Senior year of college was a blast. All of your friends were 21, second semester classes were cut short by graduation, and the future looked bright thanks to that stellar internship you nabbed. Only one thing is amiss. You're single, and you now have to say goodbye to friends, sports teams, extracurricular clubs, and lastly that person you had a crush on for years. What's next?
According to the Facebook Data Science study as reported by USA Today, about 28% of college students will marry someone they went to college with. Facebook then noted that this percentage was largely dominated by people who attended a religious institution, or an institution where the percentage of men outnumbered the percentage of women. While this data is drawn from Facebook users only (which still boasts over 1.35 billion active users), the statistic proves that people do indeed meet their future spouses in college. But that still leaves 72% of college grads single.
Being single after graduation is a good thing. You are free to live where you want, explore endless job opportunities, and meet people beyond the comfort zone of a few square miles of campus territory. Many people will argue that being single in your 20s is a privilege, something to be harnessed and cherished, while others are frantically seeking "the one." Others are jaded by dating flops or cheap dating apps, and prefer to stay single. Either way, dating after college is a normal, healthy activity. Dating expands your worldview as you date people from different backgrounds, and most importantly, dating allows you to look inside yourself and define who you are, so that you can be confident when you meet the right person.
In March of 2014, NYU instructor Zhana Vrangalova started The Casual Sex Project, an online collaborative effort to exchange stories of different sexual encounters of the fleeting hookup nature. Stories range from short, innocent flings to raunchy one-night stands, and are exclusively for non-college students. As a sex researcher, Vrangalova knew there were plenty of studies done on the sex and dating lives of college students, but what about life after college? The Casual Sex Project explores the hookup lives of all college grads of various ages, race/ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations, and is worth reading if you're curious about hookup culture.
Still, hooking up is not for everyone. Many singles prefer not to engage in hookups they deem meaningless. Hookups can allow singles to engage in "no strings attached" intimacy, but many singles feel that hookups don't improve their dating life. When going on dates, know what your intentions are, and what your date's intentions are.
For better or worse, the following factors will greatly influence the course of your dating life. There's no magic formula that will guarantee you a date by the end of the day, but being aware of your external surroundings and personal choices may help you re-evaluate your habits.
Dating isn't hard...when you meet people you like. The more you connect with someone, the easier a date will feel, and the more likely you'll go on a second date. Don't go on a date with someone out of obligation, or because you feel badly saying no. Choose to go on dates you're excited for. Dates that don't give you any negative gut feelings. It's ok to be nervous or to treat the date as a casual outing, but if you're dreading a date with that rude person you met at the bar, chances are you won't enjoy your time together.
Meeting people, of course, is easier said than done. How do you meet people you like? The simplest answer is to go somewhere where you know you'll meet others with similar interests of lifestyle standards. Going to bars and clubs are surefire ways to meet others however, and they may even remind you of your college pursuits, but they are not the only way to connect. You can join athletic clubs (there are many post-collegiate sport teams), sign-up for a charity fundraiser, or join an activist group. You can even join online groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or community forums for everything from Paleo dieters to reality TV show fanatics, and get tips on local meet-ups or events. It doesn't matter what you like, there are outlets for every kind of interest, both mainstream and obscure.
As a college graduate, you have likely met a variety of people from all over the country, and perhaps all over the world if you studied abroad. Consequently, your perspective on life may have changed, and you may have let go of certain beliefs you grew up with, or fostered new beliefs as a result of your experiences. Many college students report a decline in religion or spirituality, while many others say that college's intellectual atmosphere inspired their belief system. Whatever your experience was, consider these two dating outcomes as you define what's most important to you:
As a twenty-something college graduate, you should go on dates. Lots of them! The more people you meet, the more you will narrow down what kind of relationship you want, and what kind of relationship you do not want. Try these trick and tips for an enjoyable date experience.
Movies and restaurants are so old-fashioned. Try some new, fun places or activities that allow you to do more than sit and stare at a screen, or sit and stare at each other. Be creative with your date selections. Here are some of many ideas:
Why do some dates go badly? When a date is unbalanced, one party usually ends up unhappy or annoyed. Dates who talk to much, don't talk at all, are critical, make rude gestures, act bored, lack social etiquette, or come on too strong often don't get a second date. Going on a few bad dates, however, is all part of the dating game. It's best to know what a bad date entails, so that you can be thankful for the good ones.
Recovering from a bad date can be awkward. Ways to combat the dreadful aftermath? Use humor to make jokes about your less than spectacular date. Acknowledge that some situations are out of your control, and that one date does not define the future of your romantic relationships. Take a break from calling or texting your date, and see if it's worth another shot later down the road. If you no longer wish to see the person you're dating, it's best to be honest and up front.
Ah, you've reached the point where things could start getting serious. It's round 3 of date night, and you're more excited than you've ever been. This is a relationship worth pursuing. But how do you know when to keep going, or when to let go? Basic social cues, attraction, and gut feelings should give you obvious hints and confirm whether or not you like someone. Consider these additional tips to spur you forward, or let you re-evaluate a relationship you might not want to get into.
At the end of the day, dating is a highly subjective, unique experience. It depends on what kind of dating relationship you are looking for, your sexual identity, your intimacy expectations, and your availability. Not all dates need to have an end goal of a lasting relationship. Use dates wisely as a way to appreciate and learn about other people, and most importantly, to discover your confidence by simply being yourself.