Dating After College: How to Transition to Dating in the Real World

Dating in college isn't exactly easy––that's why our Real Live College Guys detangle your love issues every week. But dating after college is an entirely different animal. Suddenly, you can't meet guys at frat parties, in class or on the staff of your newspaper anymore––now you're in the “real world.” While it might have been fine to hook up with the cute guy who also worked your shift at the rec center, it's definitely not okay to treat your new job as a dating pool. (Sorry, no date is worth the risk of getting fired!)

Her Campus talked to dating expert Lindsay Kriger and Elyssa Goodman, a 2010 Carnegie Mellon grad whose little black book is hardly wanting for dates. They explain how dating changes between college and post-graduation, and how you can adapt to those changes with ease. Now do yourself a favor, and leave next Friday open on your calendar...

How is dating in college different than dating after college?

The major difference is that fewer opportunities fall directly into your lap. You won't be thrown together with a million other people your own age in college classes, student clubs or frat parties. Instead, it's up to you to seek out people to meet and things to do, especially if you're moving to a new city.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but once you graduate from college, dating takes effort. You have to coordinate schedules and find time to see each other. And that’s if you can even find each other in the first place, because now you have to search out the people you click with, since they’re no longer all around you,” says Kriger.

So, how do you make that happen?

Elyssa says, “When I moved to New York [after graduation], I found myself wondering when I would have New York friends and meet a New York boy. Trust me, it happens eventually – you just have to go out and experience the world as you normally would. For me personally, that means gallery openings, art parties, cabarets and just hanging out with friends (I've met awesome guys all of the places listed). This works because you know you already have something in common, in that you both like to go to these kinds of places. Or you already have good taste in people because you have a mutual friend!”

Elyssa's approach works because it's so proactive. The only person you'll meet by sitting at home on a Friday night watching Netflix in your pajamas is Don Draper (and sorry, ladies, he's taken). If you want to meet someone new, you have to put yourself out there. Is that exhilarating? Yes. Kind of scary? You betcha. 

Where can you meet guys post-graduation?

Some of the places you might have typically met guys are off-limits once you graduate. But other places (hello, being 21+!) are finally open.

Here are a few new places you might meet guys after you graduate:

  • Instead of class, try...  joining a co-ed sports team.
  • Instead of study abroad, try... an 18+ Contiki travel tour.
  • Instead of frat parties and mixers, try... a bar.
  • Instead of on campus, try... public parks.
  • Instead of Tinder, try... OK Cupid or Grouper.

While there may have been a stigma against online dating in college, it's fairly commonplace once you leave your campus bubble. Kriger explains, “If you’re worried that online dating makes you look desperate, get over it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship and letting people know it,” she says. “Online dating is actually a lot safer and more reliable than meeting random guys at bars. When you meet someone in the virtual world, you can get a better feel for their intentions and find out things like whether or not they’re looking for a relationship, what their life and dating philosophies are, or even just what they do for fun.”

Of course, a few places to meet guys can remain the same: house parties, the gym, religious groups, sporting events and concerts, volunteer work, and through family and friends. But remember, once you fall into a routine, you limit the number of new people you're able to meet.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When you always go to the same bars, always eat in the same restaurants, always work out at the same gym at the same time, you never stray from your comfort zone – and you limit the number of new experiences in your life!” Kriger says. “If you’re single and ready to mingle, but finding the dating pool a little stale, why not try a different approach in some aspect of your daily routine? There are tons of men out there, but without just a touch of a ‘carpe diem’ attitude, you might miss out on meeting them (or even crossing paths).”

How can you let a guy know you're interested?

In order to maximize the chances of being approached by a guy, Kriger recommends hanging out by yourself or with just one other friend. It's nerve-wracking for a guy to approach a big group of girls to start a conversation with just one. “Ever thought about how scary three or four of us are when we go out to bars together? Too much pretty in one collective unit,” she says.

But sitting around waiting for a guy to invite you out seriously sucks. It's time to take matters into your own hands! Striking up a conversation, being yourself, touching his arm... never fear, those flirting tips you mastered in college aren't going anywhere. They work in the real world, too. The key to asking a guy out is confidence, pure and simple.

Elyssa says, “I was hanging out in Union Square Park [in New York City] one day and just kind of randomly starting talking to someone. I enjoyed talking to him, so I was just like, 'Would you like to have coffee sometime?' He said yes and called me later to make plans.”

Take after Elyssa's example and start small by sparking a conversation. It could be as simple as a comment on the weather, a comment on something he's reading or even asking for directions. Congrats, you've broken the ice! From there, keep the ball rolling. If you're getting a good vibe from the conversation, don't be afraid to take it a step further and ask him out for coffee. 

“You could very easily never see these people again so it's a lot less scary to just be like, 'Hey...'” Elyssa points out.

Remember, the worst that can happen is that he never calls. If that's the case, treat the scenario as practice for asking out the next guy. You can do it! If it makes you feel better, remember that guys feel the pressure of asking girls out all the time. We bet you're feeling sympathetic now, huh?

How are post-grad guys different than college guys?

Face it, a 22-year-old guy is a 22-year-old guy no matter what. Guys don't put on their cap and gown and suddenly decide to shower you with expensive jewelry and fine wines. (We wish.) But a guy's mindset might change after graduation, the same way yours does. Your new dating pool is probably occupied 9 – 5, either working all day or sending out job applications like crazy. Guys who used to be all about the hook-up scene might find themselves looking for something a bit more serious.

You might also start dating older guys. A four-year age gap might be pretty significant when you're in college, but once you graduate, it's not a big deal to start dating guys in their mid- to late-twenties, including grad students. Older guys tend to be more mature and have a bit more real world experience than guys your own age. They offer a few sweet bonuses, like “real” dates (at restaurants with tablecloths––imagine that!) and fewer fart jokes, but they come with drawbacks too: if your older guy has a busy job, he might not be able to hang out as often as you'd like.

But the biggest perk of all? A post-grad date will never end with the two of you squeezed into a twin extra-long bed three feet away from your roommate.

The transition to your new post-grad life might be intimidating, but remember that the transition to college was scary once upon a time, too. There's no pressure to start dating right away, so take your time and have fun!