Dealing With the 20-Something Dating Pool

By Emily Roseman, Alumna of American University

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

Carrying out a relationship during college is no longer a fairytale romance right out of "Love Story." With endless classes, exams and managing a new environment away from home, fitting a love life into your college schedule is the last thing on your mind.

Relationships in college usually are equal parts giving and taking, but the key to a happy and healthy love life in your college years is to truly define what you want out of love!

Cut Loose Old Flames

The timeframe between high school and your college orientation gets blurred and so do your past relationships with friends or flames. Be sure that when leaving behind your childhood home wanting a fresh perspective, you don’t pack your high school fling with you. Making a clean break from the life you had as a teenager give you new outlook to the dating pool and the bigger, better fish in the college sea.

While many historic romances might have started in the halls of high school, maturity is a profound aspect in any relationship. While you might want to cut ties completely with any resemblance of high school, make sure you are ready first before calling it quits. If you feel you really want to pursue a relationship with someone back home, make it a personal mantra to keep each other in the loop if heading to different schools. Be sure to keep each other aware of academic schedules and social ones, too.

Define the Lines

One thing I personally believe in is defining the lines with your significant other. If you aren’t terribly comfortable calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend one week into dating (who really is, anyway?) let your partner know. They may perceive your dating as something casual, not long term. The worst thing a college dater can do is come off too strong.

Making relationships, not even romances, is about easing into it. Move slow and pace yourself as a social butterfly, and more importantly, as a dater. If you are looking for something serious, make that even more aware, too. Explain that while you want a relationship to happen, waiting to order the personalized couple stationery is more than appropriate.

Romantic Dates on College Budget

Keeping your love aflame while juggling your academics can get tricky, but getting creative is half the fun. Whether you attend a school in a big city or have just one stop light in town, keeping it interesting doesn’t have to mean movie and a dinner anymore. Initial creative dates can be anything from a brunch date to keep it casual (who doesn’t love breakfast?) or exploring the local area. Starting a relationship in the early months at school is a great way to utilize on campus or area activities for dates.

Head to your dining hall for a cost-effective outing or hit up a sporting event at your own school if you want to keep it fun and friendly. When it comes to taking your relationship to a new level, don’t feel like you have to bust your student budget for your significant other. Being a student, you tend to value the smaller things in life like a hot cup of coffee or a companion to help carry the grocery bags. Show your love in small ways every day to make a big impression in the long run.

Long-term Love Affair vs. College Campus Cuties

While no one wants to call it quits on a good thing running, you need to make sure before graduation is around the corner what your relationship means to each other. From my own experience, I found my boyfriend almost instantaneously week one from college (I trust my instincts very well). We have been in a relationship ever since, and as he goes to school for his graduate degree and I find myself in the office, we knew having an honest relationship would save us in the long haul.

While I am the biggest of planners, many college students love to avoid the future like the plague. But talking out your expectations versus realities of a future romance will save you time and lots of heartache. In my case, knowing we were both venturing off to different cities meant making sure we spoke to each other every day and made visits at least one a month. For those who are a bit unsure of the life expectancy of your love affair, it's best to take those feelings of hesitation as a cue to break even. Being honest with your partner, but more importantly yourself, is what will keep you from stocking up a lifetime supply of Kleenex and Ben and Jerry’s.

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