When one thinks of Bingo, the first image that may come to mind is a room full of blue-haired ladies with giant daubers poised over their Bingo cards. But although Bingo remains a popular pastime in nursing homes and church basements, it's also becoming increasingly well-received at a surprising place: college.

Yes, good old-fashioned Bingo can be a hip way to spend an evening, and there doesn't need to be any cost to cash-strapped students. While typical Bingo halls charge a fee for each game played, with a portion of that money returning to the winner or winners, that's usually not how it works for Midnight Bingo events at college. A group of people will need to form a task force and approve funding from Student Activities. They should allow themselves at least a couple of months before the first event so that there is time for them to solicit donations for prizes, unless they have a very generous budget to begin with.

Typical prizes at a Midnight Bingo event include gift cards, board games, junk food, DVDs and school spirit gear. Most prizes generally will be worth under $20, though it is a frequent practice to offer one or two more expensive prizes, such as a DVD player or a cooler full of snacks, to be handed out at the end of the evening. Knowing that these really good prizes remain may entice people to stay longer.

It's up to the discretion of whoever is running the evening whether to simply allow everyone who comes up to choose one of the lower-level prizes or to number each prize and have them select a number at random. The players are more likely to get a prize they really want in the former scenario, but this can hold up the works, since some students are indecisive and others may squabble over the same prize if two Bingos are called at once.

Assigning numbers requires a tad more preparation, but it can streamline the process. It also adds an element of fun, as it can be entertaining to watch somebody hoping for a sweatshirt or a football instead receive package of toilet paper or a box of laundry soap. Of course, winners are free to trade with each other later, and it's not uncommon for fellow attendees to offer to buy prizes off of winners who seem less than thrilled with what they have received.

Of course, prizes are not the only expense involved with Midnight Bingo. It's necessary to buy some sort of Bingo system, as well as cards and chips, ensuring that no two cards are the same. Chips tend to run out, especially since they have a tendency to fall on the floor and get lost, so it's best to buy more than you think you need. You might even suggest that attendees bring pennies to serve as chips if the chips at the table start running low. In order to make a bit of extra cash, you can charge a small fee - say, 50 or 75 cents - for them to buy an additional card or several of them.

Another expense is food. While this is not necessary, it will attract more people to your event and give it more of a party atmosphere. To do it on the cheap, you can simply have jugs of water and cups for beverages and buy a couple of jumbo bags of candy or potato chips, putting some in the middle of each table. Another option is to set aside a time to bring out some type of meal. Pizza works best, since there are very few college students who don't like pizza, and it is easy to distribute. Get some pop to go along with it, and release the attendees by table to go up and get a couple of pieces. Once everyone has had a chance to get some food, you can allow people who want seconds to go up. In order to make your clean-up easier, you can also insist that no one be allowed to eat until all of the chips on the floor near their table have been picked up. Similarly, you should make an announcement a few minutes before you intend to start up the Bingo again, encouraging everyone to throw away their garbage. Usually it won't be difficult to convince them to cooperate, since space at the tables is limited, and it's hard to play with napkins and paper plates scattered around.

One way to make the evening more peppy is to play music before beginning and during the dinner break. Another is to sprinkle jokes throughout the proceedings. At one Bingo event I attended, every table had two or three large beach balls, and people were able to bat them around the room at each other. This was fun, but it was also rather destructive, since they had the ability to knock things over. Bubbles would be a safer option that would still produce a whimsical effect.

Finally, change up the patterns to keep players engaged. Play plenty of regular Bingo games but introduce an oddball pattern here and there to make sure that everyone is paying attention. Inevitably, someone will yell "Bingo!" and not realize that he or she was supposed to be making an X or a plus sign or one of a number of other designs, but try to make it clear so that most of the people in the room are on the same page. Projecting an image of the desired pattern on the wall is a good way to reinforce this. For the best prizes, consider doing coveralls; these take longer, but it will heighten the tension and excitement.

You might not think of Bingo as a pastime that would entertain college students very much, but institute a monthly Bingo night at your college and see what happens. You may just find that it will turn out to be one of the most popular events of the month!