Whether you're a transfer student at a new school or you've been ruling the campus for months, navigating the dating scene in college can be tough. Many of the tips for dating in college out there advise college kids to just "be yourself!" even though there's often a lot of pressure to behave a certain way. So what's a gal to do?
Let's say there's someone in your child psychology class with whom you've been flirting for a few weeks. They're adorable, they crack the worst (read: best) jokes about brain matter and you both love The Walking Dead. Should you ask them out, or will class get way too awkward if they reject you? Here's another dating dilemma: You're not that big on drinking, but how will you ever meet someone new if you say no to a scene that everyone else is a part of?
There aren't clear-cut answers on what to do in either of these situations, but it's much easier to know what your next move should be with some guidance. To help, a couple of dating experts shared their best dating tips for college students:
1. Set Boundaries For Yourself...
In order to have actually fun and fulfilling dating experiences, figure out what you're comfortable with — and then stick to that. If you already know threesomes or online dating isn't your preference, then don't do it even if that's what others are doing, Neely Steinberg, founder of The Love TREP, tells Bustle. "Wait for the types of people who are really going to respect your boundaries and needs," Steinberg says.
2. ...But Also Don't Be Afraid To Explore
It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes figuring out what you like and don't like takes a bit of trial and error first, especially for those who haven't experimented much with casual dating or their sexuality. "If you haven't hooked up or had any type of casual hookups before, you might need to experience one or two before you understand that, 'OK I don't feel comfortable with this,'" Steinberg says.
'Tis true. I didn't go out on my first first date until junior year. That was also my first time kissing on the first date, and it was with a guy who turned out to be 32 years old. It was fun and a little awkward, but in the end I realized making out with near strangers isn't really my thing. I probably wouldn't have learned that without trying.
3. You Don't Have To Meet People At Bars Or Parties
While college is the perfect time to expand your social circle, you don't always have to go out and party to have meaningful interactions. Campus events and clubs are also a great way to meet someone special who may have similar interests as you, says Adam LoDolce, founder of SexyConfidence.com. But don't forget to branch out and join different organizations, too — you never know who you'll meet!
4. Put Down The Books (Sometimes)
Obviously, school is important and a key part of college is developing your future career. But exams and job hunting shouldn't keep you from dating. "College is a great time to test the waters when it comes to relationships and intimacy," Steinberg says. "You really discover yourself through interactions and dynamics with other human beings."
Also, don't think you have to focus all your time either on school or dating. Life is about balance, and you can do both in college.
5. Booze Smartly
On one hand, drinking can make us feel confident and comfortable with our surroundings, but too much can lead to major awkwardness. Don't always rely on alcohol to have a good time with your date, Steinberg says. Plus, don't feel like you have to drink just because your friends are. A decent guy or girl will respect the fact that you aren't just conforming with the rest of the crowd. At the same time, as long as you feel safe drinking together, then wine not?
6. Being Single Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of
Just because you're single doesn't mean you have to be ready to mingle and meet "The One." "If you're single right now, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you or that you're struggling in any real way. It's just college," LoDolce says. "Take your time."
7. Don't Be So Hard On Yourself
Sure confidence is sexy, but that's not always easy. Just remember never to judge yourself for not having it all figured out. "It's OK to feel a little bit insecure," Steinberg says. "We don't have to be these robot women who are just super confident, who from the get-go we know what we want, where we want to go."
Instead of being self-critical, figure out what makes you nervous about dating. If you're shy about talking to new people, take a public speaking or improv class. Once you've taken proactive steps to feel good about yourself and get excited about dating, then go out there and slay!
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