From Greek to Sydney White, and from Gossip Girl to Pitch Perfect, TV and movies had you believing that college would just be one big whirlwind romance. If all went according to plan, you were going to find the perfect SO, take adorable couple grad pics and, depending on where you go to school and your ideas on marriage, maybe even get engaged. Instead, you find yourself as a second-semester senior snuggling with Scream Queens and pinot on a Friday night, dwelling on what could have been. Chin up, collegiettes! Being single when you graduate could be the ~single~ best thing to happen to you—honest. And we’re not just saying that: here’s proof.
Simply put, you’re awesome
To reiterate, you’re in college and you’re graduating. You’ve put in so much work to get to where you are, and for that alone, you should be so proud—not to mention all the things you've achieved outside of the classroom and all the memories you’ve made.
“To any woman who is concerned about not being engaged, or in a committed relationship, for that matter, by the time she graduates I say: focus on what's in the present—YOU JUST GRADUATED!” says Erin Hopkins, a professional life coach. “That is no small feat! The world needs more educated women to contribute their unique voices and talents to the world. And the truth is, your relationship status doesn't define you any more than the major you chose freshman year in college.” Puh-reach.
This is your time
As great as relationships are, you can’t put a price on having time for yourself—especially fresh out of college. “One of the best things about being single before graduation is that you get to figure out who you are and what you like,” Hopkins says. “This may sound rudimentary, but I think women especially are taught to focus on the other person in the relationship and what makes the other person happy. By taking the time to enjoy being single, you get to find out what your likes and dislikes are, which helps you establish your own identity independent of someone else.” Yup, your journey to self-discovery isn’t over just because you flipped that tassel to the left.
Again, this is not just something people tell you because they feel bad that you’re not in a relationship. In fact, being a single is a privilege that you should enjoy right now for all the opportunities to grow that it will bring you. “I broke up with my college boyfriend two months before my graduation,” says Sydnee, a recent graduate from Florida International University. “It was probably one of the most difficult periods of my college career, but being unattached inspired me to pursue a number of different, exciting internship, job and travel opportunities in the gap year I took immediately after. I made more friends that year than I had in my entire college career. And I saw more of the city that I was living in than I ever had.”
You might take a lot of the things you can do as a single gal for granted, but these experiences are invaluable. “I do like the independence I have being single,” says Jen Morgan, a senior at Messiah College. “I studied off campus for an entire year and didn't have to worry about missing a guy while I was away. I also cook all the foods I like, wear whatever I want, and have extra money and free time to spend with my friends instead of on an SO.” If you want a relationship, you will find one when the time is right, but for right now? Girl, you’re doing just fine.
You don’t need a relationship to be happy
Despite what Hollywood would have you think, a relationship won’t solve all your problems. The truth is, if you’re happy alone, you’ll be more likely to be happy with someone else, too. “It has been very difficult to accept that I'm still single,” Jen says. “Some days are harder than others, but overall it's just a general ‘ugh’ feeling. I finally feel like I'm in a place where I could be happy with a boyfriend while still taking care of myself, and it's frustrating when the guys around me are just not in a place where they want to commit.”
And for yet another reason why we need feminist empowerment, “women grow up with this notion that we can only be happy when we're making someone else happy,” Hopkins says. “But the good news is, you deserve to be happy ALL THE TIME regardless of whether you're single, married, dating, gay, straight, transgender, bi, asexual or just figuring stuff out without labels. And really, until you're happy with you, you're not going to find someone to make you happy.”
All this is great, but what if all your friends are in committed relationships and/or getting engaged? “Since I go to a Christian college, ‘ring by spring’ is a huge deal,” Jen says. “I know so many people who are engaged, and to think that I don't even have a boyfriend at this point makes me feel like I'm falling behind, which affects my confidence.”
Many collegiettes feel the same way as Jen, but you don’t have to let your singleness bring you down. In fact, you should embrace it—yes, really! “Yes, you probably have friends who are getting engaged or married, or even having kids, and the impulse to compare yourself to them is strong,” Hopkins says. “But the thing to measure yourself and other people on is not relationship status, it's on how genuinely happy someone is and how grateful someone is for what they have. If you find that you're not happy, start doing things that do make you happy, and go from there.”
If you do a little introspection, you’ll probably—ahem, definitely—find that what you’re missing isn’t an SO; it’s a hobby, more time with your friends or more time for yourself. And the even better news is: these are all things you can control.
The haters don’t know what they’re talking about
Are your peers or relatives bugging you about the whole being single thing? Seriously, what gives them the right to make life decisions for you, anyway? “Even in this day and age, there are still going to be people who feel that a woman of a certain age should be following certain social trends, regardless of how outdated and sexist those trends may be,” Hopkins says. “The first step to dealing with these people, especially if they're loved ones, is to remember that they just learned how to live and think about relationships and marriage a certain way. The second step is to remember they're entitled to their opinions, but that's all they are: opinions.”
When faced with this type of criticism, it’s easy to get stuck for words. “The best way to respond is to respond genuinely,” Hopkins advises. “If you don't care that you're single, tell them that. If you're a little heartbroken, or need a break from relationships, explain that. If you feel you haven't found the right person, say so! You can't control other people's opinions, but you can control who you are being when responding to them, so just be you and say whatever is right for you.” Like with any difficult conversation, you can’t expect a certain outcome on the other person’s side, but you can express yourself unapologetically.
Let’s be real for a sec—you don’t need us to tell you how friggin’ fabulous you are. You know it just as well as we do. So why linger on the fact that you’re single? The world is quite literally your oyster (well no, not literally). You’re already killing life by yourself, so just imagine what you could do with someone else. Until then (or not, TBH), keep on being an inspiration, to us and to everyone around you. *bows down and exits*