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EDITORIAL: Romance? Hook-ups? Self-discovery? This is what dating in college is really about.

 Five of our columnists analyze what dating in college actually means.

Ethan Smith: Dating apps solve the academia-romance dilemma.

I dated long-term in high school. In fact, I thought it was one of the most important aspects of my identity.  

But wow ... “‘How the turntables.’ -Michael Scott,” -Ethan Smith.

College, to me, is about finding your strange addiction to stress and anxiety, and homework, exams and essays are meant to feed that addiction. I am so incredibly focused on graduate school applications, internships and academics that I simply don’t see how a significant other can fit into the equation because a girlfriend or boyfriend can be an equation all in themselves — and often temporary with no rational solutions. 

But here are where dating apps save the day. Although the name might be deceiving at first glance, they are not to find a significant other. But rather, they have redefined dating to mean something more …  temporary … and relieving from that stressful academic high. 

To me, college dating in the conventional sense is oxymoronic. Adding a full-time partner to the mix is not adding to that lovely stress we get from academics, but rather steals that from us.  Dating apps seem to be the ultimate solution to this dilemma. They prepare you for a world of lust and heartbreak, while simultaneously getting you through college unharmed.

Emma Getz: College is about finding yourself, not someone else.

College is practice in the art of independence and adulthood. That being said, dating is an essential part of adult life — but by no means the most important. In the midst of classes, jobs and learning to be on my own for the first time, dating has yet to find its way into my personal hierarchy of needs.

College has been about learning to sever every single tie attaching my self-worth to other people. This involves not comparing myself to my friends or letting a potential significant other determine if I am attractive or worthy of love.

This may seem obvious, but for me it was not until I entered a college environment and learned to fend for myself. As a teenager, I used to think that I could only love myself if somebody else loved me first. This led to a desperate search for validation in anyone that would give it to me, often in incredibly unhealthy ways, and always resulted in self-hatred and heartbreak. 

I think that love between two people is one of the greatest joys in the entire world, and I cannot wait to experience it for real, but I am not impatient. I want to spend my time in college learning, establishing myself in the professional world, having fun and most importantly loving myself no matter what. 

Carson Henley: My perspective all changed when I found the right person.

“Going to college with a boyfriend is like going to a buffet with a sandwich in a Ziploc baggie.” 

At 18, the summer before my first semester of college, I could not have agreed with any sentiment more. All things considered, I found my romantic abstinence in high school to be a blessing.

I had grown and changed as a person, and I did not have to worry that any part of who I was at the end of those four years was the result of a relationship, that any part of me had been shaped by a temporary boy who had no place shaping me. 

I set out for college with the same mentality. “Going to college with a boyfriend is like going to a buffet with a sandwich in a Ziploc baggie.” I was here to learn, to grow and to leave Bloomington a highly employable powerhouse of a woman. 

But there he was. Sometimes the last thing you want is to meet the right person, and that's exactly when the universe will drop a boy who has grown his hair to his shoulders and voted for Hillary Clinton right in front of you. Who knows? If he conditions that mane, he just might trick you into giving him your heart and a year of your life.

Matthew Waterman: There’s nothing wrong with being single in college.

College is a time when many people figure out who they are. And it’s hard to know who you should be with before you figured out who you are.

For many people, dating is at the center of the college experience.  But it doesn’t have to be. It’s okay to go through all of college without any serious relationships.

College students have a lot to focus on. Academics, extracurricular activities, work and navigating social life all combine to create a perfect storm of stress. When dating becomes yet another source of stress, it’s time to step back and evaluate whether dating is making your life better or worse.

I’m not saying “avoid dating.” Lots of people, including me, find someone they love during college. When you establish a comfortable long-term relationship with someone, it should be a source of relief and happiness. It should be someone who makes you feel good about yourself.

I’ve seen too many friends fall into one of two traps. One is staying in a relationship for a long time when they know it’s a terrible relationship because they’re afraid of breaking it off. The other is obsessing over finding a relationship because they see being single as a personal weakness.

Don’t be afraid to be single.

Anne Anderson: Don't be afraid to hook up in college.

In terms of dating in college, I think the biggest takeaway is that you don’t have to be on a timeline.

To be perfectly candid, I happened to find myself in an incredible situation where I have the luxury of dating the same person who I have been best friends with since our first year of college.

However, I think it’s important to remember that this type of incident is not exactly common; I feel like I am the lone exception in college.

But leading up to where I’m at, I have had my fair share of space-filler partners, horrendous Tinder flops, and regrettable relationships. Without writing a 10-volume anthology about it, I can say this — you do not have to find a life-long partner in college. 

Know yourself and the level of commitment you can give to another person, be it hook-up only or exclusivity. Too many people feel that this is the time where you find your future spouse, but it’s really the time where you find your future self.

My biggest advice is to always put yourself and your goals first, and the rest will fall into place — even the dating part.

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