What to Do When You See Last Semester's Crush for the First Time

The beginning of fall semester can be stressful. Everything from making sure your pens from last year still have ink, to picking up your textbooks, moving in to your new room, choosing an outfit worthy of the first day of class and, most importantly, an outfit that shows off how much hotter, tanner and fitter you have gotten over the summer for last semester’s crush. However, an outfit can only do so much.

Your crush from spring semester may have been someone you hooked up with a few times but weren’t “hooking up with,” or maybe something a little more serious, or maybe just a love-from-afar kind of crush that you never had the guts to do anything about. 

While you may be tempted to hide behind the nearest building when you first see them on campus, instead, try some of these effective and, at times, very strategic flirting tips from my two suave friends, a senior at Cornell and a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill (let’s call them Jake* and Sam*). 

Scenario 1: You end up next to each other in line at the dining hall.

Do not keep talking to your girl friend and pretend like you have somehow managed not to notice they're standing right next to you; otherwise the next 10 minutes are about to be the most painstakingly awkward moments of your life. Instead, embrace the nervous excitement churning in your stomach and say hello. Have the regular post-summer conversation, like updates on internships and vacations, and at some point casually slip in a compliment.

Jake suggests, “Compliment [them] on a summer improvement. If [they] had a really cool summer job tell [them], ‘That sounds so interesting,’ or if they explain that they went to the beach, say, ‘I can tell, you look really tan.’ If you can’t think of anything creative, just genuinely smile and say ‘You look good!’ Then they'll walk away from the conversation thinking about you and how you thought they looked good. It will definitely turn them on and get them thinking about your chemistry last spring.”  

Scenario 2: You walk into your classroom and discover them sitting in the third row.

As endless weeks of steamy study sessions and excuses to meet up before and after class start flashing before your eyes, compose yourself and focus on finding a strategic seat.

Jake's advice for big lecture classes is to sit behind your crush. He says, “Sit behind [them] a few rows back and a little to the side, so you can catch [them] checking you out. On the first day of class, guys love to sit and watch all the girls coming in to the classroom and get excited about all the new hot girls they will have excuses to spend time with.”

Plus, if you sit in front of [them], you will most likely feel extremely self-conscious and imagine [they're] staring at your love handles or that stain on the back of your shirt you thought no one would notice. After class, text them something like: “I noticed we have [blank] class together. This should be a good semester.” It will have them excitedly wondering if you meant “good” because of them, or because of the syllabus.

If it’s a smaller, more intimate class setting like a seminar, Sam says, “You definitely want to be in the same row and within conversation distance. It would be awkward if you sat too far away because you will obviously both acknowledge each other’s presence. Have a friendly conversation and act really excited to have a class together, and shoot [them] flirtatious smiles throughout the class whenever the professor says something funny or interesting.”

Scenario 3: You wave to each other crossing the quad but it’s too awkward of a distance to have a conversation.

This is the perfect time for a first text. A few minutes after you saw each other, text: “Too bad I missed you. We should catch up soon.” You don’t need to be overly flirtatious here, and you may be tempted to add a smiley emoticon for an obvious clue that you still like them.

However, Jake has pretty strong feelings about emoticons: “Emoticons are boner killers.” This might not be the same for all guys, but a smile is insinuated without a colon and a parenthesis. Hopefully they'll text you back, and if so, follow the tips explained in Scenario 4.

Scenario 4: They text you out of the blue.

Don’t freak out, but this may be the single most important thing to ever happen to you. Just kidding—sort of. The fact that they texted you without any stimulant on your end shows that they've been thinking about seeing you and are excited you are both back on campus. Ask a question back to maintain the conversation, and after a couple of texts, stop being so vague about your summer and start being specific, telling jokes and flirting.

Sam explains, “Don’t talk about academics or your internship; talk about fun, unusual and adventurous things you did over the summer that will make [them] interested and have the conversation continue for a long time.” Hopefully, it will end in one of you suggesting meeting up over the weekend or for a meal.

Scenario 5: You run into them at a wild first-weekend-back party.

This scenario will require some constraint on your end. In your drunken haze, you will think to yourself, “Darn it, what were those tips in that great article on Her Campus?” – or something along those lines. Here is the key point to remember:

DO NOT hook up (no making out, nothing) the first night you run into each other coincidentally. You don’t want them to think of you as the surefire hookup for a weekend. However, both Jake and Sam agree that you also do not want them to think, “Oh my god, why didn’t she want to hook up with me? Is she over me?” 

Instead, the ever-strategic Jake suggests you create a false time constraint. “Casually work into conversation that you promised your friend you have to stop by this other party. If [they] want to come with you [they'll] follow you there, or you should text [them] later ro invite [them]: ‘Hey this party is really fun. You should come.’ That way they'll think ‘She didn’t hook up with me because she had to go somewhere’ rather than ‘she wanted to run away from me because she doesn’t like me anymore.’” If they end up coming to the party, then it’s clear they still like you and the serious flirting can start. Then, it’s up to you if you want to hook up.

(Note: Don’t freak out if they don't fall into your trap and come to the other party; it’s possible they're friends convinced them to go elsewhere, or countless other events of an unpredictable night at college.)

Scenario 6: You look up from your laptop in the library and realize they're doing homework at a desk right near you.

Now, there are two choices: you either wait for them to notice you and come up to you, or you make the move. If you are lucky, you will catch them staring at you and give a little wave or a smile and nod.

If you want to make the move, Jake tactfully explains, “You want to walk past [them] as an excuse for conversation, but you can only do what your surroundings present you with for a destination: a friend, the printer, the bathroom, the water fountain. Walk towards the pretend destination and act surprised and happy to run into them, and have a quick and friendly conversation.” Remember, they might be caught up with homework and will probably only be receptive to a short yet flirtatious hello.

Scenario 7: You are with a group of friends and run into them with their group of friends at the go-to Sunday breakfast place. 

We saved the trickiest situation for last. When we were talking to Jake and Sam, they both admitted to being stumped for the perfect way to handle it. Jake admits he “hates the showdown of the crews,” because groups of friends get in the way and make this first encounter more awkward than it should be. 

Amidst the rounds of polite hugs and overly-excited “Heys!” between groups, make sure you hug them a little tighter, and flash them a brighter smile, and have a slightly longer greeting than you do with all they're friends so they realize you are more excited to see them. Later shoot them a text about the encounter: “It was great to see you at [blank], maybe next time we can run into each other on purpose,” or anything that implies you should have more coincidental run-ins in the future.

Keep these flirty tips in mind for the first week of fall semester, and hopefully you will feel well prepared and resist the urge to hide when you suddenly cross paths. Love is a battlefield, and sometimes it requires a little strategy to nudge it in the right direction.

*Names have been changed.