Jade Cuevas, The Paisano
Seven o’clock: the alarm grunts first. Class at ten; it slaps. Gut, head, joints, eyes — everything not yet sober.
“No rag-rets,” jokes UTSA senior Ashley, a special education major who prefers not to use her last name. “I only have this year left to be crazy and go to parties before getting a career.”
The twenty-something-year-old body slumps up, exhausted from the thirsty Thursday night before.
“It’s a false reality,” says UTSA senior Ramon Medina about his college experience. “Real wild and epic, a lot of parties and new people — it’s a world of its own.”
Unlike semesters, which can drag and be dull, the party scene moves fast. Gratification, if not instant, can be measured in minutes rather than in semesters.
“It’s only Monday afternoon,” says junior Christina Wright. Her hands reverse clenching with mock exasperation. “Already it’s been one of those weeks — know what I mean — when you literally need a break to do anything besides work and school.”
A welcome distraction and release from the weekly grind, attending college parties typically requires significantly less strategic planning, some financial assistance and more effort than completing a four-year degree.
But for now, it’s about the present. Senior Bianca Chapa describes a “typical frat party”: Loud music. Drunk A-holes. Yelling. Upside down keg stands. A wild slip-n-slide.
“It (crazy partying) is not really my cup of tea,” says Chapa, “but I put on a smile, and as school went on I developed a basic group of core friends. My ‘partying’ now involves either an apartment or downtown bar.” After a handful of revelry, Ramon Medina too lost interest in the rage-face party lifestyle. “They get pretty crazy,” Medina comments. “I’m not a big drinker, and once that gets out there, people will hound you pretty good.”
However, if he had not participated in the party scene, Medina says, he would not have met his good friends.
Friendships often stem from sharing fun experiences and interests; many college friendships begin on campus — in and outside of the classroom. Most campus events and student groups market to fulltime traditional college-age students, many of whom live on or near campus. More so, the new group is most likely to have both the enthusiasm for and financial ability to spend on their college experience.
“Every student should be involved with some organization because it improves the experience at UTSA,” encourages senior Adam Bishop, a member of the Green Society, one of UTSA’s more than 250 registered student organizations.
“Green Society has made my college experience more complete, adding a special factor of getting to know people and being involved on campus — you can’t get that from just going to school and studying,” explains Bishop.
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the enrollment of traditional college-age students (adults 18 to 24 years old) in universities and colleges has increased nationwide. As enrollment increases for traditional college-aged students, universities seek to engage their new population of students, many of whom attend classes as full-time students and live on campus or nearby in off-campus housing.
According to the UTSA office of communications, most UTSA students live within 10 miles of Main Campus. Within those 10 miles, 10 percent of UTSA students live either on campus or in apartment complexes adjacent to the 1604 campus: approximately five percent live in the university’s four on-campus housing options; another 5,000 students live in the apartment complexes that cater to and are located near the university. And for many UTSA students who live farther than a walk, bike or apartment-shuttle ride to campus, the commute is less than 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, and for a myriad of reasons, some UTSA students feel like they do not have the time to participate in the social scene. “I was more into that [partying] my first years of college. I just have so much going on now,” says UTSA senior Katelyn Hooper. “My time is divided between school and work. I do most of my socializing on social media.” Hooper’s hectic schedule and consequent balancing act echoes a majority of UTSA students’ schedules. UTSA reports that 70 percent of UTSA students work part and full-time while attending class.
UTSA senior Kendall Casas proves partying is possible. A full-time student working two jobs, Casas has honed the craft of balancing work, school and play. “I make sure to treat school like a profession,” she says. “When I have a free weeknight I tend to use it to get work done or take a moment for myself. Weekends, however, are open for socializing and catching up with friends — if I don’t have the weekend to recharge mentally, I burn out.”
Age, academic pursuits, personal responsibilities, and financial constraints may play a role in a student’s participation in college festivities. Approximately 70 percent of UTSA students receive some type of financial support.
Students who fall a year or few short of the legal drinking age on the thirst to get “turnt” often face a different combination of dangers. Of course, friendship-forming fun is possible without a shared state of drunken stupor, even without alcohol entirely. But, nevertheless, alongside the Solo cup stacks, alcohol is an inevitable acquaintance at parties.
Carpe Diem. Carpe College.
UTSA senior Marissa Cruz observes that for younger college girls, in particular, party-going “options are more flexible because of their easier access to parties where alcohol distribution isn’t being monitored and under-age consumption is prevalent.”
For example, offers Cruz, “At a fraternity party, girls are allowed in — no problem —and basically given free access to the excessive amounts of alcohol, whereas males aren’t even allowed in if not affiliated with that fraternity.” However vapid, the popular mantras glitter truth — Nothing lasts forever. Live it up while you can. You’re only young once — that headline many Twitter and Instagram profiles of social butterflies.
Unfortunately, sometimes the glamour clouds reality, ruins opportunity and masks the severity of risks.
Some party-loving minors invest in their social lives by purchasing a fake driver’s licenses. Underage partygoers without “fake ID” tend to curtail their fiestas to apartment and house parties, where unrestricted alcohol access elevates the risk of alcohol poisoning as well as increases the likelihood of drunk driving and unwanted, predatory sexual advances. If caught, minors with fake IDs risk losing more than a counterfeit party permit. In Texas, having and using an altered driver’s license as well as carrying more than one driver’s license is a Class B misdemeanor with a possible punishment of $2,000 in fines and/or 180 days in jail.
UTSA freshman John A. went to an apartment party once; however, he now prefers another variation of underage jubilee: getting drunk and playing video games with his friends. “I have no regrets,” John A. says, clarifying “unless I get a STD.”
Alcohol, drug and sex-related party fouls are prevalent in the college-age demographic.
Chlamydia. Herpes. Gonorrhea. Syphilis. Parasitic STIs – #SomeRegrets.
In some cases, minors are more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) to receive MIPs (minor in possession citations).According to Stanford University’s Sexual Health Research Center, one in five American college students has a sexually transmitted disease, the most common STD being genital herpes. Often, consequences shrink to afterthoughts after midnight. “As long as I get home safe — #f**kit,” shrugs Bianca Chapa.
“I never regret going out,” claims UTSA junior Andre Childs. “At the same time I wish I would have focused a lot more on my studies.”
A true social experiment, today’s college experience presents what seems like a stale mate between a thrill-seeking #YOLO culture of instant gratification and an age-old career path hinging on discipline, education and the payoff of hard work. No doubt, epic partying and consistent risky behaviors usually translate to unhealthy habits and poor choices (academic, personal and professional) that, in turn, may hinder an individual’s job prospects and performance. However, in choosing to be social, participating in a college party culture, do students waive opportunity and success for frivolity and fun?
No. In fact, partying — in small doses — may be just what academic and career advisers should order.
“College is often, and rightly so, associated with partying, raging and ‘turning up,’ but it is also a reflection of a societal demand placed on people once they reach the real world,” says alumnus Michael Shelton, class of 2014.
“College is like an inauguration,” remarks Shelton. “A time when the party culture is a celebration of newly formed connections, your network, waiting to help you succeed after leaving the campus behind.” The trend and preference of employers for new hires with strong social networking skills as well as technical knowledge negates a perception of party culture as a comprehensive evil.
Just as internships that provide a channel to network with business leaders, parties and other college social gatherings also facilitate meetings with potential co-workers, business leaders and mentors.Rather than viewing partying as the big-bad-wolf of GPAs, Andre Childs views partying as an “entrepreneurial opportunity.”
“College parties are good a place to get together, network, share ideas and get to know your fellow students,” he says. Regardless of how relationships begin, the socio-academic culture of college diverges where friendships often solidify — after hours. Today’s college experience, and the culture and subcultures that stem and sustain it, encourage students not only to find temporary niches, but also to grow lasting networks.
More so, the celebratory, social aspect of college may be a method of propelling an undergraduate degree. “I value my time to myself, and somehow I feel punished for it,” Shelton says about his college experience translated to his postgraduate career. “I mistakenly interpreted the social and celebratory aspects of college culture as a foolish distraction. I valued my solitude but failed to see that party culture is also a place where the exchanging of ideas, connections and networking help you to solidify your own beliefs and personal identity.”
“Rather than building a list of contacts, friends and experiences that could have helped me build a career, I hovered on a wall,” Shelton reflects. “Without these contacts, I’m realizing just how much the culture of college relies on social experiences to help you navigate the real world.”