The first week of college is full of opportunities to meet new friends (and SOs!). You’re entering a social scene where you know few (if any) people, and that means the dating pool is a whole new ballgame. From the vast number of guys you’ll meet during orientation week or first week of classes, you’ll probably find a few who pique your interest. But before you go wild with the new selection of guys and girls at your disposal, beware of these love don’ts that many freshmen commit during their first few weeks at college, and remember these love do’s so you can make the most of your college dating experience!
DON’T Get too Serious About the First Person You Meet
You met a cute guy or girl! Now you’re wondering when he or she will text you back, what he’s doing this weekend, and if the two of you will end up dating… but hold up! While being open to a relationship is a good outlook to have, remember that you’re only one week into college. Is your new crush really that amazing, or are you attached to the idea of security and familiarity that comes with being in a relationship?
If you do feel a real connection, that’s great! Continue dating or hanging out (or whatever you want to call it), but Adam LoDolce, dating coach and Founder of Sexy Confidence, says that you shouldn’t close yourself off to other options too soon, even if you’ve hooked up. “You've just been introduced to a whole new world—you’ll limit yourself if you settle down too quickly,” he says. There are plenty of people on campus you haven’t met yet, and college is a time to develop and explore multiple relationships—not just the first one you establish.
If you realize that you’re only attracted to the idea of this guy, then tone it down. You can stay in touch and remain friends with him, but give yourself some distance and time to get to know other people. Even at smaller colleges, you’ll be meeting new people all the time, so don’t feel compelled to attach yourself to the first guy who catches your eye.
DO Say Yes to Actual Dates
Yes, real dating does exist in college! “When a guy you may be interested in asks you out on a date (like, actually asks, ‘Do you want to go out to dinner?’ or, ‘Can I take you on a date?’), say YES,” says Marni Battista, founder of Dating With Dignity. She recommends girls accept the gesture over more common dating techniques in college, such as the casual party invite (because, for all you know, the guy could have texted many girls the same thing). When a guy tries to get to know you on a personal level (outside the party scene), it shows genuine interest that likely goes beyond physical attraction.
However, be cautious and sensible when dating new people. “Make sure you know the guy you’ve agreed to go on a date with, and make sure the place you’re going is near other people and not too far from home,” Battista says.
DON’T Compare Your Love Life to Your New Friends’
Is your roommate staying home every night to talk to her boyfriend? Or are a group of your new, single friends on the hunt for flings? It can be tempting to seek an active love life if everyone else is, but remember that you’re responsible for shaping your own college experience, and you should do whatever is best for you.
“Peer pressure is the name of the game, so don’t fall for it and stand your ground,” says Battista. It’s perfectly fine to move at your own pace when dating or choose not to date at all. Socialize in a way that you are comfortable with, for your own reasons and on your own timeline. Incoming freshmen hail from all backgrounds, so don’t feel pressured to copy someone else’s lifestyle.
If you’re feeling down because your friends all had a crazier night than you during Welcome Week, Battista says, “Trust that the amount of regret and/or hangover you’ll be feeling tomorrow will be minimal compared to your friends.”
DO Set Clear Boundaries
The first week of college is unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean your hook-ups have to be. Don’t think you have to push the boundaries of what you’re comfortable with just because other people in college have more experience than you, or you think it’s “what everyone does in college.”
“People (especially men) are testing the boundaries of what they can get away with. Your job is to set your boundaries and establish a personal comfort zone with the other sex,” Battista says. So before you even put yourself in a hook-up situation, set your boundaries so you can clearly express them to a guy when you’re in the moment.
“If you don't want to go too far physically, let your guy know your limits in advance,” says Briana Morgan, a senior at Georgia College. In your normal state of mind, this sounds manageable. However, many college hook-ups begin at parties where alcohol is involved, and that affects how articulate you are. If you plan to drink, do so responsibly, because too much alcohol can also impair your judgment and compromise the boundaries you set earlier.
DON’T Expect a Relationship From a Random Hook-up
So you ended up going home with the hot guy or girl you were flirting with all night—score! But a few days have passed and he or she still hasn’t contacted you. What gives?
We hate to break it to you, but maybe your hook-up was just that: a hook-up.
The college dating scene is no stranger to miscommunication (and straight-up players), so prepare yourself mentally and emotionally if you do decide to hook up (being physically safe is a given). If the idea of a no-strings-attached hook-up doesn’t sit well with you, don’t hook up. Nothing can ruin your arrival at college like being depressed over a crush (we’ve been there!). The post-hook-up lull is distracting and can discourage you from putting yourself out there again to meet people who are actually worth your time.
Briana Morgan, a recent graduate of Georgia College, says, “If you're interested in more than just hooking up, make that clear from the beginning.” By being clear and upfront about your intentions, you’re saving yourself time, effort, and potential heartbreak.
DO Make Yourself Approachable
It’s kind of hard to get someone’s attention (let alone flirt!) if he or she is glued to his phone. You wouldn’t want someone to close himself or herself off like that, so return the favor and leave your phone in your purse when you’re in a social environment. If you’re always looking at your phone screen, you aren’t able to use one of the easiest ways to break the ice: eye contact! Without a distracting screen in front of you, you’re more likely to be aware of your surroundings and make a connection with someone. “If I could go back now and repeat orientation, I would make sure I wasn't on my phone texting all the time. It probably turned a lot of people off,” says Shira Kipnees, a senior at Franklin & Marshall.
Another way to make yourself approachable is to break free from your girl posse. A large group of girls can be intimidating to approach, so occasionally stray away to give that cute guy a chance to talk to you!
DON’T Cling to Your High School SO
In the first few weeks of college, a long-distance SO can be both a gift and a curse. On one hand, he or she acts as a source of security while you’re far away from friends and family. On the other, he or she can prevent you from seeking other opportunities to socialize. “One mistake that I learned from my freshman year was that I spent a good part of orientation texting my boyfriend or Skyping him or talking to him on the phone,” says Shira.
Even though you’re not pursuing other guys, a high school sweetheart can still limit you in areas outside of the dating world. Shira says even though she did make great friends when she started college, it took time because she was really shy. Instead of getting out of her comfort zone to make friends, she would turn to her SO.
Our best advice for balancing a long-distance relationship and college life is to accept that you will be uncomfortable when you don’t know many people yet—but you shouldn’t use this as a reason to retreat to your beau. In fact, embrace your independence! It means you’re making yourself available for new experiences and new friends. Sure, texting your boyfriend is a safer option, but do you really want your college experience to be the same as high school?
DO Make Some Platonic Friends
Remember that not every acquaintance has to be in the running to be your next SO. Learn to appreciate the company of people as they are, not based on a “boyfriend material” checklist. And, who knows—if it’s really meant to be, maybe a “friends first” situation can eventually turn into something more!
Caleb Frank, a senior at Kansas State University, says that guys look for a female friend who they can talk to and trust. “She needs to be somebody who is fun and energetic,” he says. He adds that it doesn’t hurt if the girl is willing to be a wingwoman for her guy friend. (Besides, isn’t that what all good friends do?)
The first year of college is a great time to establish those lasting friendships. Soniya Shah, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University, says, “Do take advantage of everyone being so friendly! This is a great time to meet as many people as you can, whether it's in the dining halls, at orientation activities or just around the dorms.” LoDolce suggests that you try and talk to at least five new people per day. The more people you meet, the better your chances at finding that go-to friend!
DON’T Put Dating Before Schoolwork
It’s easy to get carried away in the fun, new dating scene of college, but remember the main reason you’re at college: to get an education! It may seem like easy sailing at first when your classes haven’t really gotten difficult yet, you’re going to parties multiple times a week, and you’re meeting new guys, but as soon as your first exam or major assignment pops up, you’re going to wish you had adopted a better work/fun balance. It’s fine to enjoy yourself on the weekends—just make sure it is not cutting into your study time!
The first week of college is a scary and exciting time for all freshmen, so we hope these do’s and don’ts will make navigating the college dating scene easier. If you do find yourself in a dating disaster, know that it will eventually pass and that there will be plenty of other campus cuties to pursue. So best of luck on your search, collegiettes, and above all else: have fun and stay safe!