Why can't I get a date in college?
March 3, 2011 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I get a date at college?

Here's the situation-- 23 years old, last year of college. Female. Reasonably attractive. Pretty shy but not a hermit. I go to a tiny liberal arts college (1200 people).

I didn't really date in high school, but I had opportunities to. I just wasn't really that interested. Probably should have taken the opportunity to get some experience, but I didn't. When I came to college, I never really clicked with the student body here that well, I thought about transferring off and on, but over the years I've built up a decent social circle, and I know plenty of guys, but none of them seem to have interest in me romantically/sexually.

The thing is, when I'm not at college, I get plenty of interest from guys. I've dated in the summers, last summer in particular it seemed like every guy I knew wanted to date me or hook up with me, which made me uncomfortable in the opposite way, but was reassuring. Then I come back to college, and... nothing.

I'm graduating in a few months, so I've kind of given up on dating here in general, but I'm confused and frustrated that I spent four years surrounded by people my age and had no luck with guys at all. Did anyone else have this experience with college? Could I have somehow set myself up in a way that people are failing to notice that I'm a girl? Is it just that I've always had a hard time connecting with people at this school? any other theories?
posted by geegollygosh to Human Relations (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I had the same experience and it was partly that I didn't connect well with the culture, and partly that I was in competition with 56% of the school, all of whom were between 17-23. I found NYC less competitive, dating-wise.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:04 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

1200 people, even all in (roughly) the same age range, is a pretty tiny dating pool. If you're not having trouble attracting/seeking attention outside of school, my inclination would be to say that the reason probably isn't something you need to worry about and you'll probably be entirely fine when you get out. Also, if you never really clicked... well, that tells you right there. If you're not in tune with the student body, you'll probably find fewer students for your body.

(apologies for the awful wordplay)
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:11 PM on March 3, 2011

What percentage of the student body at your school is female? I read this article yesterday, that I wish I could find, about how the sexual/dating culture in an area often changes depending on whether there is an excess of women or an excess of men. In highly female places, young women are less likely to have a boyfriend, less likely to be married, more likely to be having casual sex, more likely to be having unwanted sex (in the sense that it is more often than they would like, or it includes acts they don't like.) Maybe this is what you're experiencing.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:16 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

none of them seem to have interest in me romantically/sexually

Did you ask them?

Maybe the kind of people you hang out with in the summer are just a lot more forward and/or big-headed, and therefore more likely to let you know when they are interested.
posted by emilyw at 3:16 PM on March 3, 2011

[sterotyping]Tiny liberal arts colleges attract a certain kind of male student, the kind that is more introspective and more likely to idolize a woman from afar than to take a chance and ask her out.[/sterotyping]

Also colleges usually have a much larger population of female and gay students than the general public.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:17 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Found the article I mentioned.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:21 PM on March 3, 2011

It happens.

You are twenty three, and in a really small dating pool- may of which are not actually avalable to you. 1200 people, minus the ladies (which is prob a little over half) brings you down to less then six hundred, then take out all the gays, all the guys that are in relationships, and all the guys that are more focused on school then ladies- and that leaves you with like fifty. Then it's down to what ages you want to date and people who actually are interesting to you- AND THEN they have to like you back.

see where I am going with this?

I went to a college with about 800 people in it. Dating within was not easy, and i incorrectly blamed myself for the lack of dates.

Just do yourself a favor and focus on graduating and meeting lots of interesting people. If there just aren't a lot of gentlemen callers right now- focus on growing yourself and loving how you are becoming so that when you do meet someone you'll be the best you that you can be. (cheesy but i promise it's good for you).

ON A SIDE NOTE: you say that you think that no one is into you... but i hope that doesn't mean that you are just sitting on your thumbs waiting for someone to call you. If you meet a boy, take a risk and ask them out first. sometimes liberal arts boys are a little less agressive then state schoolers.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:22 PM on March 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, 600 guys is not that large of a pool. Also, what's the culture at your school like? Liberal arts colleges do vary. Some seem to be full of dreamy hipster guys like 2bucksplus describes while mine attracts a more type-A/jocky/investment banker type.

At my school, also, people don't really date. People end up in relationships with people they're friends with or who are in their social circles or they meet people by hooking up at parties. That's sort of the norm. If you don't have a large social circle or if you aren't into getting wasted and grinding with dudes at dance parties, that would circumscribe your choices a lot at my school. Fun fact, I ended up with my boyfriend after we hooked up after a dance party. We probably wouldn't have met otherwise- sometimes hookup culture works out!

Honestly, it sounds like the problem probably isn't you. Where were you over the summer that the dudes were all up ons? Go there when you graduate!
posted by MadamM at 3:26 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Often, the smaller the college, the stronger the power of the Gossip Matrix... so people will often be more furtive in their hook-ups, and people will be less likely to risk losing face and risk rejection.

>[sterotyping]Tiny liberal arts colleges attract a certain kind of male student, the kind that is more introspective and more likely to idolize a woman from afar than to take a chance and ask her out.[/sterotyping]

Yes. Also, the more "progressive" the college, the stronger the Slut-Shaming.

If you want dates in such an atmosphere, take the initiative.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:26 PM on March 3, 2011

I have a strong suspicion that I attend that same tiny liberal arts college (EC), although it was a few decades ago. I can only provide a male perspective, but my experience tended to be the same as yours. While most of my close friends there were women, and a few directly asked me if I wanted to be "more than friends", I never had a real relationship. My focus was on studies, extracurricular events, etc.

All is not bleak, however:

1) Once I was through with school, dating led to marriage, child, happiness, etc...
2) Many of the friends (women and men) that I made at college have become lifelong friends, and are relationships that I treasure

Bottom line...Don't stress too much about it. It's really no reflection on you. Also, I have to admit that I was probably one of those stereotyped male students that 2bucksplus is talking about!
posted by neurodoc at 3:30 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Colleges tend to slant female these days, and I'd wager liberal arts colleges even more so. To give Ashley's article some academic weight some economists suspect that sex ratio drive social norms. It's a contentious theory though, I should warn you.

But if you believe it, it suggests that you're gonna have to do more sit there to get a date. If that sounds unreasonable, uncomfortable, or whatever, don't worry because as you've noticed, the larger population isn't as imbalanced.
posted by pwnguin at 3:32 PM on March 3, 2011

Better not getting asked out than getting asked out by guys who aren't your type. My school wasn't coed, and the ones that were in relationships or dating...there was some sad dating going on. One girl (now a high powered attorney) used to date unemployed, uneducated guys who lived with their parents and didn't have the same interests she did. One Eastern European girl dated a twice divorce guy who was in his forties and came to our cafeteria for dinner almost every night and managed to offend and get into fights with a bunch of 18-20 year old women. He was a bozo loser. A lot of the women married the guys they met during study abroad year (the smart ones married guys with German, British, or French citizenship---healthcare is where it's at if you're an American.)

Only date guys you really really really like and want, and don't date/hookup for the sake of feeling normal or attractive. And don't put yourself down for not getting asked out all the time. IMHO, 18-21 year old guys aren't really the ideal romantic partners for 18-21 year old girls.
posted by anniecat at 3:37 PM on March 3, 2011

I went to a tiny liberal arts college too. I dated one fellow student in my entire four years. Part of it was the size of the student body, part of it was my social awkwardness, part of it was the culture (people either hooked up or dove seemingly immediately into serious relationships), and by the time my senior year rolled around, a lot of the available guys had already been paired off.

Dating, as in going on actual dates which may or may not lead further, is a lot easier and better once you graduate. Plus, if it doesn't work out with someone, you won't have to avoid them in the cafeteria for the rest of the semester.

At freshman orientation, someone told us that a lot of us would end up marrying someone we met there. That stuck in my head, and I think I was worried about my lack of dating luck because I figured I was missing my one big chance at true love. The good news is that's not true.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:57 PM on March 3, 2011

Are there guys you're interested? Maybe they're shy, inexperienced, don't know how to express interest... why not ask them out?
posted by J. Wilson at 4:05 PM on March 3, 2011

it's because you go to a tiny liberal arts college. the people at mine didn't "date". they either glommed on to a bf/gf and stayed with them for a long time, or it was just a lot of fucking (one night stands or a series of them). there are few people and no where to go on a date (if you're in a tiny town. we didn't even have restaurants or a a movie theater.).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:31 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to a tiny liberal arts college for a couple years and went on one actual date the entire time. Countless random hookups (and occasionally even a second hookup with the same person!) but only one date. Some schools just don't have a dating culture, I think. The female/male ratio may be part of the issue as well.
posted by naoko at 6:13 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

thanks everyone, I'm reassured that I won't necessarily be alone for the rest of my life.

as a note-- I'm using the word "date" pretty loosely. No one really goes on dates much here, either. I guess the question is more about general male interest.

And everything everyone is saying has been pretty true.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:23 PM on March 3, 2011

Rather than looking at a small group to date in...expand your pool to include the local community.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:22 PM on March 3, 2011

If your college experience is like mine, the two weeks before graduation everyone will realize that 1. they're never going to see these people again if they don't want to and 2. they're never going to see these people again if they don't want to. Hookups galore, but of course too late for actual dating.

As people have been saying, small colleges can make for rather stuffy atmospheres.

Our cultural norms have changed so much in the last 30 years that nobody has any guidebook of tradition to follow. So they just get drunk enough not to worry about the guidebook.
posted by ropeladder at 7:25 PM on March 3, 2011

[sterotyping]Tiny liberal arts colleges attract a certain kind of male student, the kind that is more introspective and more likely to idolize a woman from afar than to take a chance and ask her out.[/sterotyping]

This, but also, you're probably quite smart and possibly rather intimidating for that reason. Guys you meet over the summer wouldn't necessarily be seeing the same serious academic demeanor.

Like half the folks in this thread, I too went to a tiny liberal arts college! About 600 people at the time, could be 800 now. Anyway, I had more luck than you, but I did most of the asking. I am also far from academically intimidating. I often wonder how I got into that place.

In any case, I suspect you'll have an excellent dating life, and I am glad to see you're feeling better about it.
posted by Glinn at 11:02 PM on March 3, 2011

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