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The College Girl’s Guide to Online Dating: Playing it Safe, Clever, and Smart

The popularity of online dating services among college students and 20-somethings has exploded. Dating apps including Hinge, Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Wyldfire, The League, and others have transformed the dating scene.

And not only are you more likely to see young people swiping right and left, you can also catch them swapping stories about Match, Ok Cupid, and the like. It’s common.

Creating multiple profiles on dating sites and apps is a great way to expand your pool of options and is a totally admirable step for productive people who know what they want in a relationship.

And, hey, even if you don’t know what you want in a relationship, you are more likely to have a date next Friday night if you try online dating!

Interested in giving it a shot? Here are some tips on how make online dating work for you!

1) Choose your domain wisely. Pick a dating site or app that fits your personality.  

Know what you would like out of the experience and do your research. Find sites that relate to your interests. There are a lot of specialty dating sites out there, like IvyDate, Farmers Only, Veggie Date, and Alikewise. Read about different sites before joining. The more effort you put into an site or app that fits your personality, the more likely you are to meet that special someone. This is proactive!

Also, consider the fact that most people who are willing to pay for a subscription to a dating site are serious about their search and invested in finding someone special. Joining a “free” online dating service may sound like a cool concept, but the reality is that most people on those sites are not serious and even flakey.

*Bonus tip: To avoid creepy messages, try faith-based dating sites. There is no guarantee anywhere at any time that every guy will respect you, but guys on sites like Christian Mingle, Catholic Match, and J Date are typically looking to start meaningful relationships. You will see less of the booty call sort of thing, fo sho!

2) Don’t be afraid to make the first move.

When it comes to the internet, making the first move is fair game for either party. Simply put, it doesn’t matter who first says, “Hey, how’s it going? You seem interesting.” It makes no big difference. If your pursuit is going to be successful, you need to extend your net out in multiple directions and leave some bait. See how many options bite!  Usually, if anything, guys will be flattered that you sent them a message. The no-no is to be the one who keeps the conversation going all of the time. Be aware if guys are asking you about yourself, too. Guys who don’t ask questions are unoriginal and not going to pursue you!


3) Keep messaging simple.

Online communication should be light, direct, and to-the-point. There is plenty of time to tell your life story as you get to know someone in person. Your opening line should say something like,

“Hey _____,

My name is ______. I noticed that you love skiing and mountain biking, and I think that’s awesome. I always love going hiking from time to time, and love the outdoors. Let me know if you’d like to chit chat. Have a great weekend!”

Messages like this are more likely to receive a response if there is interest. It bounces back from being about him and being about you. So, it’s about BOTH of you. Something like, “Hey, how’s it going?” is okay, but not interesting. The best candidates on dating sites receive tons of messages every single day. Do they respond to all of them? Probably not. Be unique and direct in your communication, and you will be more likely to create interactions! Create a ping pong effect!

4) Be yourself in your profile, but don’t over share.

When creating a profile, you want to create an accurate representation of yourself, but keep some aspects of your like private. DO fill out a decent amount of the information the site asks of you because this creates an interesting profile. Just avoid being too personal. DON’T use over 5 photos. This is excessive. 5 is a lucky number because it can show who you are, but also leaves some mystery. Avoid saying things about where you go to university or where you work in your profile. Just say generic things in your intro like, “I’m interning at a consulting firm,” or “I’m majoring in Psychology.” Lead with your best foot, while protecting yourself!

*Bonus tip: If you are feeling shy, give a brief intro, and end it with: “Message me, if you’d like to know more.”



5) Don’t drag on the conversation for too long.

If you know of different online dating stories through your friends (or by virtue of watching Catfish), chances are you’ve heard about some people communicating for months without meeting. It can be both romantic and a waste of time. This scenario is hit or miss. I have a friend who communicated with a guy she met on OK Cupid for several months. And, when they finally met, they hit it off and became a couple. I have another friend who met a guy on Tinder and they also communicated for several months. He flaked on her several times, and while they did meet, he was unreliable. The ideal situation is to not let online interactions last for over 1 month maximum. So, be clear about what you want in your profile and in messages. Don’t dilly dally after 20-plus messages. Say, “I would love to meet you.” If it doesn’t happen, end the interactions.

6) Be positive, and make good use of your accounts.

Have faith that your search will be successful, and put effort into it. Message multiple different guys at once to increase your chances of finding a genuine connection. If you are paying for a website like Match, don’t waste your subscription by not going online at least twice a week. Do a new search every once and a while. New members join all of the time, so the pool changes. You never know who you’ll meet!

*Bonus tip: I advise using search criteria of a year below your age to up to 8 or 9 years above in your search because you cannot easily determine someone’s maturity level solely by age. Especially for college girls, 2-7 years above is a good age difference in my opinion.

7) Have an “options” mindset.

You may have heard your mother or grandmother say something like, “It only takes one.” But, if that “one” is special, you typically need to find him in a vast sea of fish. DON’T put all of your eggs in one basket. DON’T get too invested in one person you’ve never met. Why? Everyone is talking to multiple people on these websites. Play the field until you have an idea that you want to be exclusive with one guy and he wants to be with you, too!

8) Use the safe meet-up only policy

BE SAFE. BE SAFE. BE SAFE. Did I mention, please be safe? If you are going to meet with someone you met online for the first time, always meet in a public place. Better yet, have a friend or family member drive you to the location you are meeting your date. If they have time, ask them to wait nearby, and text them updates about how you are doing. Never agree to meet anyone at a sketchy destination, such as his house, a night club, or rest stop. Ideally, meet at a place like a coffee shop, shopping mall, or low-key restaurant. Keep it very casual. Save the exciting one-on-one dates for when you know him better! 


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