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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

The Turkey Dump: Why So Many College Couples Break Up Over Thanksgiving

The Turkey Dump, as it is affectionately called, refers to the phenomenon in which college students return home for Thanksgiving break, only to then break up with their high school sweethearts. With the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching, we here at Her Campus want to make sure you’re nursing a full stomach, rather than a broken heart – the only things we like mashed are potatoes!      

According to InformationIsBeautiful.net, there are peak times throughout the year when breakups are most likely to occur. According to Facebook status updates, you are most likely to be dumped just before spring break (around mid-March) and about two weeks before the winter holidays. “Thanksgiving break is kind of the last point at which a reasonable human being can drop a significant other until February, and many take advantage of the small window of time,” says Dan Savage, sex and relationship columnist. Why, you ask? Read on, ladies!      

If you follow the trend, then you probably entered college with a long-distance boyfriend. Unfortunately, long-distance relationships are a ton of work. They require trust, communication, and loyalty. At this point in our lives, who has the time to dedicate to a high school sweetheart? Many of us are often unwilling, or even unable, to sacrifice time with new friends for a marathon session with the boyfriend from home.   

Freshman year is stressful – trust me, I have been there. We must learn to balance academics, campus organizations and a busy social calendar. Even if your calendar is a little more “Margarita Night with the Girls!!!!” than “Study for Calculus Test”, that is okay. It’s college, remember? As such, long-distance relationships often fall to the end of the list of priorities, and who can blame us? If not, though, the stress can be overwhelming. “It was so hard for me to make time for my high school boyfriend,” says Rachel, a University of Missouri student. “After awhile, I just couldn’t take it anymore.” So, if your relationship ends this Thanksgiving, do not blame yourself. Sometimes, we all just need a little time to relax.    

Freshman year of college is an exciting time – it is the start of a new chapter in your lives, ladies! ENJOY IT. At this time, you begin a journey of self-discovery, which often leads to the realization that you are not the same person you were in high school, and that is okay.  In addition, college life is fun and exciting, which makes the old high school days seem relatively boring, in comparison. The new beginning presents an opportunity to become someone completely new. But, for those of us stuck with a ball and chain at home, long-distance relationships tend to hold us back. If we are tightly bound by commitment, we cannot fully embrace college the way that our friends seem to… you know, the girl who is always stumbling in at 4 a.m. gushing about the gorgeous guy she just spent the better half of the night with. “My girlfriend told me that she needed to ‘explore other options’ before she could commit to me,” says Tommy, a University of Illinois student. “I was really bummed until I realized that tons of other couples were breaking up too, so there were lots of newly single people to meet!” Sometimes, it is better to allow yourself to change. So, after weeks of eyeing the cutie in your class, you realize that maybe it is not the right time for a long-distance relationship. “Go home, hook up and break up is pretty much the pattern,” Washington University student, Carly says. Clearly, many other girls realize this, too!


Everyone is nervous upon their first day of school, whether it be kindergarten or freshman year of college. Girls, I know that, for many, college is the first time you are without your families, sometimes hundreds of miles away from home. So, it can be comforting to have a boyfriend to remind you of home. “The reason I took the breakup so hard was because I felt like I had no connection to home anymore,” says Tommy. “I wanted someone who knew ME, rather than someone who only knows who I am now.” Plus, it helps during those moments when the loneliness seems overwhelming…like when you forgot to do your homework, failed a test, fought with your new friends, came down with the flu…Wait, that does happen to you, too, right? However, once you begin to settle into college, the need for a so-called “security blanket” is usually unnecessary. “I started to get so involved with my sorority and new friends that I didn’t have as much interest in my boyfriend anymore,” says Rachel. “It wasn’t that I didn’t care for him, I just didn’t want to devote the time, since I wasn’t really into it.”

When It’s Time to Break it Off with your High School Sweetheart

  1. You change your ringtone to “Single Ladies,” but for your boyfriend? “I Look So Good Without You”
  2. You ace an exam and you call your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your cousins, your next-door neighbor…but not your boyfriend.
  3. You see a girl flirting with him on Facebook, and you think “Why would she be interested in him? Take him!”
  4. A cute guy approaches you at a party, asking about your relationship status. “It’s basically done, I mean we’re over,” you say, while receiving multiple texts from your boyfriend, wondering where you are.
  5. You would rather take a nap, do homework, study in the library, workout…almost anything except talk to your boyfriend.
  6. You need a date for an upcoming formal, and your boyfriend is the last person you are considering to take.
  7. Your mom asks if she should set an extra place at Thanksgiving dinner for your boyfriend, and you say, “Who?”
  8. You change your relationship status on Facebook to “Single” – to your boyfriend’s surprise.
  9. You’re “somewhat” in a relationship with the cutie on your floor.
  10. You’re only excited for Thanksgiving break because you want to breakup with your boyfriend, then head back to school single and ready to mingle!

Does Anyone Survive?

There are some couples who just seem to make it work. Maybe you even know one – the girl returns to her room with a bouquet of roses, express-mailed overnight. “He wanted to make sure I got them before my exam,” she explains. Or, a guy whose Facebook status is repeatedly, “I can’t believe how lucky I am.” So, ladies, if this article has you worried about becoming a victim of “The Turkey Dump,” remember that sometimes long-distance relationships really do succeed. While there is truth to the tale, it does not apply to every couple. “Freshman year was really hard on my relationship,” says Caroline, sophomore student. “But we made it through, and now are stronger than ever.”
Thanksgiving break is one of the best times of freshman year. You finally get to see your family and friends, who you’ve been missing for weeks. Remember, girls, The Turkey Dump may be a blessing in disguise – at least you’re home to eat your feelings…home-style. Or, home to engage in a little Black Friday retail therapy? Okay, okay, you get it. Remember, though, you never know what will happen in the future. “My girlfriend and I broke up for college,” says Mike, University of Illinois student. “But we still talk, and it’s definitely possible that we will get back together.” If you’re the dumper, then get ready for a crazy second semester of freshman year – you deserve it. 
Rachel, University of Missouri student
Tommy, University of Illinois student
Caroline, University of Iowa student
Mike, University of Illinois student
Dan Savage, Sex and Relationship Columnist
Carly, Washington University student


Allie Duncan is a senior, class of 2013, in the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She is specializing in Strategic Communication within the Journalism department, while also pursuing a Textile and Apparel Management minor. In addition to writing for Her Campus, Allie is a member of Kappa Delta sorority - Epsilon Iota chapter, the Publicity Director for Her Campus Mizzou, a Campus Representative/Intern for Akira Chicago, a Contributing Writer for Chicago-Scene magazine and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. She spent the 2012 summer as an intern at Tory Burch, and the 2011 summer as an intern at Vogue magazine. A Chicago native, Allie enjoys shopping, watching reality television, cupcakes, expensive shoes and reading magazines. She hopes to eventually land a job in fashion public relations while living in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago.