Dating after college: similar to dating while in college, minus the impending deadline of graduation, twin beds and running into your ex(es) at the dining hall in the pasta line.
Dating is something that might be harder or easier after college, depending on the person; or you might find you don't really notice a difference. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, there are certain things about life post-grad that will definitely affect your dating life, like getting a job, being in a new city, and not having weekly club meetings to rely on to see your crush regularly.
If you're finding it hard to date after college, you're probably picking up on the effects of some difficult consequences of leaving the community setting of a university and entering the big, wide world. That's to be expected, and it's no wonder dating post-grad feels harder; it's harder to meet people, in general, in the absence of classes that meet weekly, extracurricular activities and clubs, and close living quarters that help you bond with your classmates.
The community colleges create is what makes college friendships so deep and lasting — it's also what can make dating feel easy and natural. If you dating people in college, you may have felt you fell into without thinking about it, or at least it was easy to maintain. You likely met somewhere on or near campus, lived close to each other and knew you had friends or interests in common.
After college, you don't have the same level of structure, and as a result, you have to go out of your way to meet people. You also might not have as much free time on your hands, which makes it hard to find time for romantic connections. These changes mean that dating after college comes with a learning curve, but that doesn't mean you can't beat it and have a love life that is as fulfilling or better than you did in college.
If you're worried about your post-grad love life — don't! Like the rest of your life after college, this is a transition that will take some getting used to, but once you figure out how it's done, you'll be unstoppable. Here are some bits of advice to point you in the right direction.
I know, I know. Dating apps are so ubiquitous these days, they can feel like a chore to log onto. But they don't have to be terrible. It only takes one success story to make them worthwhile, and even if you don't end up meeting your soulmate, they're a good way of meeting people you'd otherwise never cross paths with.
It's good to get out of your comfort zone and explore places and things you wouldn't on your own, and what better way than getting a good meal or a fun date out of it? If you want a more low-maintenance app presence than the popular Tinder, Bumble is a great alternative — it is catered to both meeting new friends and potential dating partners, so you can start with the former while you warm up to the app, and the idea of online dating as a whole.
Meet new people, wherever you can. Prioritize making friends, which is going to be a whole other battle in post-grad life. Connect with people in as many settings as you can, and don't hesitate to put yourself out there. Making friends post-college can take an extra level of effort, but it's far from impossible to build friendships as close as your ones from college. Through the new social circle you build, you'll connect with people that interest you romantically. Sometimes, our friends are the best matchmakers.
Be prepared to surprise yourself in terms of who you might be interested in and where or how you'll meet them. You may have changed subconsciously since college — your values and what you look for in a partner might be different now. Keep an open mind, and don't feel obligated to uphold your previous "type" and standards if they're not working for you. Don't rule anyone you're interested in out without giving them a chance.
Dating involves a lot of common interests or traits, and so an ideal way to find out who you might want to date is by meeting people with similar interests to yours. Book clubs, gaming clubs, or even protest groups can be great places to meet potential suitors. It'll give you a chance to be thrown in with a group of people that share your passions or interests, in the absence of the student organization and club atmosphere that made it easy to count on weekly meetups and familiar faces in school. The biggest pro of doing it this way is that, from the get-go, you know you share at least one thing in common, and it can be a great place to propel conversation and potential date venues or activities that you are both bound to enjoy.
Dating apps, blind dates and casual encounters can all take some time to work exactly the way you want them to. It's normal for these things to take some time, so don't let yourself be discouraged if the first (or second, or third) time doesn't work out how you wanted it to; what matters is that you keep at it and continue to be positive and have an open mind.
Like anything we want too badly, the right partner is not likely to come along if you're searching far and wide for someone. Sometimes, it's when you stop looking and start pouring yourself into your passions or your career or your social life — the things that attract the kind of people you want to be around — that you find someone you want to date. If your love life is bleak, try focusing your energy elsewhere for a bit.
Having a friend to lean on always makes things much easier, even if it's just to have that extra boost of confidence to go up to a stranger and strike up conversation. If you have a single friend who is also looking to meet new people, a good idea is to go for it together; you can come up with conversation starters, help each other pick potential "targets," and take the stress off the situation, remembering that having a good time should always be a part of the process.
Dating in college can get a little claustrophobic, especially if you went to a smaller school. You may have had to deal with the risk of an awkward encounter with an ex or crush in a common area or frequented hangout, due to the sheer probability of being thrown in an insular environment with the same people for several years. Now, the dating pool is much larger — there are probably many more people in the city you live in now than their were at your school, and you have an infinite number of ways to meet them. Take advantage of this, and put yourself out there as much as possible.
It's notoriously harder to meet people, in general, after college due to the absence of dorm buildings, club meetings, and the aforementioned insular community of people bonded together for several years by class schedules and tuition bills. You may have to go out of your way to meet people. Maybe that means joining a recreational sports team, a gym, a book club or a night class. In addition to getting on the apps, you might find you have luck going out to bars or events and striking up conversations with people you meet there. The level of effort can take some getting used to, and it might be lonely for the first few months as you adjust, but it's worth it.
College is famously the time and place in life where people are more willing to experiment and "date around," so it's normal to find that less common when dating post-college. Some people may be ready for more serious, steady relationships, so make sure to know what you're looking for when meeting new people, and to be honest about disclosing that as early on as it feels necessary. Similarly, make sure you know what the person you're seeing wants to get out of your relationship, so that neither of you are led on or disappointed in the end.
That being said, you don't have to adjust your dating standards to be less casual just because of other people. The fact that you aren't in college anymore doesn't mean you have to date for marriage or some other long-term end goal. You don't have to want different things, and you don't have to change what you're looking for. If you still want to date casually or prioritize having fun, you can, for as long as you want. Don't let what other people are doing influence you to pursue something that doesn't feel right for you. You'll find people who are on the same page.
Post-college dating isn't necessarily strikingly different from college dating, and if you stay in the same city you went to college in, you might find yourself doing a lot of the same things you did while in school, or even going to some of the same places to meet people. Make sure that you're not changing your habits or the things you do just because you think they have to be different now that you're not in school. The most important thing is to do things in ways that you're comfortable with, regardless of what is expected of you based on the stage of your life you're in.
It is easy to fall into habits and routines once you have a job (or jobs) that take up most of your time. Be wary of your life falling into a pattern where you interact with the same people day in and day out, since this can definitely limit your perspective in terms of dating prospects. If you can, find ways to break out from this routine; join a gym, take a class on something you've always wanted to learn now to do, or just try something new and different that you've never done before. Taking yourself out of your usual habits can be a great way to gain perspective as well as meet people you'd otherwise never meet.
Again, you might not know exactly what you're looking for. Or, you might think you do, until you find it's changed. Keep yourself open to all possibilities you may not have considered before, including the kind of people you want to date, where you'll meet them, what kind of relationship you're looking for, your sexuality or relationship orientation — anything. Look to dating post-college as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and broaden your horizons. You'd be surprised who you meet along the way.