Why Getting Tattoos In College Is A Terrible Idea (with GIFs)

I have eight tattoos. Sort of. Four of them are cover-ups. Two of them took two sittings. The giant one covering my entire back will probably take another three sittings (I’m already three sittings / 11 hours in, at time of publishing).

So I have a buncha tattoos, and yes I regretted getting some of them — that’s why I got them covered up.

What did all the bad tattoos that I had covered up have in common? I got them in college.

It’s super tempting to get a tattoo in college. You’re now legally allowed to sign a waiver at the tattoo shop, your parents aren’t around to say, “no”, and the idea of having tattoos is pretty sexy (in whichever way you define that word). They’re a wonderful way to make a statement about your personal culture, fashion and philosophy.

But there are a few good reasons why getting a tattoo in college could be one of the worst decisions you’ll ever make.

Your Style And Taste Are Going To Change

Getting a tattoo isn’t a fashion choice like dying your hair or even getting something pierced. It’s a commitment. You can’t grow out of it and it won’t go away on its own. You don’t get to look at old photos of yourself with a tattoo and think, “Boy, that was a weird phase.” Because the phase is still happening. It’s forever now.

You’re probably going to go through some major transitions in college. Your style, tastes, interests and personal philosophy are supposed to become more sophisticated as you become older and more educated — and those are important factors when it comes to picking a tattoo. As an example, imagine still having to live with some of the decisions you made as, say, a 13-year-old.

***If you really want a tattoo: Go with something cliche’ and traditional. I’m not kidding. Nobody regrets a Sailor Jerry tattoo.

You Don’t Have Enough Money To Get A Good One


Tattoos are seriously expensive. Hourly rates for a tattoo artist are usually anywhere between $80 to $150. Which means a few hours could add up to the cost of a new laptop, or a year’s coffee budget — but it also means that if your ideas are big and your budget is low, you’ll most likely end up with something you’ll regret.

Something that is going to be on your body permanently isn’t something you want to get under a budget constraint.

***If you really want a tattoo: Stick with something small and easy. The key is not to compromise.

Cover-ups Are A Pain In The Ass… Or Wherever You’re Getting Them


If you ignore my advice and get a bad, cheap tattoo, chances are you’re going to do what I did and get it covered up at some point.

Tattoos hurt. A lot. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to be tough (and nobody is tough if they say they are). The only thing that doesn’t hurt is when you’re getting grey shading — that just feels like a sadomasochistic massage. Everything else feels like you’re being drawn on with a steak knife, and after a couple of hours, it’s like someone is digging that steak knife into an open wound, because they are.

Cover-up tattoos hurt a lot more. Because;

  • They need to be bigger.
  • They need to have more detail.
  • You might be going over old scars (yes, tattoos can make scars) and that shit is agonizing. Like, Game of Thrones torture scene agonizing. You’ll think your tattoo artist is Ramsay Bolton.

Cover-ups Limit Your Options

You can’t just cover up anything, with anything, wherever. Cover-ups need lots of lines, lots of shading, the right contours and the right placement to pull your friends’ eyes away from your old, shitty tattoo.

And while there a lot of skilled artists out there who can make a lot of different cover-up tattoos work, it’s ultimately easier to not need a cover-up in the first place and to leave your options open.

Would I be in the middle of having a giant dragon tattooed on my back at 25-years-old if I didn’t need to get rid of the first tattoo I got when I was 17-years-old? Maybe. But my ‘clear history’ options were certainly limited.

***If you really want a tattoo: Trust your artist’s recommendation. They’re the pros. They know what will look best and they always want something good to add to their portfolio. 

You’ve Got All The Time In The World


College is a great time to do new things, but you don’t have to cram all those things into that time. Life will go on, and you’ve got bigger priorities while in school.

My mother is a good example. She got her first tattoo at 35-years-old. She’s more tattooed than I am. I still haven’t caught up. Granted, she didn’t grow up in a culture where tattoos were so widely accepted and popularized. But the point is, body modification isn’t something you need to rush — it isn’t specific to a particular chapter of your life.

Tattoo shops aren’t going anywhere. But moreover, getting a tattoo isn’t really an enjoyable experience. It’s like going to the dentist, except longer and even more painful. So, if you really have some money burning a hole in your pocket and the urge to do something wild and youthful, travel instead.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.
Chris D’Alessandro

Chris D’Alessandro

Chris D’Alessandro is the Communications Manager at Student Life Network. He puts words together in fancy ways and has more cover-up tattoos than he'd care to admit.