Photographed by Renell Medrano.
A week or two into my freshman year of
, I joined a campus scavenger hunt and ended up in a group with a sophomore boy who stuck near me the whole time. When he
the next day and messaged me to ask if I wanted to eat lunch in his dorm’s dining hall, I responded that my afternoon classes were on the other side of campus so I wouldn’t be around. It wasn’t until a few days later when a friend clued me in that I realized that had been his way of
“I wish I knew that it’s okay to let good people go if in your heart you know they’re not right for you. They may be an amazing person, but you deserve to
and not settle,” says Megan Crayne.
Annabelle adds, “What I wish I had known about dating is that I shouldn’t have to change myself for someone. College is full of beautiful, interesting people, and that can be intimidating. I wish I had known that
, and the one who matters wouldn’t want me to change at all.”
Some people want to hook up, but not date
“One of the most important things I wish I knew about dating in college is just because boys
, doesn’t mean they actually like you!” says K. College may be the first time you encounter people who are
but not a relationship — so if you’re looking for something more, it might be a good idea to have a conversation about your expectations first.
“I’m disabled due to
, and I had a really hard time navigating the initial stages of relationships and flings. There’s a lot I have to work out with people (how to safely be intimate, what dates I can and can’t manage going on, etc.) and I really wish I’d been told it’s okay to speak up for all my needs and try to make myself as comfortable as possible,” says @
, who asked to be credited by her Twitter handle. “I made a lot of compromises in that regard and I want people to know it’s valid to speak up about those things.”
Your education comes first
If your partner wants you to skip class to hang out with them, they might not be a great partner. “I wish I’d known to only date someone who prioritized my
as much as I did,” says Chancey. “There were times when [my partner] forced me to choose between my studies and social outings or household chores, even though I was in school full-time and working a part-time job.”
A recent law school graduate, Haley, adds, “I wish I knew you needed to be on the same page, especially because
. Law school in particular is so demanding that you need to communicate; realize you and your partner aren’t going to always be [each other’s] top priority.”
Don’t let your relationship take over your life
Even if you
, that isn’t necessarily a good idea. “I wish someone had told me that college relationships require a time commitment that is different than what you’d expect,” says one anonymous senior. “It’s easy to fall into this pattern where you spend every second of every day with this person when you’re not in class because you can. But
Two Black students mentioned how hard it is to date while attending a PWI (
). “I wish I knew that dating in a PWI was going to be extremely hard,” says Nyria.
“Dating at a PWI can make you really feel undesirable, even in Black spaces on campus where Blackness has to reach a certain proximity to the surrounding whiteness,” adds Morissa. “Then going back into real Black spaces makes you recognize all the politics that surrounds desirability.”
If you’re at a small college, or even part of a small community at a larger college, people might
. (Just like in high school.) “Dating another student at a small college means that everyone else will know about your relationship, some of which they might know before you do,” says one anonymous junior.
Have safer sex — your student health center can help
“If you’re going to
to release your tension and stress, BE SAFE ABOUT IT and get tested consistently,” the same junior adds.
Recent grad Sophie Siegel says, “I learned that you should take advantage of your on-campus
. They provide a lot of information on protection, space, and emotional health. I took advantage of these learning opportunities before I met my partner.”
It’s okay to break up with your high school significant other
Siegel adds, “I also broke up with my high school boyfriend before I went to college and it was a good choice on my part. I started fresh and I highly recommend
. Wait and see what happens when you get there, because you truly never know.”
Abuse might not look like you think it will
“I wish I had known that I shouldn’t water myself down for my significant other,” says Val. “I was told I was ‘too much’ constantly and it took me two years after the breakup to fall in love with myself again.” She adds, “As a queer woman, I wish there had been more representation about
and manipulation in queer relationships. It took me so long to realize what I was facing because it wasn’t the man-abuses-woman relationship I had grown up being told was the one to watch out for.”
Nam adds, “I wish I had known that you may love your partner and expect them to love you in the same way, but if your friends let you know of
, then you need to listen to them. That small tiff you got in? It was just a miscommunication, until you vent to your friends and realize too late that your partner is
you. The ‘I’m sorry, it won’t happen again’ will happen again. If you’re in a
, you need to get out. Use school resources. Your friends, professors, and counselors aren’t going to judge you. They’re on your side.”
You don’t have to date in college
“I just graduated, and I wish I knew that you didn’t have to date in college, it doesn’t have to be ‘the best years of your life,’ and that the first person you meet who you vibe with isn’t necessarily a good match for you,” says Rae. If your college dating life isn’t what you imagined it would be, you have your whole life ahead of you. While I did date in college, particularly during my senior year, my
is much better than my college dating life. And after graduation, dates get a bit fancier than the dining hall, too.