How to Throw the Best College Birthday Party Ever

Throw a great party for the best day of the year!

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How to throw the best college birthday party ever - tips and planning guide for college party

Last weekend was my second birthday in college, and with two birthday parties now under my belt, I feel qualified enough to give advice on how to throw an awesome college birthday party.

You don’t need to be an ~event planner~ to throw a fun party, whether it’s for your own birthday, a friend’s birthday, or even for a holiday like Halloween or an end-of-year bash.

Parties are the perfect study break, and can be a way of seeing friends you might miss in your day to day schedule or introducing your friends to each other. As someone who doesn’t stick to one group of friends, throwing a college birthday party can be really helpful for the important people in your life to meet and become friends with each other!

{RELATED POST: The Top 10 Best College Party Themes}

College Birthday Planning: Where to Start

Maybe throwing parties is a new thing, or you’re not the social butterfly you’d like to be. Whichever the case, planning a party on your own can be intimidating. That’s where tip #1 comes in.

My first recommendation is to get a close friend or a roommate to be your partner-in-crime. If there’s a last minute food run or you can’t be in five places at once, it’s important to know someone has your back.

The best approach to party planning is to think about the final “experience” you want to have, and dividing up your to-do list from there. Here’s some tips I have for making the most of each category…

Food & Drink

Arguably, snacks are the most important part of any party. You need to think about food in the time frame of your party, and create the event around that.

If you want to go crazy and order pizzas for everyone, maybe start your party at an earlier time like 7pm to ensure you’re not stuck with more leftovers that you can eat. If money is tight (and let’s be honest, it is for all of us), I would also recommend having some friends pitch in a few extra dollars so you don’t get stuck with paying for something you won’t eat!

College birthday party ideas - Stock photo of nachos
Source: Pexels

If you want to be creative and throw a memorable party, Pinterest is my go-to for cute party recipes – whether it be snacks or a full meal. Here’s our college party ideas board if you want to start there!

For those who don’t want to include dinner, starting your party later around 9pm will ensure everyone’s eaten and snacks will be for picking and won’t run out. That said, there’s still a lot of cool snack recipes you can make as well. Last year, I made chocolate and M&M pretzels that were a big hit!

As far as drinks go, comfort is key.

Set clear boundaries with your guests with allowing alcohol into the party, because that can be especially important if you’re throwing the party in your room. A lot of universities have a dry campus or don’t allow you to have alcohol in your room if you’re under 21, and you will be the one responsible if somebody gets in trouble.

If alcohol is something that you don’t feel comfortable with, let your guests know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly and be respectful of your preference.

There’s also the decision of whether to provide your guests (if you are of legal age) with some fun and boozy drinks, or if you want people to BYOB. More often than not, BYOB is a better option if you want to drink at your party but don’t want to break the bank.

Stock photos of a neon bar sign
Source: Pexels

However, if you do want to provide your guests with alcohol, keep it simple and allow everyone to mix their own drinks. This is a great way to host, as getting juice and soda to mix with alcohol will ensure that those who choose not to drink alcohol will have something to drink too.

You don’t have to drink at a party to have fun, but you’ll have the most fun if you make every guest feel comfortable with their choice, and they have the same respect for you and your room. That way, everyone wins!


Decorations are a key way to take your party to the next level! The key to having an awesome party space is to PLAN AHEAD. You don’t want to be buying up whatever the convenience store has left the day before and end up with sad, white tablecloths. Take the time at the beginning of party planning to order cute decorations online or go shopping to create your ~atmosphere~.

For the basics, paper plates, silverware, and cups in a fun solid color is the way to go. If you’re lucky enough to have a table, then a plastic tablecloth can save you a lot of cleanup hassle!

As far as fun decorations go, every birthday girl needs a sash! Steal the show with a sash with your age on it, a sparkly sash, or one that matches your outfit if you’re coordinated.

College birthday party ideas - Product: Birthday sash from Icing

This sash is cute and simple – it makes you stand out as the birthday girl, but it doesn’t take attention away from your awesome outfit!

Another super important part of any party is a birthday banner – whether it’s over the cake or on your door, everyone needs to know there’s a birthday being celebrated, of course.

A colorful banner like this goes with every theme, and is super eye catching!

Finally, the best part of decorating is a photo wall. If you want your guests to remember this night forever, or at least get a cute birthday post on Instagram, a photo backdrop for Instagram is a big hit. Everyone’s getting dressed up for the night anyway, so why not take some pics while you’re at it?

A floral garland like this is artsy and guaranteed to make everyone look nice! Plus, you can arrange it however you like — either hanging it in a cool design or draping it over your party guests. If you’re not a flower person, you also can’t go wrong with word banners or sparkly banners.

Photo of two girls (author pictured) under a wall decoration

This is the banner I had up at my party – everyone loves the “i’m baby” meme, so it’s always a big hit for a photo wall when my friends come over. (It was a Halloween party, don’t judge the outfits…).

A nice extra-step is getting hats, tiaras, and balloons! I know it isn’t always affordable to go all out, but less expensive stores like Walmart usually have a pretty decent and cheap party section to choose from.

The Guest List

If you have a lot of friends and a small space, sometimes college birthday party invites can get a bit trickier than you’d like them to be. It’s hard to include everyone while having no hard feelings, but here’s how you should approach inviting guests so that everyone has a good time.

Always include the inner circle. This is a given, but sometimes going the extra mile to make your besties feel special by giving them a ~fancy invitation~ is a cute gesture that goes a long way.

Think about socialization. If you’re the birthday girl at the party, chances are you’re going to be spread thin talking to a bunch of different people throughout the night. The friends that will be coming alone and who don’t know any of your other friends might have a hard time getting to know people, and might prefer to hang out with you one-on-one rather than in a big party environment. Definitely invite them if you have space, but take the pressure off: Explain to them that you’d love to do a special “birthday dinner” or movie night celebration later on so that you can give them your full attention. Then they can decide whether they want to come to both.

College birthday guide - Stock photo of a crowded party
Source: Pexels

Don’t forget your class friends! Most of us have a person or two in our classes that we’ve gotten friendly with and would like to keep hanging out with after the semester ends. Don’t be afraid to ask for their number or invite them to your party next time you see them – it may feel awkward at first, but this is how you make lasting friends!

Stagger invite times. Picture this: you’re all set up, color coordinated decorations, pristine and untouched snacks, and a few balloons rolling around. Then, a friend you’re not super close with (but maybe want to get to know better!) knocks at the door. It can be awkward when they’re the first people to show up.

What never fails at getting a party started? Your besties. Have a handful of friends come an hour or a half hour earlier to make sure the music is playing, people are dancing, and snacks and drinks being enjoyed by the time the first actual “guest” arrives. That way, you can avoid the awkwardness.

Tips for Throwing Your College Birthday Party

Now that you’ve got a rough plan for how to pull off your special night, here’s a few things that are important to consider on your way to partying!

Party Planning Etiquette

While your special night is certainly all about you (hence the party…), it’s also important to consider the needs and preferences of your guests as a good host.

Ask around to see what kind of snacks and drinks people like, because it can be awkward if you only get things that you like and no one else wants to eat or drink anything at your party. Also, to make an awesome college birthday party playlist, choose a mix of dance-able popular music, throwback songs from everyone’s childhood, and a few of your personal favorites. Just be sure to pick songs that most people will know!

Invite people ahead of time, and don’t get too torn up if people have other commitments and can’t come or stay for long. Pick a night where your best friends will be free, but invite more people than you expect to come because some people won’t be able to make it.

Know your location and its limits. If you’re throwing the party in your room or apartment, make sure your roommate(s) know ahead of time and are okay with the party happening in your space. Put away any objects you don’t want to get ruined (just in case), and let guests know if there’s certain parts of the room you don’t want them to go, or furniture you don’t want them to use.

If you’re having your party at an event space or in a friend’s room, make sure you reserve ahead of time and don’t invite people until you have a confirmed space to use. Know the rules of the space that you’re in and, just like elementary school, leave the place better than it was when you arrived.

What to Wear?

I decided to make my party a Halloween party this year, since my birthday is only 3 days after the holiday and they fell on the same weekend this year. Making your party a theme party (if applicable) can be a really fun way to get guests to think about their outfits, and you’ll have some really cute photos as a result!

If costumes aren’t your thing, you have a choice between casual or glam attire for your big day. Casual outfits are more comfy and can take the pressure off guests to dress up. Glam outfits, on the other hand, can be nice when there’s not a ton of occasions to wear dresses in college! Either way, just let guests know ahead of time so no one misses the memo.

Coordinating with your besties can be fun too. As an alternative to a theme, have everyone at your party wear one or two specific colors to get that ~aesthetic~ for your Instagram.

Related reading: 13 Birthday Nail Ideas to Celebrate Your Special Day in Style

Bring a Camera

After you’ve put all the work into your decorations and outfits, you don’t want to forget to capture it all! Instead of having a long, staged photo shoot for Instagram – which can be awkward and time-consuming, take photos throughout the night! The key to getting good pics is taking them when things are natural, and letting loose to have fun a little.

If you’re lucky enough to have a camera or a friend with one, bring it! I can’t stress how important this is, especially if you have cool lighting or sparkly decorations that won’t look nice on your phone camera.

College birthday guide - Photo of Polaroid pictures of a group of friends (author pictured)

For my party last year, I used my Polaroid camera so I could send each guest home with some cute pics of their own! Film can be expensive though, so this year I had my friend bring her digital camera and my roommate and I were “event photographers,” capturing candid photos of everyone who came throughout the night.

Asking for Help

After planning my first college birthday party on my own, I saw truly how many things had to come together to get the party to be exactly how I wanted it to be. I never want to admit I can’t do something myself, but if it’s your birthday, you’re going to want to be stress free!

By getting a bunch of friends to help out, you will have so much less to do yourself and your friends won’t be overwhelmed if they each pick one thing to be in charge of. Plus, if you have friends who want to get you a present but can’t really afford one, helping you plan your party is something they can do as a kind gesture that won’t break the bank.

Happy party planning!

What do you think of my college birthday guide?

Are you excited to plan your next party? Do you have tips for anyone who has never thrown a party? What are you most excited to try out?

Let me know in the comments!

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