Finding the right theme for your college party can be a difficult proposition, so I thought, in my infinite wisdom, I should compile a list of some options with a pros and cons list to help you out. This list is primarily for large house parties and/or the smaller, more creative frats.

Some guidelines for a successful theme: it should be easy enough to do, yet difficult enough to weed out the underrated. A “plaid party” is too low-stakes, but an “anything but pants” party, while ambitious, might have to face difficult decisions on if not to let in friends-of-friends in jeans. Also, nothing racial or culturally specific. That’s just 101 stuff.

1. “1 Or 2″

One constantly underused themes is the flexible, different dual-theme. This lets you get away with more ambitious parties while ensuring, by giving a choice, that people are more likely to participate. The trick is to make the first and second thing different enough that the costumes would be vastly different, but similar enough thematically (or rhyme-wise) that it works.

For example: my house is throwing a Turtleneck or 2 Chainz party, meaning guests must wear turtlenecks or two chains. A turtleneck isn’t a college standard, but some people will show up in some sweaters, and if they don’t, they can probably rustle up two chains. The pairing of options means that someone who doesn’t want to wear a sweater, instead of saying “screw the theme” will show up doing the second option. There’s less of an excuse not to follow the theme if there are options.

2. “Open Theme”

This is where in the party invitation you internationally loosen the theme from what you were going to do. For example, a haunted house party would be good: some people would tell everyone to dress up as a ghost. People might not want to, or, if they did, you’d get a lot of identical costumes. Instead, widen the theme and, importantly, brainstorm for them. People want examples. So say, come as a ghost, witch, mummy, or any other monster or monster-hunter. Suddenly the party theme is open, people have options, and lazy people can get a wooden stake and say they’re vampire hunters, or put glitter on themselves and say they’re Twilight vampires. Suddenly the party has more characters, more costumes, and more energy in it.

3. Theme on The Host

This means that you, the host, supply the theme, and these parties always work. The problem is that they’re always work.

Last night, for example, I was at a “Eurotrash” themed party. It was awesome, and my costume was a little hair-gel and one less button on a shirt. Minimal investment from my part, but the party itself was on-point. They had gotten a DJ and had red lights and even dry ice in their house. There was Jager and Redbull everywhere. They were playing strange French house-music, and it was awesome.

If you really want a good theme party, one way to do it is to do it all yourself, and give the other people just a heads-up that it is a theme party. No one else worked on costumes like they worked on hosting, but it was terrific.

4. Top-Down Themes

You can throw a salsa party.

That’s a weak theme, but think about it: you have chips and salsa. There’s salsa music. There’s at least a few people who can salsa dance. And it’s a party, too, and there’s tequila, because hey, salsa.

Now “salsa” is a weak theme but you can see how a top-down approach makes it work out. Almost anything can work if you just commit to it, and, if it doesn’t, there’s one secret theme no one uses. A pizza party: every brings two or three bucks and you order a ton of pizza at midnight. It keeps guests around, feeds people so they aren’t too drunk, and is pizza. Feel free to use that one yourselves.

Photo Credit: batmoo