The Ultimate Guide to College Halloween

Want to know the "proper" way to celebrate Halloween at college? Read on for tips and tricks to have the ultimate spooky holiday on campus!

Remember Halloween when you were a little kid? It was epic: you got to dress up as your favorite superhero or Disney princess, walk around the neighborhood, and gather enough Snickers bars to produce a jaw full of cavities. But Halloween as a college student? Please, we all know that’s almost more epic than that childhood Lion King costume you still brag about. You don’t have a curfew, you don’t need parental supervision, and, most importantly, you still get the candy.

Want to make the most out of your college Halloween experience? Do the following:

Dress up

Seriously, do it. Funny costume, outlandish costume, sassy costume—enjoy being able to dress and act like a crazy person during your prime crazy person years. However, if I see any of you wear all black, put on cat ears, and call yourself a cat, I’m driving to your dorm and locking you in until you think of something more imaginative. A few campus costuming pointers:

  • Start thinking about your costume in early October so you can plan accordingly and order things online if necessary. You'll also have plenty of time to make your own costume, if you choose to go that route. (You could even host a  Halloween costume crafty session in your dorm room. Just saying...)
  • Be creative! (I’m looking at you, cat.) Use inspiration from things like pop culture, campus leaders, celebrities, or even consider bringing more abstract ideas to life. Also, can we all just agree that we've heard more than enough politics during this crazy election year and it doesn't need to infiltrate our Halloween costumes?!?!
  • If you’re low on cash, take advantage of clothes and supplies you already own. Your friends and roommates will likely be happy to let you borrow some things too! And if you need help, just Google "DIY Halloween costumes." You will have more ideas than you can shake a stick at.
  • Don’t even think about having a tasteless costume that’s insulting to anyone. (Students once dressed up as victims of Virginia Tech’s campus shooting. Trust me, no one found that funny at all.)
  • Ladies, just remember: this is Halloween, not a competition to see who can get the closest to a wardrobe malfunction.
  • See if your crew wants to do a group costume! Some great ideas here and here. (Pro tip: you should totally do classic Troll dolls this year, because next Halloween we'll be officially living in a post-Trolls-movie world, and life won't be the same.)

Do something scary

Hold on—I don’t mean terrorize your dorm/neighborhood. Halloween is about having a good time, and there are tons of fun, spooky things to do on campus, so take advantage of them. Some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Host your own Halloween party in your dorm! Costumes mandatory. Yeah, it'll be cramped. But that's part of the fun. And if you need inspiration, Pinterest is crawling with Halloween ideas.
  • Take part in your college's Halloween traditions, from hosting local kids for trick or treating to campus Halloween festivals. Here are just a few colleges’ spooky traditions. Check out your own campus for Halloween events.
  • Student organizations frequently host haunted houses or Halloween parties. Even your campus cafeteria will likely get in on the fun with themed foods and decorations!
  • Oftentimes, criminal justice departments will set up a crime scene for students to explore—you can skip the paper skeletons and get the real thing!
  • Check out haunted happenings in the greater campus community, like ghost tours or street festivals. For example, if you go to school in the Boston area, get yourself to Salem, where the legacy of the Salem Witch Trials has made for a town seriously into its Halloween celebrations. 

Be safe

You knew this part was coming, didn't you. Your mother probably says this all the time, but it bears repeating: be safe! Halloween is a big night for fun, but it also sees a huge spike in crime (including violent crime and assault), as well as personal injuries. Tips for staying above the fray:

  • Travel in groups, and plan ahead so you’re always with at least one other person at all times.
  • Don't share your location publicly. However, it might be a good idea to share your location with a good friend temporarily, like for the duration of an evening you're out.
  • Keep an eye on your drinks, and don’t let anyone else pour or hold on to your, umm, soda for you. "Don't take candy from strangers" holds true even as a college student.
  • Don’t risk a walk home in the dark alone; take a cab, Uber, the subway, etc. Make sure you have some cash just in case. Additionally, many schools offer free transportation services for their students, and they can usually get a car to you (including complimentary cab rides) if you're in a jam. Add your school's campus safety number to your contacts so you can give them a call if need be.
  • If you venture out, try to wear bright colors, and make sure you know everyone with whom you’re traveling, partying, trick-or-treating, etc.

My biggest tip of all? Have fun! Once you graduate college, you run into fewer (and fewer appropriate) occasions to dress up and eat tons of candy, so take advantage of what could easily be your best Halloween experiences!

What are you doing to keep things spooky this Halloween? Share with us here!

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About Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin is a Multimedia Project Manager at Harvard University and a former Assistant Editor/Online Specialist for CollegeXpress. Catherine graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Journalism, a minor in English, and course concentrations in Business. She was previously an in-depth arts reporter for Penn State’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, and interned as a features reporter at a paper based in Southern Massachusetts. Catherine previously had a full-year internship with a well-known higher education PR firm. Her favorite experiences during college include her two years as a resident assistant and her involvement in THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. There, she was on the PR committee that helped THON become the third-most tweeted topic worldwide. When she isn’t working, you can find Catherine shopping, reading, or running.


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