Dating on my small college campus is just like high school: filled with gossip and drama. I decided not to date while in college.

Dating on my small college campus is just like high school: filled with gossip and drama. I decided not to date while in college.
  • I'm a junior at Emerson College and learned dating on campus can be difficult.

  • When everyone knows everyone, nothing is private — especially your intra-campus romances.

  • I decided not to date anyone on campus and found it difficult to date outside the Emerson bubble.

Before arriving for my freshman year at Boston's Emerson College, I wasn't worried about the school's small size. With a student population of more than 4,000 students, I figured there was a large enough pool to find people I'd connect with — both platonically and romantically.

This hope was punctuated by my naive assumption that gossip and rumors would be distant memories from my precollege life. But I was wrong.

It's not that I didn't find people I liked. On the contrary, I've met many wonderful people during my first two years at Emerson — many of whom I now consider my closest friends. But dating? That's something I refuse to do on my small college campus.

I quickly learned there's little anonymity when it comes to dating at a small liberal-arts college

In the first months of my freshman year at Emerson, it became clear that my classmates could identify nearly every romantic relationship happening among our peers. I knew intimate details about people I'd never met before.

This closeness means that every coupling begins and ends with baggage at Emerson. I realized that even though I never talked to some of my classmates, I still knew who some of them slept with.

You know the saying, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression?" At Emerson, one person's first impression of you can spread like wildfire. This culture only exacerbated my anxiety surrounding others' perceptions of me and started making me question simple interactions I had with people I was interested in.

Breakups on my college campus are even messier

When a relationship ends at Emerson, everyone knows about it — most likely hours after it ends. I've watched as my friends speculated about the cause of a random split and tried to draw parallels between separate yet concurrent breakups.

When some of my close friends broke up, mutual friends immediately took sides, cutting themselves off from the other ex and shunning anyone who associated with them. I never would have guessed that one of my friendships would perish as the result of someone else breaking up.

In an attempt to avoid the drama of dating at my school, I decided I wouldn't date any Emersonians

While there were people I was interested in on campus, I made a conscious effort to not pursue those relationships. I felt like dating would be too public, and I didn't want that.

As a result, I tried to navigate other non-Emerson connections, but the process remained difficult. Sure, I can go off-campus and meet someone, but picking up a student at a Northeastern frat party isn't my first choice of meet-cute.

Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge seem safer as there is an underlying expectation associated with these particular apps. You can literally select and advertise whether you are looking for a relationship or not. 

However, I hesitated to create a profile on these platforms, uncertain if I would find a meaningful connection. With classes, two jobs, and extracurriculars, it's hard to find the energy to invest in meeting people outside of my school.

But this year, I'm considering making a change

As I start my junior year, I've realized after some reflection that I've spent my first two years of college with one foot in the Emerson dating scene, constantly testing the waters but never quite submerging myself. The same can be said for my voyages beyond the Emerson bubble.

It's become clear that wherever I choose to find a romantic partner, I need to jump in feet first.

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