1. Dating in college felt experimental. You were just strolling through your dating life, not overly concerned about who you were talking to and where it was going. You were just testing the waters – trying things out and not worrying about where they were going to go.
2. …Whereas dating in the real world feels purposeful, planned out, and carefully thought-through. It feels less like you’re just relaxing and experimenting, and more like there’s a steady path that everyone is expected to follow. You’re no longer getting on and off the expressway whenever you please; it feels like you’re just stuck on a route with an infinite number of other people.
3. Going on dates often felt sillier and more carefree in college. You usually met up at a casual local spot and sat on a patio or had some beers. Sometimes you just met up in a big group when you were both out with your friends. For the most part, it felt nonchalant. Relaxed. Unplanned. But in the real world, it takes planning. Everyone is working. Everyone has responsibilities and schedules and other engagements. By the time you pick a day and a time that actually works for both of you, it seems like a much bigger deal than you even realized.
4. In college, the dating pool seemed much more manageable, while still making you feel like you had plenty of options. When you had a date, most of the time, you could ask your friends about the person and somebody would know who they were and could tell you some info. It felt like you had endless options and endless people to meet, while still feeling like they weren’t complete strangers.
5. …But in the real world, everyone feels like total strangers, constantly. It’s no longer the case that you’re always surrounded by friends of friends and people you know through other people. You’re on your own a lot, trying to navigate your regular life and your love life without the help of three or four best-friend-roommates.
6. You’re out of the college bubble, but the dating pool somehow seems much smaller. Yes, technically you’re out in the real world where apparently there is a seemingly infinite number of fellow single twenty-somethings who are looking to find a companion. But at the same time, it feels like they’re all hidden in dark corners of a huge city. College was like a little fishbowl where all the single young people were within five feet of each other. Now, it’s up to you to figure out how the hell you’re going to manage this dating obstacle course on your own.
7. Apps like Tinder and Hinge simultaneously make it easier and harder. While they are available for college students, they really did not become popular or commonplace until the two years or so. So, for the most part, they’ve become available for most people post-college. Although they do make you feel like it’s possible to go online shopping for your next date, it’s also kind of a reminder of how many people are out there that you don’t want to be with.
8. The questions seem to pop up so much more quickly when you’re dating in the real world. In college, it often feels relaxed and fun and like everything will work itself out. But in the real world, as soon as you meet someone the questions come tumbling out. What are we? What are they looking for? Where is this going?
9. Time seems to be flying by at an unheard-of rate. In college the amount of time you had felt endless. You could do whatever you wanted because you were going to be young forever and time was not an issue. Now, it feels like there’s a clock inside of your brain, constantly ticking and reminding you that you are getting older every second.
10. It feels like a game of musical chairs, where everyone seems to be pairing off and you are terrified that the music is going to shut off and you’re just going to be left alone, standing and humiliated. College was a single person’s paradise, where being free and untethered was the best feeling. Now, it feels more like a terrifying game where you’re looking around for an open chair and hoping that you’re going to get to it in time.