8 Things to Expect in the Post-College Dating Scene

You’re a college graduate now—hooray! Along with your diploma comes a whole new dating scene. The guys haven’t magically transformed into perfect gentlemen, but you’re not so different from your crazy college self either—for now at least. Living alone in a big city for the first time with a real job and a whole new selection of men isn’t as simple as it seems. Here are eight things to be prepared for in the post-college dating scene:

1. Booty calls/hook-ups are not relationships

You might have followed the “we’re together” mentality in college even if you were just hooking up and not going on actual dates. But after college, you should expect him to take you out if he’s serious about being with you, not just take you back to his apartment. If he doesn’t, you’re probably not in a relationship.

“I thought hooking up was the be-all end-all of dating since that’s all that I knew in college, but this all changed after graduation when I met a guy at work. Our first date consisted of dinner and a walk in the park, not hooking up and sleeping at his place,” says Rachel* from Grand Valley State University. It’s true that he might not be able to afford an expensive date on his new limited budget, but if he’s actually interested in dating you, expect to go on more dates than you went on in college.

Post-college dating dare:

Make sure your first date with a new guy happens outside of your apartment. Let him know from day one that you are not a booty-call by refusing to spend the night too soon.

2. Casually dating multiple people at once is the norm

You’re in a new city surrounded by tons of people. It’s just like freshman year, but the guys are more mature and you’re more prepared for dating (thanks to this guide!). Now’s a perfect time to date a few men at the same time so you can figure out what you’re looking for in a partner and determine which one actually likes you. Marissa from the University of Michigan likes to have fun with dating and keep it casual. She understands that she shouldn't let anyone make her feel guilty for going out with one guy for a while and then changing her mind. “It’s not leading someone on; be honest and carefree as you take dating day by day; remember, you’re meeting lots of people, and only one will stick,” she says.

It’s smart to casually date multiple men so you can carry on the most promising relationship and say goodbye to the guys who just don’t fit what you’re looking for. And remember, the guys are likely dating multiple girls at the same time, too. So be careful not to jump to conclusions about the status of your relationship without having "the talk".

Post-college dating dare:

Schedule more than one date in the same week. Having a full social calendar always feels great. (We all deserve the chance to feel like we’re on The Bachelorette every once in a while.)

3. Dating with a larger age difference is acceptable

It’s okay if your new post-college guy is 5+ years older than you; really anyone in their 20s or early 30s is fair game. As far as dating younger guys goes, don’t venture too far into cougar territory. Most of the guys you meet post-college will be older anyways.

If you’re going to date a 30-year-old and are only a year out of college, realize that you’ll have to adapt to this huge age difference. Since you aren’t in your college bubble anymore, be careful about whom you do decide to date. You could meet a creepy old man who pretends to be younger—and that is definitely not the guy you want to date.

Post-college dating dare:

Say yes when the cute guy who’s 8 years older than you asks you out for coffee.

4. Guys will want to talk on the phone

In college, you usually text because it’s convenient and because you’re so used to communicating in that way. After college, talking on the phone becomes more of the norm. “I realized texting was stupid because the other person can’t really tell how you’re feeling. My college girlfriend would always read my texts the wrong way and get mad at me, so when I graduated, I vowed to make more calls and send fewer texts. I met a cute girl through a mutual friend and decided to call her and ask her out on a date. A few dates later, she said how impressed she was that I had called her,” says John from Saginaw Valley State University. See, good things come to those who call. Now that you’re a college graduate, you can’t revert back to your high school texting relationship days; calling is way more meaningful.

Post-college dating dare:

Call him just to talk. It might feel weird at first since you rely so much on texting, but hearing each other’s voices is way better than typing into a tiny screen and sending a few too many emoticons and “lol”s.

5. Tons of people do online dating

For whatever reason, all of my college friends seem to laugh at the idea of online dating. But post-college, the Internet is just one more way to meet a guy, especially when there isn’t a huge pool of single men in your area.

“I graduated last year and am living at home in my parents’ house. Sometimes I feel as if I'm back in high school. Sure, as a 23-year-old woman I don’t have a curfew, but I also have a nearly nonexistent social life. After being in college for four years surrounded by thousands of people my own age, I feel like there is no one my age around here!” says Megan from the University of Michigan. Online dating is a great solution for people like Megan who move back home after college and are struggling to find love. “Since I work in a female-dominated field, I was having trouble meeting guys my first year out of college so I decided to try out OkCupid, says Leslie* from Wayne State University. Even though I didn’t meet my future husband, I did go on a few good dates and met a lot of guys.” Erase all of your preconceptions about online dating and you just might find your future boyfriend in cyberspace.

Post-college dating dare:

Explore different online dating sites and set up a profile. Even if you don’t end up pursuing any of the dating opportunities you find online, you’ll get a self-esteem boost as you see your inbox fill up with new messages from cute, available guys.

6. Guys have more baggage

Maybe he’s been engaged or married, maybe he has a child, or maybe he’s had a live-in girlfriend. Whatever his baggage is, be prepared to handle surprises that you never had to deal with in college. His baggage isn’t always bad; it just means he’s had different life experiences than you. As long as you go into it with a positive attitude and an open mind, you should be able to handle these little challenges.

Post-college dating dare:

Be patient and understanding if and when he exposes his baggage. There’s nothing you can’t handle. Unless he’s done something seriously wrong that makes you question his character or your safety, try not to judge him for his past.

7. Some guys are still stuck in college

You might feel like you’re still living on campus by the way some guys act. Carrie* explains how she thought things would change when she started med school, but found a lot of the guys wanting to hook up with her from day one. Be on the lookout for guys who want to be independent bachelors and repeat freshman year all over again—one hook-up after the next. “I moved to Chicago to start an internship after college and discovered my new guy was also dating another girl who lived in our apartment complex,” says Amanda*, a graduate of Princeton University. If you’re ever in a situation like this, ditch the guy immediately and tell him you will not put up with his childish games. There’s a difference between dating around and dating all of the neighbors!

Post-college dating dare:

Promise yourself that you won’t be the girl who’s stuck in college by refusing to make any of the dating mistakes you made during undergrad.

8. Some guys are looking to settle down

After college, most guys realize life isn’t one big party with a new girl to choose from each night, which means they might be more open to the idea of a serious relationship. Your dating life will start to feel more real and less like a game. “I’m in a new part of my life and feel more ready to find a serious girlfriend,” says Peter from Florida State University. This is music to my ears!

Before you get too excited, remember: just because he’s ready for a girlfriend doesn’t mean he’s the perfect guy for you. Make sure you find someone whose relationship goals align with your own.

Post-college dating dare:

If a guy tells you he’s ready to take things to the next level and you’re not feeling the same way, tell him how you feel. Just because you found someone who’s finally ready to settle down doesn’t mean you have to be ready for him. Remember, you don’t have to marry the first guy you meet.

Dating after college has its ups and downs – in some ways it’s much more cut-and-dry than dating in college, but in other ways the extra responsibilities and life experience can make meshing with your man more difficult. Try these post-college dating dares to make the most of the new scene and you could find yourself surrounded by cute 20-somethings before you know it!