Dating vs. Degrees: Navigating the dating realm in college

Leenika Belfield-Martin | Lifestyle Editor

Let’s face it, TV has created impractical expectations of dating in college. Dwayne and Whitley from A Different World or Monica and Quincy from Love and Basketball had everyone thinking they were going to find their soulmate in college. But once people get on campus, they realize that college dating is very different than the pretty picture TV can paint.

Surprisingly, it’s not too uncommon for people to get married to someone they went to school with. “From classmates to soulmates,” a study conducted by Facebook’s data science team, found that 28% of married college graduates on Facebook had attended the same college as their spouse.

With cuffing season right around the corner, many people on campus will start to dive into the wonderful world of college dating. Here’s what you should know before shooting your shot.

Put yourself first 

It’s no secret: It’s hard to be both career-driven and in a serious relationship. Being in a serious relationship requires some amount of selfishness and commitment for which most college students are not ready.

Don’t ignore the red flags early on

Even in the beginning stages of dating someone, it’s important to consider red flags a person might have. This can be a lack of respect, dishonesty or anything that makes you feel uneasy about that person. But most importantly, your significant other shouldn’t try to take you out of your character.

“The thing about relationships is we all want to be accepted and feel like we belong,” said Dominique Clark, Hampton alumna and matchmaking expert. With her “self-worth first approach,” she emphasizes to her clients that they are valuable and deserving of a positive relationship.

“You belong in a relationship when they are accepting of who you are and don’t want to change you for life or a relationship with them,” she said.

Don’t commit too soon

Some people enter college and expect the first person they date to put a ring on their finger. A study conducted by the Independent Women’s forum found that 63% of women hope to meet their future spouse in college.

Clark encourages young people not to date with the intentions of marrying, but to get an understanding of what traits they do and don’t like in a partner. She said taking things too seriously in the beginning can also lead to people being stuck in relationships with incompatible people with the hopes of one day marrying them.

“At first, date to date. You don’t want to put the pressure on yourself to work toward marriage,” she said. “And when you get to the point that you feel like you can say, ‘OK, there’s a bit of an emotional attachment here, there’s a future I can see with this person,’ then you should share that goal with them and begin navigating toward it.”

The dating expert said that while she and her spouse were dating in college, they gave one another space to grow and the freedom to enjoy college life.

“College, it’s the time of your life!” she said. “It’s when you learn about who you are and who you want to be in the real world.”

Stay optimistic

As young adults, don’t let your early dating history discourage you. It’s rare that people find their “one true love” on the first date they go on. Over time, people can become discouraged and want to give up on dating.

When facing dating fatigue, Clark suggests to her clients and other singles to take a step back and remember that just because they weren’t compatible with a person doesn’t mean they are unlovable. She also encourages them to approach dating from a different perspective.

“You cannot let one or two experiences with other people determine your entire dating life,” she said. “We tend to take away from our dating experiences all the negative and never look at the positives that we gained.”

Be sure to also keep an open mind and understand that as a young adult you are still growing and developing. Twenty-something-year-olds aren’t going to have their lives all together, but if they are working toward something and are compatible for you, go for it.

“Sometimes people don’t always come exactly packaged the way the picture is painted,” Clark explained. “But they might meet the core or foundation of what you want in a significant other.”

Whether you get to make that sacred walk across the waterfront with your soulmate or not, the important part is to leave Hampton with what you really came here for here for: a degree.

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