College dating has unique challenges that you might not have encountered in high school. For once, college students have so much more freedom than most high schoolers and teenagers ever would have. You are reaching legal drinking age, and even those who don’t will have plenty of access. They will meet all kinds of people in their early twenties who are probably wanting to have a memorable and exciting college experience.
Along with the amazing freedom to enjoy yourself in college, you’ll have added responsibilities. There probably won’t be anyone around to remind you of this responsibility, so it will be easy to forget about it. What it boils down to is no one is going to watch out for you but yourself, and therefore you are your own responsibility. You’ll be meeting more strangers than you’ve ever met before in your life, and many of these strangers will be young and attractive. Some of these people will be among the best friends you’ll ever have. But a few of them will have bad intentions for you, and that’s where you need to take care of yourself.
Most of the advice below has to do with being cautious while dating in college, though some of it involves how to meet people and find dates in colleges. While a large part of these college dating suggestions are for women, a good number of these college dating tips apply to either sex.
College Dating Suggestions for Men & Women
- Avoid Dating People in the Dorm – This is going to be a hard one, because these are the people you’re living with, seeing every day and eating at the dorm cafetaria with. For those very reasons, though, it’s better to avoid dating these people. If things sour, you’ll be around your disgruntled ex every day for the rest of the school year. Add in two or three and things get complicated in your “home” real quick.
- Don’t Gossip – A college campus or college dorm is every bit as intimate as your high school was. Rumors and gossip get around real quick and can hurt a lot of people. You also have to worry about blowback: your ex getting revenge by spreading secrets and lies about you.
- Avoid Cheating – Once again, the campus world is smaller than you think and you’re likely to get caught cheating, since there are prying eyes everywhere.
- Have Cheap Dates on Campus – Find out all the places you can have dates on campus: the campus movie theater, the campus playhouse or the campus music hall. Every college has cheap entertainment options, so find out there and get excursions among friends and dorm mates to relieve some of the stress of college by having some group entertainment.
- Get Off Campus Every Once in a While – But don’t stay on campus the whole year. Campus life can be a life-unto-itself. It will be good for you to get outside that little fishbowl every once in a while. So plan occasional excursions off campus to connect with the wider world or “real life”.
- Join Campus Clubs – If you don’t join a Greek house, check out the bulletin boards around campus and in the student union. Find 1-3 college clubs or organizations that involve subjects or hobbies you enjoy and join them. This is a great way to meet people of both sexes with the same interests, and you’ll meet friends you wouldn’t necessarily get to know in the dorms or in classes. Some of these people may be your favorite friends from college.
- Talk To People in Your Classes – Don’t hesitate to arrange study sessions in the library or somewhere else on campus with your classmates. Don’t be shy about sitting down for coffee or lunch with people in your class, or even suggesting the same. You have something in common with people in the classes you’re taking: you both chose this class. You’re likely to have other things in common, and these are great opportunities to date people with similar interests.
- Watch a Movie Every Now & Then – I remember watching virtually no television in college, and really not missing it one bit. But I remember not relating conversationally with certain family members, because they were plugged into the pop culture. Watching an occasional movie keeps you tied into the pop culture away from college life, and it’s a relaxing getaway from your studies (and work). Take in a movie, whether it’s in the movie theater or from the video store.
- Be Open To New Cultural Experiences – College should be about experiencing new things and keeping the ones you like, so don’t shy away from introducing yourself to new culture in the form of music and books. Try them. If you don’t like them, discard them. Don’t be dogmatic that what you liked before college is all that’s good in this world.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Say No – At the same time, dating without the safety net of parental supervision and curfews comes with its own set of responsibilities. You have to be the “Keeper of the Gate”, instead of your parents. That is, you have to protect yourself, because no one else will. You have to be the adult, responsible one. So don’t be afraid to say “no” if you aren’t comfortable with a situation or suggestion that your date makes.
- Plan Group Outings – College is a time you should be looking around and seeing what the world has to offer. You’ll find plenty of attractive people your age and want to get to know them better. But you might not know if you only find them attractive or you really want to date them. So arrange a safe situation where you can get to know this person better and how you feel about them. Arrange to go out with another couple or a group of your friends, then ask this attractive person along. Throughout the course of this semi-date, you’ll probably figure out if they’re really dating material. You’ll also have friends ready to give their opinions later on.
- Don’t Go Out With Strangers Alone – Get to know your new dating partner a little bit before you go out alone with this person. Once you get a little bit more information on your date and he (or she) isn’t a stranger anymore, you can trust them enough to go out alone.
- Have Empathy For Your Date – Everyone in college is in a period of change and growth. Everyone is struggling with what they are going to “do with their lives”. Everyone is finding themself. This creates a certain amount of natural stress. The stresses of normal college life get compounded when you’re in a stressful dating relationship, so try to be patient with your date. Imagine the stresses you are under and then imagine your date is under similar stresses.
- Meet Your Date – If you decide to date one-on-one, meet your date instead of being picked up. This way, you won’t get stranded if things go badly, or worse, you won’t feel compelled to stay with a date that’s going from bad to worse.
- Take Some Cash – If your date does pick you up for the date, make sure you have some spending cash with you. That way, if things don’t go right, you can call a cab or take the bus back home. Don’t let yourself get in the situation where you have to decide to walk miles in the night alone, or stay with a stranger who is making you uncomfortable.
- Check In With Someone – Once again, this probably sounds like something your parents would tell you. The point being, you’re likely to be dating students who are complete strangers to you, and you have no real idea what their intentions are. So have someone to check in with (a friend or roommate) during the date. Let them know you when you left on the date and when you expect to return. Have them call you sometime during the date to check in, and have a code word or phrase arranged beforehand if you are having troubles. College friends need to watch out for one another, and greater freedom requires greater responsibility on your part. So take precautions when dating a complete stranger, because no one else will be watching out for you.
- Don’t Drink Excessively Around Strangers – Drinking and dating strangers is a bad combination. You might get lucky, but if you do it enough, you could end up in a traumatic situation. That is, drink responsibly. Be an adult. If you drink yourself into drunkeness, you’re only pretending to be an adult. (Well, there are plenty of middle-aged drunks, too, but I might argue they never matured, either.) I’m not trying to take all the fun out of college life, but you and only you are responsible for your conduct when you start drinking, so only drink to impairment when you’re around people you trust.
- Alcohol Isn’t Everything – The college bar scene and college party scene are a lot of fun, but don’t let anyone tell you that’s the only part of college life. You might get that impression from certain movies and stories. When you only meet people in a bar or at a party, you’re not likely to be meeting the right kind of people. This is a personal choice, though, and if your goal in college is to have a good time and get drunk as often as possible, I’m not going to judge you. But for those who aren’t certain the college party scene is their gateway to college dating, that they shouldn’t let someone convince them it’s the only path.
- If You Drink, Watch That Drink Like a Hawk – This is especially important for women, because date rape is a real danger on college campuses these days. If you have a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), keep a close eye on that drink. Don’t let someone else have access to it when you’re not within eyesight.
- Be Patient Sexually – Don’t assume you have to go crazy on showing up in college. You have four years (and possibly more) to have a well-rounded, memorable college experience. In many ways, this will be the best, least complicated time of your life. So as they say in the sports world, “let the game come to you”. Don’t assume you have to have a crazy sex experience (or three) in your first months in college. If you aren’t comfortable with a potential sexual encounter, there’s nothing wrong in avoiding it. You’ll have a whole lot more fun in college if you aren’t traumatized by some experience.
- Understand the Emotions of Sexual Relationships – College sex is emotional sex, too. Sexual experiences tend to be just as emotionally charged in college as they were in your high school years. Given all the stresses and soul searching that goes on in college, your college sexual relationships might be even more sexually charged. Because each of you are thinking so much about the future and “life”, one or more of you are likely to attach a lot of significance to a particularly intense sexual relationship. You are likely to think you’re in love or “this one’s for real”. In other words, you are likely to think this is your first real, adult relationship.
- Avoid Getting Engaged or Married in College – Along the same lines, try to avoid a “This Is The One” mentality when in college. While plenty of people establish lifetime romantic relationships with their college sweetheart, it’s also a time when your emotions can mislead you. People undergo a lot of changes when they make the transition from high school to college. That puts stresses on longterm romances, because one or both of you may change. If you get engaged or married too soon, you may find that the relationship doesn’t suit you anymore. The same goes for college students at the end of their studies. People often change when they make the transition from college to a career, because their circumstances change radically. Once again, an engagement or marriage made just after college can be just as big of a mistake, because one or both people in the relationship could change radically. College is about growth and growing people sometimes grow apart.
- Listen To Your Instincts – If you have doubts, follow them. You have been living for upwards of 20 years now. You’ve seen enough in those years that you have developed a sense about what’s right and what’s not. If your gut instinct tells you something isn’t right, trust those instincts. Err on the side of caution, always.
- Remember All That And Have Fun – When you keep all of the above in mind and watch out for yourself, you should be able to have a lot of fun dating in college. I’m certain the college dating advice above makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I’m being the voice of reason. Once you have that inner voice protecting you, you’ll be able to enjoy all the possibilities that college dating life offers.