Most people probably don’t think dinner parties really describe the social experiences of college students – in fact, most people probably only think of late night pizza and kegs of beer at college parties.  But I’m here to tell you that a more sophisticated option is also available to college students – particularly those with apartments.

Dinner parties are such a fun way to spend an evening with your friends while also enjoying a meal.  You can also expand your social circle by asking a trusted friend or two to bring someone new to the group.  And who doesn’t like eating a meal that consists of something more than greasy pizza and cheap beer?  Here are some tips to throwing your first dinner party:

Keep it Simple: Now is not the time to dream big or try to theme everything out.  Keep it simple  and realistic.

 The Guest List: Since you are a college student, you probably live in a tiny apartment – so your first step is to figure out how many people can comfortably fit into your apartment.  This is not the time to shove every friend you have ever met into your place or invite that random girl you always sit next to in class because her face looks kinda familiar.  Try to invite a good mix of people that are fun loving and slightly adventurous because a dinner party consisting of college students is an adventure.  Make sure that everyone has a little something in common so the conversation doesn’t get all quiet and awkward and full of talk about how nice the weather is.

The Menu: Search online for a couple of recipes that sound delicious.  Try to pick ones that are simple in preparation and cooking.  Keep in mind that some ingredients – like expensive cheeses or high quality meats – will up your budget a bit.  If you are trying to keep your budget to a minimum, be sure to look into using a slow cooker to make even the cheapest cuts of meat tender and delicious.  And if you are feeling adventurous, try to cook something you’ve never done before or taste a new dish you’ve never had before.

Clean Your Apartment: No, seriously.  Like, really clean it.  Not just the shove everything in the closet last minute kind of clean.  You’re about to have a bunch of people at your house for a few hours – so get to scrubbing and light a nice smelling candle.  Your friends will thank you for it.

Prep the Night Before: If you can, try to do any recipe steps that you can the night before – things like chopping vegetables, marinating the meat, or preparing the appetizers.  The point is that the day of your dinner party, you’ll feel much more relaxed knowing that some of the work is already done.

Party Day: Try to time it so your food is finished about 30 minutes after party time.  Serve it any way you want – nice plates, cheap Ikea plates, or paper plates… this is a college dinner party after all.  Put on a little light background music – but keep it low so everyone can have a conversation without having to scream.

But most importantly, have fun.  Enjoy yourself.  It is a party after all.

[Photo Courtesy of Flickr User Lachlan and used with a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License]