Just kidding, but let me know if anyone ever figures those out. While I have your attention, it might be time to examine this particular marital campus tradition.
To start, the timeline for “Ring by Spring” is fairly cut and dry.
1. By freshman year, you should meet a nice boy in a pre-requisite class, who, if they’re really cut from the Catholic cloth, should ask you on a first date to a dorm mass.
2. By sophomore year, you should be dating this nice boy, more or less casually, with frequent romantic excursions to SDH and the Grotto. If you’re not quite so cut from the Catholic cloth, you should have broken parietals by now.
3. By junior year, you should have aligned your summer internship or abroad plans, proving that absence only makes the heart grow fonder or at least more likely to post sappy Facebook photos.
4. Finally, by senior year, three major decisions should have already been made: which coast you’ll both be working on, what your favorite baby names are, and what color scheme you want for the ceremony. (You should probably book the Basilica while you’re thinking about it… I hear the waiting list is three years long!) After that, the nice boy from Common Human Diseases gets to bend his knee in front of the Stadium, the Grotto, or Lyon’s Arch and pop the question, all while holding a diamond ring of tasteful proportions.
Some girls and guys are happily on this schedule, pacing themselves into emotional maturity so that they can enter the “real world” with the comfort of a constant and legally bound companion. These girls have their lives together. Most of them have never puked in an academic building bathroom on a Friday morning after Feve, not even once.
While this may often seem like the expectation, those who don’t fit the mold shouldn’t start to cry “old maid” just yet. There are plenty of people who are coming up on their 21st birthday feeling like they just got their drivers license, myself included. These are the kind of girls who can’t even keep track of their phones, much less a diamond ring. How are they supposed to commit to someone for life if they can’t even commit to plans for the weekend?
They’re not. And that’s okay. Contrary to Jane Austen, a girl is not destined to a life of loveless drudgery being bounced around between your coupled friends if they’re not married in their early 20s. In fact, that’s not even me just trying to justify my life choices. There are statistics to back me up.
According to Pew Research Center, the prime age to tie the knot is currently between 25 and 34-years-old. That’s a full three years after students typically graduate from college, and then you have almost a decade after that. Look at that age range. That’s 10% of your life assuming modern medicine continues to advance. Not to mention the marriage rate in this age group has continued to decrease over the past four years, while the marriage rate of 35-44 year-olds has increased. Assuming this trend continues, you not only have time to finish your bachelor’s degree before marriage, but also your master’s and a lengthy doctorate program.
On the other hand, for those who have obediently followed the “Ring by Spring” timeline, who have unironically found their soul mate and do not just like them because they’re majoring in finance, you are completely normal as well. Because while students are getting married older, we’re actually getting married sooner in our lives than people ever have.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people back in the 1890s used to wait around half of their lives before marrying. (But to be fair, that’s because the average lifespan was a little over 40.) Now, people are only waiting about a third of their lives since the average life expectancy for women is around 82 years. So really, you Ring-by-Springers are right on time, and you’re only slightly ahead of the curve on a demographic trend that’s going to hit all of us sooner or later.
My point is: it doesn’t matter if you’re aggressively single or essentially wifed-up during college. The whole point of dating at this age is to find someone who makes you happy, who laughs at the same stupid things that you do, and remembers that one food that doesn’t make you vomit when you’re hungover. If you don’t find them here, there’s a whole world of people outside of the bubble who don’t even know what a Ring by Spring is.
(But just a heads up, 28% of married college graduates marry someone from their college. Those are your odds. Godspeed.)