You want to believe that when you get to college, you’ll find a charming gentleman to sweep you off your feet, bring you flowers, leave cute notes on the dry erase board hanging on your dorm door and carry your books as you walk to class.

Maybe this is the case for a lucky few, but for many, «dating» in college is really just a classier label for casual sex. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want. So let’s say the friends with benefits distinction has been clearly communicated and you both know the other’s intentions. Apart from the fact that those situations are always messy, the physical risks involved far outweigh the potential mangled emotions.

This stuff isn’t fun to talk about, but it’s important. No one ever listened in high school health class, including me, so I narrowed it down to three key, strong suggestions as far as a «to do» list when embarking upon casual sex:

1. Find out if he or she has an STD

On one hand, you want to believe him when he says, «No, I’m clean.» On the other hand, if he does honestly admit to having an STD, then there’s the potential of contraction. What the hell do you do? There is no right or wrong answer as every situation will be different. Trust your instincts and judge his character. If you really believe the guy means it when he says he doesn’t have an STD, then go for it. And if he has one and you still want to have sex with him, then that’s your decision and be prepared for consequences should they happen. Whether involved in either scenario, please proceed to item #2.

2. Always, always, always use protection

Having unprotected sex is like talking on your cell phone while drunk driving in a thunderstorm. Nothing good will come of it. Birth control is a great start, since most are %99 effective in preventing pregnancy, but back to the issue of STDs.

You severely decrease the chances of contraction by using condoms but they are nowhere near 100% effective. So again, the choice is yours. But as mentioned in item #1, whether he tells you he has an STD or not, always use a condom and cover all your bases. But what happens if one breaks? Proceed to item #3.

3. Familiar yourself with the «morning after» pill

You can usually get this from your university health services or at a local CVS. «Morning after» is just a general term. These pills can be effective in preventing pregnancy up to twenty-four hours after the mishap. Don’t be embarrassed by asking for it. Trust me, many more have come before you and you probably aren’t even the first person to inquire that day.

I’m comfortable writing about this topic as I’ve been faced with all of the aforementioned situations and I have no shame in admitting that. Sometimes I was responsible, others I wasn’t. I’ve been wise and then I’ve gotten lucky. Nobody’s perfect, but save yourself the stress and do everything you can to perfect the art of protecting your health. That’s one course you want to ace.