Single or Ready to Mingle?

Dating Do or Dies

You’ve probably heard someone say that college is the best time to meet your life partner. Maybe your parents met in college, or through their friends, or through the people who lived next door to your parents’ friends. Maybe your roommate has been dating someone since first-year orientation. Whatever the case, there’s an inherent excitement in college—and an inherent fear—that you might, at any moment, run into your long-term companion. After all, college is the last time you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of people who, like you, are at prime mating age.

I held this belief for a while. Universities are fairly self-selecting, so I figured Brown would be the ideal place to meet my spouse-to-be. But one day, in the middle of a debate about Tinder, my friend expanded my perspective. “College is the best time to be single,” he said. “When else are you going to be living with a wide variety of young, attractive people who want to hook up?”

I was stunned. Somehow, I’d never thought of it that way. Why should I settle down in college, of all places, when there were so many options in front of me? I was under the impression that the goal was long-term mating, punctuated by unfortunate bouts of short-term experiences—but what if it was secretly the other way around? I had always thought of the “hookup culture” as a placeholder for real dating, but suddenly, with that one comment, everything changed.

To seriously evaluate the two major options, we turn to pros and cons.



  • Built-in study breaks
  • Don’t have to shave or diet
  • Constant motivator/self-care encourager
  • Dates not related to Tinder
  • Less pressure to go out
  • Society’s approval
  • Mom’s approval


  • No sleep
  • Less pressure to go out
  • New priority to fit into schedule
  • Fail classes
  • Run out of cute parks
  • Harbinger of adulthood




  • Meet new people
  • Fewer unwanted obligations
  • Variety of grinding partners
  • More time with friends
  • Better creative output
  • Sexual tension
  • No sharing food
  • Bed to self


  • Eternal loneliness


The arguments for both sides are compelling. Do we want good poetry, or society’s approval? Our food to ourselves, or an excuse to leave campus for dinner? Obviously we want both, and we want them whenever we arbitrarily decide we want them. But most of us don’t have the money to hire an escort, and casual dating is a lie. (One of you will always want to turn it into a real relationship). So what’s a prospective lover to do?

Fortunately, my friend and I didn’t end our debate without finding a case-by-case solution. Each year, we decided, brings its own guidelines:

First-year relationships don’t count, and since first-years aren’t qualified to date older students, their only options are frenzied hookups and awkward dates with people in their first-year seminars. The first year of college is a discovery year, and rightly so.

Sophomores are a different story. They’re old enough that they could date, if they wanted to, but they’re busy exploring their newfound freedom to look upper-class citizens in the eye. Whether you settle for a peer or spend your time chasing hot seniors, sophomore year is about finding out how low your standards will dip before breaking.

Juniors year is the last chance to start a serious relationship without graduation looming overhead. Having finally come into their own, juniors may be tempted to stay single—but it’s a trap! Juniors in relationships are 85% more likely to have their act together. They don’t have time to go out, seek temporary partners, and start planning theses, all at once.

Senior year is a free-for-all. If you’ve been dating since year one, congratulations and have a nice honeymoon. If you started dating at campus dance, maybe don’t move into an apartment in the city together. If you’re still single, then either you haven’t met your partner (were you cocky as a junior?), you did and they met a different partner (did you give off too much body heat in bed?), or you didn’t even try to meet your partner, in which case you’ve either beaten or lost the game. Basically, by senior year you can do whatever you want and still be cool, as long as you do it with pride.

In summary, college is fun no matter what you do. Get married, hook up twice, never hook up with anyone at all—whatever happens, you’ll be fine. So don’t stress about meeting someone/meeting everyone/hooking up/not hooking up. Based on my analysis, you can’t go either wrong or right.