Should Freshmen Date in College?
If you're a Christian thinking about dating, there are some "rules" that you should probably be aware of. They're not necessarily biblical rules, but for the most part they are wise rules that are worthy of consideration.
For example, before you date you should probably wait and ask what other people think first. You should also read a dating book to make sure you're thinking "soberly." And of course, you need to take time apart to pray and see if this relationship is really God's will for you guys (amazingly God always seems to give the greenlight).
And if you're a freshmen in college, you must be aware of the Freshmen Rule: "Don't date during your first year in college." If you grew up in the church, you've probably heard this rule before. However is this wise? Should freshmen avoid dating? Or is it really not that big of a deal?
The Freshmen Struggle
Well before I offer my opinion, I know most freshmen probably don't follow this Freshmen Rule. After all, dating is what college is all about. Sure you're supposed to study, make friends, and find a church. But you're also hoping to find "the one." And this prospect is exciting in college. She may be in your dorm, your classroom, or your campus ministry. You're not sure where, but she is out there somewhere.
With this in mind, let's say you meet someone who's intriguing and pays attention to you. You can't hep but get excited and pursue this relationship. I mean, they may be "the one." So you follow each other on Instagram and Snapchat. You add them on Facebook. Then comes the flirty PMs, texts, group hangouts and late-night dorm talks. And all of this without the parental eye of Sauron watching you.
So it's inevitable that freshmen will be tempted to date if given the opportunity. However the "good Christians" will remember the Freshmen Rule they heard in youth group. This will cause these guys to pause, but the heart wants what the heart wants. So usually they will (a) secretly date or (b) wait until sophomore year to be official while acting like a dating couple the rest of freshmen year.
And really, is there anything wrong with this?
Things to Consider
Personally, I think knowing when people are "ready to date" is a case-by-case situation. However I do believe there are unique experiences that freshmen go through in college. Therefore there are unique concerns that freshmen should consider before dating. What are those concerns?
1) You're Experiencing Major Life Transitions
Freshmen year is filled with huge changes. New school, living situation, friends, church - everything is so new. And like all new things, it takes time getting used to these transitions in life and learning how to adapt socially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Therefore to try to include a new, deep, intimate relationship during this time of transition seems almost irresponsible. You're already being forced to adapt to so many new things - but now you're adding a fourth major responsibility. It's like serving in three different ministries at church and then adding a major fourth ministry on your plate. More than likely, you will end up fumbling one of those plates.
2) You're Missing Out on College Life
From personal experience, the loneliest sophomores tend to be the ones who dated their freshmen year. Why so? Well during their freshmen year while all their hallmates hung out, they would be in their rooms talking on the phone to their significant other. While their campus ministry went out to eat, they would go back to the dorms to keep their significant other company.
It's only after they break up that they realize their college social circle consisted of only their boyfriend/girlfriend. And then they end up feeling very alone in college. Worse, they feel like they have to play "catch up" with everyone else who seems to have already forged strong friendships during freshmen year. I'm not saying this situation isn't redeemable, but it does make your social life in college a little tougher.
3) You Don't Really Know Who You Are
Perhaps the biggest concern I have with Freshmen dating is that they often enter the relationship without knowing who they really are. As a married man, I can't stress enough how important it is for a person to know themselves before entering into the world of another person.
To make a relationship work, it's so helpful to know your values and expectations - and knowing how to communicate all of this to your partner. If not, you'll get frustrated at your significant other without knowing why. Or worse, you'll always accommodate to the other person's values and consequently lose your own identity to them because you don't know what you want. So you end up always doing what they want - and slowly growing bitter in the process.
4) You're Both Going to Drastically Change
Talk to any upper classmen and ask them what they were like Freshmen year. You'll probably hear them say, "I was so dumb...I had no idea what I was doing...I was so naive." Now I'm not saying that all Freshmen are dumb or naive, but the change you experience after Freshmen year tends to be more drastic than any other year (perhaps due to fully adapting to the college world).
If this is true, then this means you'll be really different in the following years. Your values, views, and preferences will change. Therefore the type of person you're attracted to as a Freshman may not be the type of person you're attracted to within just a year or two. So if you're already dating someone Freshmen year, the Sophomore you may not like them anymore - and they may not like the new you either.
By no means am I saying that Freshmen dating relationships don't work. In fact, there will always be barriers in making a dating relationship work regardless of age. However I do think there are unique barriers during Freshmen year that make it very difficult for a healthy dating relationship to transpire. This probably explains why so few of them work out.
So while this is definitely not a sin issue, it is an issue that calls for wisdom. And in my humble opinion, wisdom calls Freshmen to wait.