The Good Girl’s Guide To Surviving College

A fun fact about me: I’ve always been known as the “good girl.”

By Meghan Dillon6 min read
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Shutterstock/Inside Creative House

I was the girl in high school who was too scared to go to a party with alcohol because I was terrified of getting in trouble. I was the girl who never had a shoplifting phase because I knew the guilt would eat me alive (every Catholic reading this understands me here). To be fair, many of my friends were the same way, and yet we still found ways to have fun. Years later, the “good girl” label still sticks with me.

I don’t mind the label and certainly don’t think I’m better than others because of it; it’s just what works best for me. However, I remember being very overwhelmed when I started college because I wasn’t sure how I would balance having fun while living up to the standard that I set for myself. 

For my fellow “good girls,” here’s your guide to surviving college and still having fun.

How To Resist Hookup Culture

Hookup culture has a dirty little secret that keeps it so pervasive in our society, and it’s that it’s very tempting. You get a cup of shots of cheap liquor in you *gags at the memory* at a party and see a hot guy across the room, and you remember hearing a girl on your floor talking about how awesome it was to hook up with a random guy last weekend. She made it sound like so much fun, and the FOMO is setting in, so you start to wonder what’s the harm in just making out.

I had a few nights where I gave in to this temptation and kissed a couple of random guys, but I always felt horrible afterward. I had convinced myself that I would be immune from the harm of hookup culture if I didn’t get further than kissing, but I was still miserable. I decided to set a few boundaries for myself, and I’d recommend following them if you still want to go out in college but not participate in hookup culture.

Here are some simple ground rules for keeping yourself (and your friends) safe:

1. Find friends who aren’t into hooking up or heavy partying.

You don't want to find yourself at a party with friends, only to realize they've all disappeared with random guys and you're now on your own. Or girls who end up getting blackout drunk, putting you and themselves at risk. Instead, find friends who are down to have a good time within reason. They'll keep their wits about them even if they're drinking, and they're definitely not abandoning you for a random hookup.

2. Don't put yourself in compromising situations with guys.

This is not about victim-blaming. It's about having situational awareness and being careful about what you're doing with men you don't know well. Don't go into bedrooms alone with guys you don't know or let them take you outside alone. It's a safe bet to just not go anywhere alone with a guy you don't know. He might not be trying to hurt you, but it'll be hard to hookup if you're in a room surrounded by other people. Keep yourself safe and out of temptation's way!

3. Only go out with friends.

Never go to a party by yourself where you don't know anyone. This puts you in an incredibly vulnerable position for multiple reasons. What if you accidentally get too drunk? Who's going to keep an eye on you? How do you know these people are safe? Safe is better than sorry, so make sure you know whose house you're going to, who will be there, and bring your wing women.

4. Set your ground rules.

You and your friends should agree on ground rules before going out. For example, we don't leave unless everyone is leaving together. No one goes home with a guy who isn't her boyfriend. Even better, have one girl be the sober "mom" who's in charge of keeping an eye on everyone. Safety in numbers, remember?

5. You don't owe anyone anything.

The greatest trick guys use to get girls into bed is claiming that they're "owed" sex for one reason or another. So, here's a quick guide: You don't owe a guy sex if he bought you dinner. You don't owe a guy sex because he drove you home. (That's called being chivalrous.) You don't owe him sex because you've kissed. Repeat after me: It's better to be safe than polite.

Prepare for Debate in the Classroom

College is all about your opinions being challenged, and having diversity of thought in the classroom is a good thing, but it’s not always a fair exchange of ideas. I was lucky that I had more professors who welcomed healthy debate than not, but I still had to face a few professors who weren’t fans of healthy debate in the classroom, and all of these professors infused Marxist ideology in the classroom

Even before I switched my political identity from Democrat to Independent near the end of my junior year (it didn’t happen overnight, it was a long time coming), I was never a fan of Marxist theory and was surprised to see some professors talking about Marxism like it was the best thing since sliced bread, and nobody in the classroom wanted to make an argument against it. When I had to read Marx for a class during my junior year, I made an argument against it, and my professor looked at me like I had suggested that the Earth was flat.

To be fair, that was one of the least-liked professors in my major, but unfortunately, you're about four times as likely to find a self-proclaimed Marxist than a conservative professor on a college campus.

1. Check Rate My Professors.

Look at reviews on Rate My Professors before you sign up for classes and try to avoid classes and professors who have a closed-minded reputation. Also avoid professors who have a lot of failing students. You want to keep that shiny GPA.

2. Choose your classes (and major) wisely.

The amount of Marxism and social justice you're likely to encounter really depends on your major. If you're in the Humanities, be prepared for a constant fight and to be bombarded constantly. Science and math majors might be a little more immune, but not for long.

But no matter what your major, you're going to have to take the dreaded GE courses. Be very careful with what classes you choose for these requirements. Avoid classes that are likely to be infused with Marxist ideology – basically anything “studies.” Think women’s studies, gender studies, etc.

Sadly, it's not always possible to avoid radical professors, so if you find yourself in a class with a professor with whom you fundamentally disagree, you basically have two options.

One, say or do whatever it takes to pass the class.

Two, openly disagree but be ready for a fight.

If you value your grades:

Write what they want to hear to get out with your grades intact. You'll probably be compromising your values, but you're not risking your enrollment or your GPA. In the long run, this decision may haunt you because it meant not standing up in a relatively safe environment for your beliefs. It's also setting you up for an adult life of compromise and silence, if that's your go-to response to this type of pressure.

If you want to stand up for your values:

Get ready for a fight. It's safe to bet that the professor and most of your fellow students will openly attack you for voicing a contrarian opinion. You may not have anyone else in the class who's willing to stand up with you (even if they agree with what you're saying).

For essays and other assignments, be prepared to write a kick-ass paper. If you're going to refute what your professor is teaching, you need to make sure you are well-prepared. This probably will mean extra studying up on political theory, economics, and psychology in order to build strong arguments in your favor. Make sure your writing quality is top-notch as well. You don't want to give the professor or the university the low-hanging fruit of bad grammar or spelling in order to dismiss the content of your work.

Other students will hear what you're saying, and hopefully, it will plant a seed of doubt in their minds.

While this path can be lonely and perhaps academically punishing, there's always a purpose. Other students will hear what you're saying, and hopefully, it will plant a seed of doubt in their minds. Perhaps you will inspire other students to stand up and start defending their own views in class. These effects may not be immediately (or ever) apparent to you, but it doesn't mean they're not happening. This is also great practice for real life, where you will still be faced with these moral challenges. You'll just be better prepared to face them when they come along.

No matter what you decide to do, find friends in your classes with similar views so you feel less alone. Developing relationships with any good professors you have will also build your resilience.

Stay Safe on Campus

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that if something bad happens to you, like an assault or a robbery, that it’s never your fault. Situations like these are always the perpetrators' fault. However, there are some precautions you should take to keep yourself safe.

It’s pretty safe to walk to class during the day on a college campus, but you should start taking precautions when it starts getting dark out. I used to carry pepper spray in my backpack and always put my keys between my fingers in case I was attacked.

1. Don’t walk alone after dusk.

College campuses are prime hunting grounds for predators. They know that a lot of women will be walking alone, either coming back from a late class or activity or worse, drunk from a party. (Hint: never, ever walk alone late at night when drunk. Predators aren't the only thing that makes it dangerous.)

2. Be aware of your surroundings.

Even when walking alone during the day, pay attention to what's happening around you. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid distractions like listening to music or talking on the phone. You can also look into if your college campus or a local police station offers a women’s self-defense class.

3. Always, always lock your door.

Your college dorm or apartment probably has a ton of people coming in and out, and it's easy for all those people to forget to lock the door. But that's a big no-no. Make sure to have an agreement with your roommates to always keep the door locked. It might seem common sense to do it at night, but most burglaries actually happen during the day. You don't want to come home and surprise a burglar, or worse, find someone with more dangerous intentions waiting for you when you get home.

Make the Most of Your Experience

College is a very stressful four (or four-and-a-half, in my case) years, but it’s also a great experience. Most people will tell you that it's the extracurriculars that defined their college experience, not the academics.

Here are some ideas for getting involved:

1. Rush a sorority.

People have strong opinions on Greek life, but plenty of women find it to be an empowering and fun experience. Several million women in the U.S. are currently part of or are alumnae of a Greek organization. Greek women tend to perform better academically than their non-Greek counterparts and enjoy plenty of perks from special study hours to fun activities with other chapters.

My one caveat is to watch out for the type of Greek organization you're joining, because they're not all created equal. Sororities that are part of PHC (the national Panhellenic Council) are subject to oversight by their national chapters, which means more support from advisors and very strict rules against hazing.

Avoid co-ed fraternities at all costs. These usually are pre-law or pre-med fraternities. They're notorious for hazing and abuse, plus the presence of male members automatically creates issues around safety and consent. You might also run into cultural fraternities and sororities. While I'm sure not all of them are bad, they suffer from the same issues as the professional organizations – very little national oversight to prevent abuses and hazing.

2. Join another extracurricular activity.

If Greek life isn't your cup of tea, there are plenty of other ways to get involved. Volunteer for a production backstage in the theater department. Help a psychology professor run experiments. Join an intramural sport. Bonus points if the activity helps you learn skills that will be useful for a future career.

3. Get work experience.

This is one of the few times in your life that you can afford to work an unpaid internship since you can get class credit for your time. I worked an unpaid writing gig my senior year that gave me experience in writing, social media, and marketing, ultimately leading me to the two jobs that I have now.

Many colleges offer opportunities for students to do research alongside faculty, especially if you're in a pre-med (or similar) major. This is a great way to make money during school while also getting work experience that can help you land a better job once you graduate.

Most importantly, enjoy your time before adult life sets in. Enjoy every second because it’s over before you know it, and you’ll start missing it the second you walk the stage at graduation.

Closing Thoughts

College can be stressful, but it’s also important to have fun while being safe and responsible. Make the most of your experience by following these rules, and I guarantee that you’ll love college as much as I did.

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