Colleges don't look like scary places, and that's a true statement. If anything, college campuses are some of the most beautiful works of architecture and engineering in the world. There isn't anything terrifying about the grandeur of academic buildings or monuments on campus.
However, the experience of college and the mentalities that are associated with it—partying, hook-up culture, drinking, doing drugs—are much more harrowing indeed.
When I came to college, I was adamant on my own morals and my own values. I had no interest in partying, drinking, or doing drugs. That fact hasn't changed. Call me a bore, call me a goodie-two-shoes, call me whatever, I've heard it all. But I don't believe in sacrificing my own morals and safety just to "fit in" or "have fun." Frankly, if the only way you know to have fun is getting black-out drunk or extremely high, that says more about you than it does about anyone else.
Regardless of my personal beliefs, I respect other people's wishes—so long as they can control themselves. A lot of my friends like to go to parties and such; they're in control of themselves when they go, and that's perfectly fine. However, some people don't see the substances present at these events as what they are: dangerous. And that's what's scary.
The other night, I witnessed someone being taken to the hospital as a result of their actions at a party. It was terrifying. I was extremely concerned about them. They didn't know their limits, and instead of having a fun night, they ended up being carried out of the dorm on a stretcher. The sounds of sirens filled the night, but louder were the sounds of worry, of panic, of absolute fear on behalf of this person.
Drugs are no joke. We've been told this since we were children, taking D.A.R.E. classes and watching countless documentaries in our health classes growing up. For some, the messages instilled a compliant fear of what could happen if they try. For others, the programs only made them want to find out for themselves.
I know that there is no way to police the world in terms of things like this. College kids will be college kids—we will go to parties and we will get drunk and we will get high. That appears to be the nature of our circumstance, and I know I can't change that. I'm not trying to.
But to all those who party each and every weekend, who have seen college as a chance to finally be free, who want to live in the moment without consequence, understand that there is a variety of them, and each is more terrifying than the last. Once you lose control for the night, you do not know where you will end up. You could end up in danger, in a hospital, or worse. That isn't a fate I would wish upon anyone, nor am I blaming those who have fallen victim to these realities.
The true danger of college is the toxic mentality that its inherent freedoms promote. With the stereotypes of college life and the romanticizing of party culture, it can be difficult for incoming college students to feel like there are any other ways to fit in or have fun without involving themselves in something that they cannot begin to fathom. When you don't understand what you're getting into, how can you possibly ensure your own well-being?
If you're going to make bad decisions, then do them safely. One night of fun is not worth your safety or your life.