When I stepped into the first broadcaster’s meeting for the University at Buffalo’s campus radio station, I didn’t expect to meet my future husband. But there he was, standing at the front of the room in a baggy sweatshirt and a backwards hat.
Many students end up exploring their interests and their amorous preferences while at college. It’s a time when you’re growing into yourself, and that growth means many people might try dating in college.
The Pew Research Center found that college is still a predictor of who people will marry. According to a 2011 survey, 28% of graduates met their spouses in college. That’s nearly one-in-three!
So how do you go from making eyes across a lecture hall to creating a life together? Here are a few tips to take the stress out of college dating, and make sure it’s more about discovery than distress.
1. Don’t be afraid to be boring
- [Image description: a GIF of Arthur, the cartoon aardvark, and his friends walking on the sidewalk. The caption reads, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card”] via GIPHY
There’s a lot of pressure to be exciting these days, especially for women. It seems like most college coming-of-age love stories involve brooding men and quirky, infallibly excited women. But it’s important to know that not everyone is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the boring can be downright exhilarating when it’s with the right person.
Think coffee dates discussing philosophy, or sharing a table at the library studying for exams. Boring dates can also be the most accessible – because who can really reject a study date? Being boring means that you can also find time to get together – and not sacrifice your studies in Spanish for studies in anatomy.
2. Make use of free student events
- [Image description: GIF of Andre from Black-ish saying, “I have zero dollars”.] Via GIPHY
The words ‘college student’ are most often preceded by the adjective ‘broke’. This means that pricey dinners or expensive bar tabs are probably out of the question.
Most people think that the free student events are boring, but you might be surprised. My college regularly had discounted tickets to off-broadway shows and free buses to get you there! Take a look at posters in the student union or in the campus newspaper to see what events you can get into for cheap. It’s a great way to have memorable dates without breaking the bank.
3. Cook together
- [Image description: A GIF of the Swedish Chef from The Muppets dancing and banging spoons against melons in his kitchen.] via GIPHY
When you’re living on ramen and dining hall food, a home cooked meal can be downright decadent. Instead of going out, split the bill at a local grocery store and cook together!
My partner and I tried to get together and cook one meal a week together – you’d be amazed at how fancy spaghetti and a jar of tomato sauce can feel.
4. Find your comfort level… and exceed it!
- [Image description: GIF of Kris Jenner saying, “This could be your new… like… hobby.”] via GIPHY
College is a time for self exploration. You’ll never grow if you’re always comfortable.
Try new things, and use the discomfort to grow more comfortable with your partner. Whether that means taking a new class together, or an joining an intramural sport, you will find the opportunity to grow, and your partner will grow with you.
5. Don’t be afraid of breakups
- [Image description: GIF from a scene in New Girl where a character named Nick is being broken up with by his girlfriend, Carolyn. He has his hands over his ears and he’s saying, “I can’t hear you! That means we’re not breaking up! No! La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!] via GIPHY
Dating in college might lead you to find a healthy, happy, life-long relationship. It could also lead to a breakup, whether ugly or amicable. It’s totally okay to try dating in college only to find that relationships – or that one particular partner – just isn’t for you.
Rejection hurts, but use the time to really do some self love and exploring. You might find that when you’re single, you find the passion to start a new relationship. Don’t stay in a bad relationship for fear of being single – a college experience is a terrible thing to waste.
6. Be yourself
- [Image description: GIF of someone saying, “Be yourself, because who you are is brilliant.”] via GIPHY
I was not nearly the same person in senior year as I was in freshman year, and you won’t be either. Enjoy this time of self exploration, and aim to be unapologetically and unironically yourself.
If you like to fall in love fast – fall in love fast, and don’t let anyone shame you by calling you ‘clingy’ or ‘needy’. If you are distant, be distant and explore the wonderful world around you. It’s impossible to find love if you’re wearing a mask.
Remember that you’re at college to learn and grow, both inside and outside of the lecture halls. One of the ways you can do that is through creating and nurturing relationships. Whether you decide to try dating in college or not, remember to prioritize your own emotional and physical health!