13 College Party Themes

College prepares you for your career and teaches you valuable lessons you can use in all parts of your life. However, college is a great place to meet people, make lifelong friends, and have an active social life.

Parties give college students a chance to blow off steam, and you can get creative with themes, games, and drinks. You don’t need to wait for birthdays or holidays to celebrate. Here are 13 party ideas for the dorm or off-campus.

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1. Graffiti Party

A traditional graffiti party uses sharpies, and there’s a backlight graffiti party with highlighters.

Place a large poster board at the dorm or apartment entrance so people can tag it as they enter the room. Put a bunch of sharpie and/or highlighters of different colors nearby, and people can tag each other with their names, sayings, and wacky or risque jokes.

Buy blacklights to light up the house if you want to throw a highlighter party. Use washable markers so you can get rid of stains left by marks on floors, ceilings, or furniture.

Dressing for a graffiti party is easy. Wear a white T-shirt and pants, and avoid any outfit that is formal or expensive. If you’re okay with the clothes being written on, wear them.

Be aware that graffiti parties usually attract a few people who’ll use markers to write vulgar sayings on other party goers who pass out from drinking too much alcohol. Don’t get drunk and you’ll avoid this fate.

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2. Formal Ties and Pearls Party

If you have the time and money, throw a fancy ties and pearls party. You’ll need the right group of classmates and friends to have a formal party. Some people refuse to get dressed up or act in a “civil” manner when partying, no matter what.

Dress up like you’re attending the opera or opening night of a Broadway play. A formal party requires more preparation than many college theme parties unless you already own a few formal outfits.

Use champagne glasses instead of red plastic cups. You can buy wine from Trader Joe’s or sparkling apple cider if you can’t afford expensive champagne. Set the tone for your party by putting glasses and bottles of wine or champagne on the table by the front door.

Use china and silverware as place settings instead of paper plates, or place china, cloth napkins, and silverware near the buffet if people are helping themselves to food.

Replace bright fluorescent light bulbs with dimmer lights. Only use candles in places where you’re sure they won’t be knocked over by tipsy partygoers. Use attractive lace tablecloths or fine linen table coverings. Avoid cheap paper tablecloths.

Play classical or easy-listening music. Hire a piano player to play show tunes or a singer to croon soft musical hits from the 20th Century or current easy-listening songs. Music will set the background for the party regardless of the era it represents.

Guys should wear a regular tie or bow tie, button-up shirt, vest, suit jacket, and dress shoes. Girls can wear real or faux pearls, a cocktail dress, and heels, or flats. Dress like you would for a wedding or awards ceremony. Be formal, but comfortable. Girls should can flats instead of high heels if they plan to dance, and guys should avoid too-tight suit jackets.

People usually think of college parties as crass affairs with lots of drinking and obnoxious behavior. A ties and pearls party gives you a chance to display your classy, laid-back side and enjoy the finer things of life.

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3. Fiesta

Decorate your party area with Fiesta décor, usually known as Cinco de Mayo supplies. Popular supplies include donkey piñatas, letter banners, fiesta-themed head boppers, and Cinco de Mayo bead necklaces. Spice up alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Use hot sauce or spices to give drinks a kick.

Wear bright colors and invite guests to do so, too. Watch the movie The Three Amigos to get ideas for fun and festive costumes. Ruffled shirts and blouses, long, tiered skirts, and wide-brimmed Panama hats are a few clothing ideas for your party.

Wear a serape poncho This is a colorful piece of clothing that drapes on your shoulders and goes down to your knees. Wear this cape with a sombrero for a display of authentic Mexican dress. Guests can wear mariachi costumes and bring maracas or musical instruments to provide entertainment.

Food is the easiest part of a fiesta. Make tacos, burritos, tostada, and end the festivities with some flan, a Mexican custard.

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4. Hollywood

Throw a Hollywood awards theme party to imitate the glitz and glamour of La La Land. Use your favorite stars, past and present, as inspiration.

Print out Walk of Fame Hollywood Stars with your guests’ names on them, or have guests write in their own names. Hang up posters of Hollywood landmarks – the Hollywood sign, or the Sunset Strip.

Have a table of Oscar statuette replicas to give away as party prizes or awards for activities such as “Best Dressed” or “Best Drinker.” Have designated paparazzi to take photos of guests as they walk down the “red carpet.” Use any inexpensive red runner carpet for this purpose.

Serve high-end liquors and wine, champagne, and sparkling cider. Make appetizers or have a catering service bring food, complete with waiters and silver trays of canapes.

Guests can wear tuxedos, evening gowns, vintage dresses, or imitate their favorite star’s mode of awards show dress. Don’t go for perfect replicas of the stars but improvise your versions. Girls can wear fancy hairstyles and make-up. Guys should dress to the nines with cufflinks, suit-jackets, and vests.

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5. Music Genre Party

Everybody likes music. You have probably bonded with several of your friends over a particular music genre (metal, country, or EDM) or a musical artist (Billie Ellish, Slipknot, or Post Malone). Maybe you like to mix up all genres of music from various decades, from Motown to disco to psychedelic rock and grunge.

Decorate with vintage band posters  or photos. Guests can dress in the style of their favorite musician or musical decade. You want to keep things mixed up if you have a musical genre party dedicated to all types of music. If you’re dedicating the party to a specific genre, offer costume ideas. You don’t want everyone at your metal party dressing up like Ozzy Osbourne or KISS.

For a rap party, people can wear baggy pants, bling necklace, high-end sneakers, and backward baseball caps. If you’re imitating hair metal bands, try bandanas, jeans, rock star wigs, and spiked leather bracelets.

Dress like Jake and Elwood Blues for blues music parties, and bring a harmonica. Country boys can wear plaid shirts, jeans, and a cowboy hat. Female party goers at a country-music themed party and dress all flashy like Dolly Parton or go for the cowgirl look in jeans, a fringed shirt, and cowboy boots.

Serve old-fashioned cocktails if you’re playing torch songs from the 1940s and 1950s, craft beer if you’re playing hipster-themed music or Jaeger bombs for metal music.

Hire a live band or DJ if you have the budget, or have guests sing karaoke. Listening to music is fun, but singing is even better-even if you don’t have a good voice.

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6. Sports

Don’t camp out in front of the TV when your favorite team plays, why not throw a sports-themed party with all the trimmings?

Once you have your TV screen tuned to the game, get the food and drinks ready. Buy chips, dips, hot wings, and other party foods. Place hamburgers, fried chicken, roast beef sandwiches, and other foods fit for big appetites on the buffet tables, surrounded by banners and placards with your favorite teams’ logos and mascots.

Set out coolers and mini-fridges with beer, or bring in a few kegs to ensure you never run low on drinks.

If you want a general sports party, hang posters, tapestry, flags or decals representing hockey, football, basketball, soccer, NASCAR, golf, even Olympic sports. Guests can wear jerseys, T-shirts with their favorite teams’ logos, or even uniforms, complete with a cap or helmet. Girls who don’t want to deck out in sports gear can dress as cheerleaders.

If you’re throwing your party outdoors, play a friendly (or competitive, if you wish) game of touch football, baseball, or soccer. Give out trophies to the members of the winning team.

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7. Ugly Sweater Party

Ugly sweaters are usually connected with Christmas themes, but an ill-conceived sweater design can be worn at any time of year with non-holiday designs. Ugly sweaters can have horses, dogs, or other animal designs, abstract designs, or tacky cartoons. Instead of hiding your tacky sweaters in the closet, wear them to an Ugly Sweater Party. You probably don’t want to buy one, nor need to, because you have one gifted to you by your granny or our aunt.

Set up a Christmas Ugly Sweater party the same way you’d set up any other Christmas party – include one or more tabletop trees, miniature Santas and reindeers, snowmen, the Grinch, the Peanuts gang, and other common Christmas themes.

Place sweets, alcohol, soda, and appetizers out on buffet tables. Serve a sit-down meal or have a selection of carnivore and vegetarian choices on the buffet table as the main course for guests.

For a generic winter sweater party, serve cranberry juice with vodka, Hot Toddies, spiced eggnog, and hot chocolate. Include snacks and appetizers to break up the drinking!

Have an ugly sweater contest and give wacky prizes like a “Boxing Nun” puppet to winners who have the ugliest, most colorful, or most creative sweater. Ugly sweaters are celebrated for their kookiness, so the prizes in the ugly sweater contest should be just as wacky.

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8. Casino

Turn your apartment or room into a casino by decorating it with casino party decorations. You can decorate with fake money, casino visors, casino-themed paper plates and cups, dealer vests, balloons, and tablecloths.

You’ll need more than decorations to have a true casino party-you’ll need plenty of booze and genuine gambling to recreate a Vegas casino. Set up a poker table and get playing cards and poker chips to get the first poker games of the night going.

You can get a roulette wheel set for a cheap price, including a gaming mat, rake, and metal balls.

If you have a pool table, get some chalk and chips and turn the billiards table into a craps table. If you don’t have a billiard table, lay down a craps table felt on your dining table.

Buy lots of booze for your casino party. Alcohol and gambling go hand in hand. Mixed drinks, from Jack and Coke to highballs, dry martinis, and Bloody Marys, are popular casino drinks. Of course, you’ll need plenty of beer, too, preferably in bottles. Some of the party’s female guests can wear short cocktail waitress outfits and serve drinks like real casino waitresses.

Guys coming to your party can wear any type of outfit, but most high-rollers, in real life, wear business suits, with or without bling. Girls can go the cocktail waitress route or wear short dresses or cleavage-baring gowns to distract male gamblers. Be sure to have plenty of fake $100 bills available for high-stakes games.

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9. Super Heroes

Even if you’re not a comic-book nerd, you probably have a favorite superhero character, just like your friends. A superhero party pays homage to contemporary and traditional superheroes, from Batman and Aquaman to Wonder Woman and Spiderman.

Guests can dress up in full costume as their favorite character, or simply wear a T-shirt or sweatshirt picturing a superhero. Decorate the party room with Marvel comics poster, Justice League group poster and Marvel characters poster and show non-stop superhero movies on the TV.

Keep plenty of beverages on hand, including beer and liquor. You’ll want to include special drinks, like red, white, and blue cocktails in honor of Captain America. (Use lemonade, vodka, and grenadine to make this drink.). Serve dark-hued drinks, like Guinness or rum, to celebrate Batman or the Punisher.

You don’t want to decorate a lot for this type of party, as the costumes everybody would be wearing will be decoration enough. Also, some costumes might be bulky, and you don’t want people to be knocking off your decorations.

Avoid having too many Batmans, Supermans, and The Flash at the party by encouraging guests to look at comic books and come up with their own costumes. The best party will have a mix of good guys and bad guys, plus supporting cast members (Alfred from Batman, Mary Jane from Spiderman) and vixen heroines.

Guys can come dressed as Aquaman, Mysterio, Daredevil, Loki or Deadpool, among others.

For girls, it’s common to dress as Black Widow, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, or Super Girl, so you might be seeing too many girls in these suits. Be unique by going as Gamora, Shuri, Storm, or Mrs. Incredible. If you like, you may go for female costume versions of traditional men superheroes – you can find a lot of those!

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10. Mardi Gras

Hang up Mardi grass balloons, garlands and beads. Paper plates and napkins are also available in Mardi Gras colors. Guests can wear feathered Mardi Gras masks to hide their identity, lots of beads, or brightly colored Mardi Gras vests.

Mardi Gras party drinks are the same as traditional New Orleans bar drinks. A Hurricane is made of light rum, passion fruit flavoring, lime juice, lemon-lime soda, and 151 proof rum. Make a Lava Lamp by mixing red and blue Jello, vodka, champagne, and boiling water.

A Red Snapper II combines amaretto, whiskey, and cranberry juice. A Bourbon Slush is made of lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate, pineapple juice, lemon-lime soda, sugar, black tea, and bourbon whiskey. A Bahama Mama has rum, grenadine syrup, orange juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, and flavored coconut rum.

Girls can wear a feather boa, plastic tiara, and lots of beads. Wear Mardi Gras colors, skimpy outfits, or jeans and a sparkly top. Guys can wear a pimp hat, Mardi Gras crowns and bright clothes in Mardi Gras colors.

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11. Paint Party

A paint party gives artists and non-artists alike a chance to be creative in a fun atmosphere. Make sure you have enough space for people to move around and paint freely. You may need to rent a larger space for the party – you don’t want your furniture to get splashed with paint accidentally, so cover it with old sheets, or rent a bigger space.

Provide a painting kit for your guests, but make sure you provide a lot of acrylic paint, paintbrush sets and painting palettes.

Cover the floor if your guests are painting indoors. Painting outdoors will be easier on guests and prevent hard to clean up messes. Plus, you’ll have plenty of fresh air so you won’t be overwhelmed by paint smells. You’ll still need to use old sheets and tarps to catch spills, however.

The background music should be upbeat, but not too heavy. Play pop, rock, electronica, or anything that gives your guests energy without being too overwhelming. Serve a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in lidded cups to prevent spills.

Wear your oldest, junkiest clothes so you won’t worry if they get stained by paint, and ask your guests to do the same. Keep a stash of cheap oversized white T-shirts or cheap rain ponchos for guests to wear while they paint.

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12. High School Stereotypes

A high school stereotype party gives you a chance to relive the happy times you had in high school and make fun of the foolish and wacky side of the school. Guests dress up as cheerleaders, nerds, jocks, band kids, punks, and goths.

You may still have some of your clothes from high school, and you can wear them to the party. Reenact proms and graduation with a twist. Elect a Homecoming Queen and king and have faux crowns available for the ceremony.

Girls can wear sexy schoolgirl uniforms, and some partygoers can dress as nuns or stern gym teachers.

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13. Toga

Toga parties were popularized in the 1970s movie “Animal House,” but they’ve been around on college campuses for a long time. You don’t need much for a toga costume, just a white bedsheet, although you can buy costumes online for men and women.

Wear laurel headpieces, sandals, and rope belts. You can also buy gold coin belts to wrap around your waist and keep the toga in place.

Drink Greek wine or any alcohol you like. Decorate doorways with fake vines. Serve grapes and oysters, pitas, and spinach and cheese pies called spanakotiropita. Look for easy Greek recipes and serve them. Play music from the Animal House movie, like “Shout” or “Louie, Louie.”