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Sex + Relationships

HC’s Guide to Online Dating Sites

Online dating: it’s one of those things that your friends tell you about and you’re considering trying for yourself. But there are so many sites out there! How can you be sure you’re getting the right match or that trying out online dating is even worth trying in college? Have no fear! Here’s your guide to popular online dating sites.

Plenty Of Fish

Plenty Of Fish (POF) advertises itself as a site for any singles looking for love and says it provides “more dates, relationships, and visits than any other online dating website” (POF.com). It uses a ‘Chemistry Test’ to match users with other online daters who have the same emotional needs.

Cost: Free

Reputation:
The site has faced some scrutiny, namely that it attracts many more “casual daters” than “relationship daters”. However, that doesn’t mean POF should be overlooked; the site does hold the #1 dating site ranking in several countries, including the United States.

In addition, POF founder and CEO Markus Frind announced in late May 2013 that the POF team was completely revamping the site and doing away with features that were considered unattractive to users. One example? Intimate Encounter, a feature allowed for explicit sexual encounters without the obligation to pursue a relationship. Overall, the POF team is aiming for the site to have a more “relationship-y” feel. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Jenny*, a senior at the University of Florida, tried out POF for fun and had a couple of issues with the site. “People jokingly call it ‘Plenty of Sex’, and I see why,” she says, “I just sort of signed up to see what online dating itself was like, and there were a lot of creepy guys messaging me about sex. I’ve also heard a lot of stories of people’s accounts getting shut down for no reason and other site administration problems.”

However, Jenny still appreciates her experience with POF. “It made me think a lot more about what I want and don’t want in a relationship going forward. I also liked the fact that POF was free, so I didn’t feel like I ‘lost out’ financially if I didn’t find a match.”

OKCupid

OKCupid advertises itself as the “fastest-growing online dating site” that “uses math to get dates” (OKCupid.com). The site boasts that as long as you’re “honest and know what you want”, it can help you make a match. One thing that separates the site from all other online dating sites is that it does also claim to facilitate the creation of friendships as well as relationships.

The site also features an interesting way of matching through a “quiz” feature. Users answer questions to make up a dating profile. However, when answering quiz questions, users indicate their answer, what answers they will accept from potential partners, and how much importance they place on any particular question. There is one catch to this feature, though: your answers must be public if you want to see how a potential match answered the same question.

Cost: Free

Reputation:
OKCupid has been rated one of the best online dating websites by several publications. One of the only big complaints about the service is that it doesn’t offer the level of privacy to members that it claims it does. However, it goes without saying that it is naïve to believe that anything posted on the Internet is truly “private”, and this is not an issue that only OKCupid faces.

Another huge plus for collegiettes looking for love online: OKCupid is known to have a younger demographic, which means you can find whatever you’re looking for, whether it be a casual dating experience or a more serious relationship.

Ashley*, a junior at Florida State University, had a good experience when she used OKCupid. “From what I’ve seen, its reputation is pretty good; I’ve heard a ton of success stories from people who used it. It’s also known for having a younger crowd, on average, than many of the other sites.”

Ruth Shaw, a senior at Florida State University, also tried out OKCupid and had mixed feelings about it. “OKCupid definitely has a younger group of people on it, but I have also seen that it has some questionable actions since I used it.” Ruth felt like a lot of its users were trying to find sexual partners instead of love, which she was quite unsettled by.

However, Ruth felt like she would find partners only looking for sex on any dating website, not just OKCupid, and that if she’d had used the site longer, she could’ve found a quality match. “I think if [someone has] more patience with people than I do, it would work!”

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DateMySchool

Date My School allows college students and college alumni to find other educated people to date. Aside from the perk of being free, DateMySchool also boasts heightened security and privacy measures, like needing an official school email to log into the site.

Another interesting privacy feature is DateMySchool’s “Reversed Social Network” that excludes people you know so that users are only reaching other singles they couldn’t meet normally.

Cost: Free

Reputation:
Like many of the other sites mentioned in this list, DateMySchool has won several accolades, including About.com’s award for Best College Dating Site and Best Free Dating Site.

DateMySchool has been praised for its extra privacy features and interesting take on the college dating scene. It has become a viral sensation, now available at over 1,300 schools nationwide.

JDate

JDate boasts being the largest dating website for Jewish singles. What separates it from many of its dating counterparts is the attention to community (singles come together for charitable events and Jewish holidays) and of course, the Jewish faith.

One unique feature you won’t find anywhere else? JDate allows users to receive dating advice from a rabbi. Mazel tov!

Cost: $19.99 per month

Reputation:
JDate is known for its strong community. Members come together often for actual events, usually in the spirit of charitable giving or volunteering.

One downside to keep in mind if you’re looking for someone who shares your Jewish faith is that there are many non-Jews who use the site (up to 50,000 of the site’s 600,000 members) because they say they prefer Jewish partners. Some people might be fine with this, but it can be a bummer if you’re looking for a partner who is in fact Jewish.

Christian Mingle

Christian Mingle boasts that it is the number one online dating website for Christian singles. It uses “Compass Matching” and Christian-related questions in its profile questionnaire to make sure singles are compatible on a spiritual level.

Like JDate, Christian Mingle has many faith-based features, including the “Bible Verse of the Day” and the “Worship Center” that allow for faith-based activities like bible study and a “prayer wall.”

Cost: $29.99 per month

Reputation:
Like many of these other dating sites, you can’t become number one for nothing! Christian Mingle is considered a great way to meet people of the same faith who are looking for love. One thing collegiettes should keep in mind: Christian Mingle users are on the older side. Fifty-five percent of users are older than 36, and twenty-five percent are older than 50. In addition, statistics show that the majority of members on Christian Mingle are from the Midwest or the South. While these aren’t reasons to swear off Christian Mingle, they are definitely aspects to think about.

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Match

Match says it is able to find a relationship for anyone, regardless of values, religious beliefs, sexuality, or age. To find matches, users create a simple profile and fill out information about what type of person they would like to date, including details like what type of job they would like a potential match to have and how much money they would like matches to make.

Unique features include the Daily 5 (which provides users with five matches each day), MatchTalk (which allows users to have phone conversations without having to give their telephone numbers), and the 6 Month Guarantee (which states that if you cannot find a match within six months, the site will give you an additional six months for free).

Cost: $34.99 per month

Reputation:
With over 15 million users from 25 different countries, there’s a reason Match is so popular. One of the reasons Match is so successful is that it is open to everyone regardless of sexuality, race, or religious beliefs.

One of the largest complaints about Match’s online dating service is that it’s expensive, and there are reports of online dating money scams involving fake profiles. Of course, much like OKCupid’s privacy concerns, fake profiles pop up everywhere, and it is up to the discretion of the user to decide what is real and what is fake.

Ruth also tried out Match.com but found that, “[it] seemed to have a better reputation with the ‘upper 20’ crowd, rather than the college group,” making it hard for her to find someone to date as a college student. However, it really depends on what each individual collegiette is looking for, so give it a go if it sounds good to you!

 

 

eHarmony

The site boasts helping single men and women (over 21!) looking for love through a custom “Compatibility Matching System” with 29 dimensions of compatibility meant to match people on the deepest levels. The idea behind eHarmony is to skip the conventional browsing that comes with many dating websites and go straight to a few select, deliberate matches that are way more compatible.

Cost: $59.95 per month

Reputation:
eHarmony is considered one of the most comprehensive dating websites out there. Its profile includes over 258 questions to make sure users are giving the most complete picture of themselves possible, so definitely make sure you’ve got time (and provisions) to fill out everything!

The one thing eHarmony has come under scrutiny for is that its site is dedicated to heterosexual couples and doesn’t include features for homosexual couples. However, the company ameliorated this issue in 2009 with the creation of its site Compatible Partners.

eHarmony also has the reputation of being a site for older people looking to get married as opposed to date. Unfortunately, the site made such age statistics private in 2012, but before they stopped discussing their demographics, these claims did seem to be true.

Jessica*, a sophomore at Wesleyan University, tried out eHarmony with her sister a couple months back and found it extremely comprehensive. “It requires an extent of care. There are questions that require heart, which I thought was kind of endearing. For example, it would ask you for movies and you couldn’t just name Star Wars. You had to sit there and kind of extrapolate and share yourself.”

Jessica had heard about eHarmony’s reputation for being a dating website for older singles looking to settle down and get married, and she definitely found this to be true with her experience.

Many of eHarmony’s well-known comprehensive profile questions are geared towards finding lifelong soulmates, not just people to date. “My sister, who is actually subscribing to eHarmony, wants to find someone and settle down. Albeit, she is ten years older than me, and she’s obviously had enough years on her to consider what she wants and who she wants to settle down with for the rest of her life.”

The Bottom Line

Jumping into the world of online dating can be scary but also extremely rewarding. Think about what you’re looking for out of your online dating experience, and decide which site (or sites) is right for you.

*Names have been changed.

Lily is a member of Wesleyan University's class of 2016, where she double majored in government and sociology. She's a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect (www.theprospect.net), the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her work with Her Campus, she also serves in editorial roles at HelloFlo and The Muse.
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