. This is especially important if two people are considering going home together.

Think about adding activities (apart from dancing) that don’t involve alcohol, like Jenga®, board games, and trivia.

 

Off-limits area

OFF-LIMITS AREA
& ISOLATED SPACE

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What to do about isolated spaces

If there are isolated spaces in your party venue, decide whether or not to keep them open and accessible.

If not: Lock the door, rope off the space, and/or hang signs saying the space is closed.

If you keep isolated areas open, assign someone the task of checking in on those spaces throughout the party.

 

Host

GET MEDICAL HELP IN CASE OF ALCOHOL POISONING & HANDLE DIFFICULT GUESTS

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How to trouble shoot at parties

Get medical help in case of alcohol poisoning
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the medical response resources available on your campus or in your community. If everything goes according to plan, your guests will drink safely and won’t need to use them.

Any of the following symptoms indicates alcohol poisoning
Call for medical help immediately:

  • Can’t walk unassisted
  • Unconscious and unresponsive
  • Vomiting continuously

Handle difficult guests
Keep your cool. Controlling tone and body language can be tricky, but it’s crucial to prevent the situation from escalating further.

  • Make clear “I” statements. Telling someone that they are too drunk or too aggressive invokes defensiveness. Try something like “I’m sorry but I can’t give you another drink” or “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
  • Ask for help. If the situation seems volatile, enlist the help of others: your co-hosts or close friends, or friends of the person causing trouble (ask them to take their friend home).

 

Host

WEAR SIGNATURE CLOTHING, CHECK IN ON GUESTS, & SUBTLY DISRUPT UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS

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How to be the party-thrower of party-goers’ dreams

Make yourself noticeable
Pick a certain color, a silly hat, or a large pin (“Here to help!”). This lets guests know where to turn if anything comes up. If a large group is throwing the party, consider trading off “hosting duties” through the evening.

Model supportive social dynamics
Party-throwers are especially attuned to the general mood. You get to take the lead on looking out for one another and treating guests with respect. If you drink alcohol, stop after one or two.

Make the rounds
Introduce people and troubleshoot issues as they come up.

Check isolated spaces, such as bedrooms, closets, and yards.

Subtly disrupt uncomfortable situations
Maybe a guest is getting unwanted attention or someone is pressuring others to drink. It’s your party: You can check in whenever you notice something, no matter how small. The most effective interventions happen early and subtly. Distract people, change the topic, make a joke or an introduction.

 

Designated server

BAR—IF YOU’RE SERVING ALCOHOL

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How to help your guests make mindful choices

If you plan to serve alcohol, aim for an environment in which everyone can make mindful, deliberate choices about whether they want to drink and how much. A successful party does not have to involve alcohol.

If you serve alcohol:

  • Keep it in one place. This way, your guests drink only if they’ve made an active choice to do so. Having alcohol in multiple places suggests that drinking (and often drinking heavily) is the default.
  • Have ice on hand. Your cocktails and mocktails (nonalcoholic cocktails) will feel fancier and your guests will take their time sipping their drinks.
  • Use narrow cups and proper measuring tools. If you’re serving hard liquor, use a 1 oz. shot glass.
  • Offer one or two nonalcoholic mocktails; promote them on signs or posters. Look online for recipes.

 

Designated server

DESIGNATED SERVER

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Why it helps to have a designated server

For guests, this set up makes drinking an active choice rather than a default. It’s easier for people to count their drinks over the course of the evening.

Designated servers are awesome at these party skills:

  • Mixing tasty cocktails that complement the party theme, or just serving beer or wine.
  • Not over-pouring drinks.
  • Keeping an eye out, noticing who needs to switch to something nonalcoholic.
  • Offering nonalcoholic options, including mocktails.

Many campuses and community organizations offer classes on bartending skills and safe serving practices—often for free.

 

How to get invited back

Invitation

NOTICE THE TONE, HOUSE RULES, & PLAN AHEAD

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Pay attention to the invitation

Notice the tone 
The invitation (whatever form it takes) should give you some idea of what your hosts have in mind. Big house party? Chill get-together?

Respect their house rules 
Validate the hosts’ trust in you. They might want to keep certain areas off-limits, or they may need to end things at a certain hour.

Plan ahead
Think about what you want out of the party. If alcohol will be served: Do you want to drink? How much? You can have a great time at any party without drinking any alcohol. If you do plan to drink, a good rule of thumb is one standard drink every hour or 1½ hours.

Be a good sport about the theme 
If your hosts have gone through the trouble of coming up with a theme, do your best to play along. A good theme will make room for everyone to participate in whatever way they feel comfortable, so feel free to find your own.

  • Does something about the theme seem off to you? Playing to racial or gender stereotypes is unlikely to end well. If the theme raises a red flag, bring that up with the hosts ahead of time. They would probably prefer to tweak things early on than end up with a lousy party.

 

Text message

TOUCH BASE WITH THE HOST

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Touch base with the host in advance

Get in touch with your host at least a day in advance. Do they need help setting up? Or staying late to help clean up? This a great way to show your appreciation.

If you want to bring something, consider snacks (preferably low-salt and high-protein ones, like Greek yogurt dip or hummus with veggies) or mixers. These go quickly at parties, and your hosts will appreciate having extras.

 

A guest waving hello to the host

WELCOME THE NEWBIES,
& SAY HI TO THE HOST

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Say hi to the host and the newbies

Find the host when you arrive
You’re here to see them, and they’ll be happy to know you made it. Ask if they could use a hand with anything.

If you don’t know many people there, tell your host
They want you to have fun. They probably have a good sense of who you’ll get along with, and can introduce you.

If you see new faces in the room, say hello
Offer to show them around, and introduce them to other guests. You’ve been that newbie—remember the relief when someone made you feel welcome in a new space.

If you’re the newbie, branch out

  • Parties are a great place to meet new friends. Foolproof conversation starters: “How do you know [the host]?” and “Got any tips or intel for rookies about life at [this school]?”
  • Trust your instincts. You may be new to this particular space, but you’re very good at knowing when you’re having fun and feeling welcomed. If you’re feeling pressured or getting an uncomfortable vibe from someone, pull a third person into the mix or come up with an excuse to leave the interaction.

 

Dance Space

RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE’S LIMITS – AND YOUR OWN

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Respect other people’s limits – and your own

Fun means different things to different people. Some people would rather hang out and talk than spend the night on the dance floor. Some people will be more comfortable getting physical than others. Whatever it is, pay attention to the cues you’re getting, and respect them.

  • Most of us are very good at reading the subtle communicative cues we get from other people—including in romantic and sexual situations.
  • We can tell when someone is engaged and enthusiastic versus disengaged and uninterested. We notice things like whether the other person is leaning in or pulling away, intensifying or slowing down.
  • Ideal encounters happen when there is mutual enthusiasm. If you encounter anything less than that, take a step back and reassess. Hold out for a better situation.

 

A group of students taking a selfie

LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS

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Look out for yourself and others

If you notice a troubling dynamic, think about how best to step in
Perhaps you notice someone experiencing unwanted attention or being pressured to drink more than they want to. Maybe you see some broken glass or someone in need of medical attention.

Whatever it is, there’s always something you can do
This is your community, and you play an important role in making it a positive and supportive one. You could:

  • Check in: Say hello, ask a question, ask for help. A small distraction like that can give someone the out they need.
  • Engage the hosts: Let the people who are throwing the party know sooner rather than later. The sooner you spot potential trouble, the easier it is to redirect things unobtrusively.
  • Find the friends: If you don’t know the people involved, you can find their friends and see if they can intervene.

If you’re worried that your friend is pressuring others
This can be a great opportunity for a stealthy intervention—for example, by joining a conversation or people on the dance floor. If you’re close to your friend, you can always demand that they consult you about something important in the other room.

 

Designated server

IF YOU CHOOSE TO DRINK, DO SO MINDFULLY

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If you choose to drink, do so mindfully

People have different limits when it comes to alcohol
Many people make the decision not to drink alcohol at all. Pressuring someone to drink beyond their limit puts them at risk and creates more work for your host. That guest who drinks too much may get sick, need medical attention, or be unable to get home safely.

Trust your own limits
Be especially cautious if you are stressed or sleep-deprived, taking medication, have alcohol misuse in your family, or have diabetes. If you’ve chosen to drink alcohol, remember to pace yourself so that you’re sober enough to enjoy the party and the company of your friends. Tips for drinking safely:

  • Think ahead to the party and decide if and how much you want to drink.
  • Limit yourself to one drink per hour or 1½ hours.
  • Hydrate! Alternate alcoholic drinks with water, seltzer, or soda.
  • Ask and remind friends to support your decision about drinking limits.
  • Avoid drinking games. “Drinking games are designed to have you fail and promote more drinking,” says Dr. Scott Lukas, a researcher in substance use and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Include people who don’t want to drink

  • Offer nonalcoholic options if you’re offering to get the next round of drinks: “Does anyone want another beer or soda?”
  • Suggest conversation and dancing—activities that don’t center on drinking. Think of something that everyone can take part in.
  • Model reasonable drinking habits so that sober people feel comfortable being around you. Feel free to turn down a drink you don’t want with a quick “No thanks” or “Still working on this one.”

 

Designated greeter

CHECK IN AGAIN BEFORE YOU LEAVE

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Check in again before you leave

Thank the host for a great party
Ask if they need anything before you head out: Can you lend a hand cleaning up? Can you walk someone home or give them a ride?

Don’t leave your host in the lurch
If your host is dealing with drunk or unruly guests, ask what you can do to help. Maybe you could suggest that everyone head out for pizza, help find the stragglers’ friends, or offer them a ride home.

 

Text message

FOLLOW UP

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Follow up the next day

Thank your host
They’ll be happy to hear what you enjoyed. If their party planning supported different ways to have fun, say how much you appreciated it.

Check in with anyone you may have been concerned about at the party

  • If you weren’t able to act in the moment, don’t assume the opportunity has passed. You can always check in afterward: “I saw you at the party on Saturday. I was concerned. Did that work out OK?”
  • This is especially effective if you are noticing an ongoing dynamic. You might get coffee with a friend to talk about their new relationship. You can also check in with a friend if their behavior has been a little pushy lately.
  • If you are concerned about a friend’s behavior, it can be useful to talk to them later when there is time to sit down.
  • Avoid taking an accusatory tone. Voice your concerns about the particular situation or pattern of behavior.
  • Make sure your friend knows you’re bringing this up because you care about them and you want to look out for them. You can say something like: “I know you meant well” or “You know that I think you’re a great person.”
  • You know your friend best: You’re equipped to figure out how to have a conversation about why it’s wrong to use pressure.

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Melanie Boyd, PhD, assistant dean in student affairs at Yale University; lecturer in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

Abbey, A. (2011). Alcohol’s role in sexual violence perpetration: Theoretical explanations, existing evidence, and future directions. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(5), 481–489.

Abbey, A. (2002). Alcohol-related sexual assault: A common problem among college students [Supplement]. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 14, 118–128.

Benson, B. J., Gohm, C. L., & Gross, A. M. (2007). College women and sexual assault: The role of sex-related alcohol expectancies. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 341–351.

Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Moynihan, M. M. (2004). Bystander education: Bringing a broader community perspective to sexual violence prevention.
            Journal of Community Psychology, 32(1), 61–79.

Bay-Cheng, L. Y., & Eliseo-Arras, R. K. (2008). The making of unwanted sex: Gendered and neoliberal norms in college women’s unwanted sexual experiences.
            Journal of Sex Research, 45(4), 386–397.

Carmody, M. (2005). Ethical erotics: Reconceptualizing anti-rape education. Sexualities, 8(4), 465–480.

Hingson, R. W. & Howland, J. (2002). Comprehensive community interventions to promote health: Implications for college-age drinking problems.
            Journal of Studies on Alcohol Supplement 14, 226–240.

Lindgren, K. P., Pantalone, D. W., Lewis, M. A., & George, W. H. (2009). College students’ perceptions about alcohol and consensual sexual behavior: Alcohol leads to sex.
            Journal of Drug Education, 39(1), 1–21.

Mohler-Kuo, M., Dowdall, G. W., Koss, M. P., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Correlates of rape while intoxicated in a national sample of college women.
            Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 65(1), 37–45.

Sweeney, B. N. (2011). The allure of the freshman girl: Peers, partying, and the sexual assault of first-year college women. Journal of College & Character, 12(4).

Why is everyone talking about sexual assault on campus?

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The evidence is clear: Sexual assault and coercion are common on campuses, and have been for decades. Why have we taken so long to see it?

In part, because most sexual assault does not look as we might expect it to. We may struggle with the notion of our classmate as a sexual predator, or alcohol as a weapon. Acts of sexual violence and coercion can be camouflaged by the college party scene and our own beliefs about sexual behavior. Many campus survivors resist the terms “sexual assault,” “rape,” and “victim,” even while describing experiences that meet those definitions.

In a random survey of more than 1,000 current or recent students, 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men reported at least one nonconsensual sexual experience in college, according to the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation in 2015. Disabled, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face a higher-than-average risk, a White House report concluded in 2014.

Whatever we call sexual assault, it can have serious, long-term consequences for survivors’ academic success and physical and emotional health. That’s why colleges and the federal government are working to establish safer campuses for all.

Is it true that most men are not violent?

Most men are not violent, sexually or otherwise, says Corey Ingram, MSW, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Violence Intervention & Prevention program at the University of South Carolina.

According to Ingram’s analysis of multiple studies, it is likely that

  • 92–94 percent of men do not commit sexual assault.
  • 82–87 percent of men do not commit acts of interpersonal violence.

Many male students are speaking up and taking action to interrupt sexual violence, and many others want to learn how. Male advocates are active in organizations such as Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) and Men Can Stop Rape, and on some campuses.



What attitudes and beliefs play a role?

Sexual assault within specific communities is often associated with:

  • Social norms that make it harder to speak up in defense of oneself or others; e.g., a double sexual standard that judges people differently for sexual activity.
  • A party culture that links alcohol with expectations of sex.

On and off campus, certain groups, organizations, and communities are associated with harassment and exploitation, including sexual violence. “What we may notice is a harsh group culture that accepts mockery even when it becomes harmful, and targets people who are seen as lower status, like women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and disabled people,” says Lee Scriggins, an expert in sexual assault education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In isolation, any single instance may seem insignificant, but it is part of a continuum of coercion that starts with sexual comments and judgments.

On campuses, sexual assault has been associated with some fraternities and athletics teams. However, similar group dynamics manifest in other communities within and beyond college. Such groups may be social, political, athletic, or professional, and tend to share the following characteristics, says Scriggins:

  • High-status organizations with strong internal hierarchies
  • Strong group identity and boundaries (the sense of insider and outsider)
  • Higher than average similarity among members
  • A feeling of being somewhat apart from society and embattled
  • Secret traditions
  • Bonding through drinking


How does alcohol come into it?

Alcohol does not cause sexual assault; perpetrators do. Nevertheless, on campuses, alcohol use and sexual assault are closely connected. Here’s why:

  • Alcohol can be a weapon: Campus sexual aggressors may deliberately get their targets drunk; intoxicated victims may be less able to evade assault and easier to blame, according to Dr. David Lisak.
  • People who drink use more aggression: The amount of alcohol that perpetrators consume is related to how much aggression they use and to the type of sexual assault they commit, a study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2003) suggests.
  • Alcohol clouds social awareness: Consuming alcohol may make it harder to pick up on signs of threat and risk, researchers say (Journal of Family Violence, 2007).

And here are the numbers:

  • Every year, 97,000 students aged 18–24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault, suggests a 2009 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
  • Every year, more than 100,000 students aged 18–24 may be too intoxicated to know whether or not they consented to sex (CDC, 2002).
  • Rape is more common on campuses that have higher rates of heavy drinking, according to a 2004 study of 119 schools (Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs).
  • Most incapacitated sexual assaults of students occur at parties, according to the National Institute of Justice (2008).

For more on alcohol and sexual assault, see Student Health 101, October 2015.



How do campus social dynamics contribute?

“Self-blame and victim-blaming, including by women of other women, are surprisingly prevalent on campuses,” says Tara Schuster, coordinator of health promotion at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York.

In part, this reflects a mistaken belief that many accusations of sexual assault are false. “David Lisak’s research shows that only about 2–10 percent of all reported rapes are fabricated. Students (men and women alike) often think this number is much higher,” says Schuster.

  • Among college students, demeaning attitudes toward women are associated with rape myths and sexual aggression, according to a 2004 study in Violence Against Women.
  • In a study involving 205 college athletes, most said they did not accept rape myths, yet many participants misunderstood consent, believed in “accidental” and fabricated rape, and thought that women provoke rape (Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 2007).
  • The negative judgment of women for being sexually active helps explain why perpetrators target first-year students, who are seen as “fresh” and “clean,” according to a 2012 analysis in the Journal of College and Character.


Is sexual assault deliberate?

Sexual assaults on campus are deliberate and planned, according to Dr. David Lisak, a clinical psychologist and forensic consultant whose research has been pivotal in understanding sexual violence on and off campus. These acts are not “misunderstandings.”

  • Perpetrators target vulnerable students; for example, those who are younger and new to college, less experienced with alcohol, and eager to fit in, Dr. Lisak found.
  • Perpetrators target people they know; In 85–90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women, the survivor knew the attacker; about half occurred on a date, according to the National Institute of Justice (2008).

The perp mindset
Certain attitudes are more common among sexual aggressors than in the general population:

  • Reduced empathy toward others (Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1995)
  • Hostility toward women and a belief in rape myths (e.g., that victims are to blame) (Violence Against Women, 2004; Journal of Family Violence, 2004).

Stereotypically “male” attitudes and behaviors, including toughness and violence (Sex Abuse, 1996).



How much of a difference can I make?

We are all part of this community and we all experience opportunities to do and say the right thing. Most of us want to help others. Nevertheless, sometimes we may feel conflicted: Is this really my business? Will it be awkward if I say something and it turns out he doesn’t need my help after all?

Bystander intervention training aims to empower us to act on our helping instincts. We probably can’t change perpetrators’ motives, but we can create an environment in which it’s harder for them to act on their aggressive intentions and easier for us to hold them accountable.

Active bystanders do any or all of the following:

  • Check our own ideas and assumptions, so that we are not part of the problem.
  • Resist behaviors that support sexual violence, such as demeaning language and victim-blaming.
  • Disrupt risky situations that may precede an assault; intervention may be indirect (e.g., turning the lights on to expose and disrupt a potentially threatening scenario) or direct (e.g., telling an aggressor to back off, or offering the targeted person an easy out).
  • Support a survivor following an assault.

Students who are trained in bystander intervention are more confident in their ability to prevent assault, research shows.



How many perpetrators are involved?

In the last 15 years, research has shown that most sexual assaults on campuses are carried out by a relatively small number of aggressors. This is similar to other settings, such as in the US Navy.

For example, in a groundbreaking study involving 1,900 male university students, 120 men (1 in 16) self-reported actions that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape (Violence and Victims, 2002):

  • Most of the 120 were repeat rapists.
  • The repeat rapists averaged six rapes each.
  • Four percent of the men were responsible for more than 400 attempted or completed rapes.
  • Most of the aggressors used alcohol to intoxicate or incapacitate their victims.
  • Most of the 120 had committed other acts of violence, such as battery or child abuse.

Most studies focus on male perpetrators of sexual assault and abuse. Less commonly, women can be perpetrators: Reliable data are scarce, in part because many male survivors are embarrassed about or ashamed of acknowledging that they have been assaulted.

What we think about when we think about sex

The 4-step bystander self-intervention

The risk of judgment makes it harder for survivors of sexual assault to speak up and more difficult for us to hold sexual aggressors accountable. We may not always be aware that our own comments and behaviors can reinforce barriers to addressing sexual violence. Here’s how to think about our own thinking. By Jaclyn Friedman, author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety (Seal Press, 2011).

1. Check your influences on your ideas about sexuality

“What messages have you learned about sex and what was the motive behind them? You can take control of your relationship with those influences,” says Jaclyn Friedman, sexual assualt survivor and author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety (Seal Press, 2011). 

Our ideas about sexuality have been shaped by family and peers, religious institutions, schools, media and popular culture, and other sources.

Re-evaluating these influences includes checking your assumptions about what everyone else is doing. “College students do a lot less hooking up than everyone thinks. You may be trying to aspire to a norm that’s not a norm at all. Do what works for you,” says Friedman. Three out of four college students said they had zero or one sexual partner in the last 12 months, according to the American College Health Association—National College Health Assessment survey (spring 2014).



2. Stop judging other people’s sexuality – and your own

“As long as you’re not hurting anyone else or invading their autonomy, there are no right or wrong ways to go about your sex life,” says Friedman.

“It’s liberating to stop judging other people because their sex life is different from yours. The insidious thing about those judgments, even if we don’t say them out loud, is that they reinforce to us that we deserve to be judged as well. It’s harming us too.”

The risk of judgment and sexual shaming makes it harder for survivors of sexual assault to speak up, and more difficult to hold sexual predators accountable.



3. Value quality over quantity

“Shift to the idea of sex as a collaborative, creative experience with another person. Then we start taking responsibility for our partner having a good time. This is the backbone of enthusiastic consent,” says Friedman.

“Let go of the idea that sex is an accomplishment, something to collect, a commodity that we trade in, something one person gives up and the other person gets.”

What this looks like
“When a friend says, ‘I just had sex with so-and-so,’ the response shouldn’t be, ‘That’s awesome!’ The response should be, ‘How was it?’ Sex is not an inherent good.”



4. Understand enthusiastic consent

“If we as a campus culture adopt enthusiastic consent as a cultural value, and the idea of sex as a pleasurable, creative concept, then the rapists among us become obvious. The rest of us are going to stop making excuses for the rapists,” says Friedman.

Why this matters   
At the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial in 2013, two high school athletes were found guilty of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl who was incapacitated by alcohol. 

“At the trial, a bystander said he didn’t intervene because he didn’t know that was what rape looked like,” says Friedman. “Why not? Because sex is seen as a commodified exchange in which the woman lies there and guys do stuff to her. If the bystander had understood sex as an engaged, collaborative experience for all parties, that incident would have looked like rape to him.”




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