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Dating changed from past generations; students look to pursue life goals before settling down


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Sociology Department Chair Susan Brown has found that her students typically choose three distinct routes when it comes to dating in college: “hooking up, talking or having a serious boyfriend or girlfriend.”

Hooking up means having casual sex, while talking is more of the in-between of that and a serious relationship. It’s taking the time to decide if you want to be serious, she said.

Brown said talking is very common for college-aged students now, but it has not always been that way.

“Historically, dating has been seen as something people do before they get married,” she said. “Young people don’t date for marriage anymore.”

Brown attributes this change to the idea of emerging adulthood, which is an extended period of adolescence. She said the bar for marriage has also been raised, with people wanting to wait until they are more successful first, own a house or pay off their student loans. The idea is to have fun now and not necessarily to try to establish something bigger.

“In the 1950s or 60s, 20-year-olds would get married and build their life together,” she said. “Dating is different now because people feel like they need to get all of these things together first.”

Senior Trevor Taylor is in a serious relationship, but doesn’t like to think ahead to anything after college. He said he and most of his friends know that they will be going through a lot of changes soon, graduation and maybe moving out of state, so “it puts a strain on really settling down.”

“I don’t know if there is such a thing as a short-term serious relationship,” he said. “But I think that in college, there can be this happy balance between just hooking up and thinking about possibly marrying someone.”

Brown said dating in college is not only unique because of the changing times, but because of the different dating opportunities that college presents.

“The biggest difference with dating in college [than in high school] is being able to live together,” said junior Kaylyn Simpson.

Simpson took the ‘serious relationship’ pathway this past year and though she technically lived in a residence hall, she said she basically ended up living at her boyfriend’s apartment.

“There’s also less pressure from your peers where they’re like ‘what’s going on with that [relationship],’” she said. “The casualness is more emphasized in college whereas in high school it’s like ‘what are we.’”

The particular kind of dating that is done in college depends on the person, said senior Tom Bigley.

“It shows what you’re looking for,” he said. “If you are into talking, then maybe you kind of want something more meaningful, but if you just want to hook up then you are obviously just interested in satisfaction for that night.”

When on campus, students are right in the middle of this perfect dating pool where there are potential partners everywhere that might be your same age, share your interests or come from a similar background, Brown said.

As a senior, Bigley recognizes that finding dating prospects will become increasingly difficult when he leaves the University.

“This is the best time to meet someone,” he said. “It’ll be a lot harder when out in the “real world.”

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