Love in College

I discuss the pressures to date in college and the importance of honoring more than just romantic love.

By Ellie Younger February 14, 2022
Photo of heart drawn in snow

Whether you observe Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day, or neither, it’s hard to miss all the acknowledgements of love that occur in the month of February. Social media becomes a site of celebration for romantic and platonic love as people choose to show off the people they care about. With all this in mind, I chose to reflect on love and the pressures placed on students to be in a relationship during college.

I came to college with many preconceived notions in mind, among them, the idea that I would immediately find my person and be in a relationship for the majority of my time here. In speaking with my friends, many mention that they arrived as freshmen, feeling pressure that they would have to leave school with a significant other if they wanted to get married. Additionally, there’s this pressure that if you’re not in a relationship, you should be actively dating. These ideas are rooted in history and society, and it’s important to remind yourself that they aren’t necessarily true. If you want to find a partner in college, by all means, go for it. But hopefully these decisions can be made by you and without the influence of outside forces.

Romantic love can be important, but there are many other types of love to focus on:

Self Love: I’m sure many would understand when I say that my journey towards self love has been a tricky one. It isn’t something that can be learned overnight; it takes effortful practice. I’m currently in Psychology 401: Science of Happiness, and one of my assignments has been to use one of my character strengths in new ways for the past week. I took a strengths inventory test and was told that love was in my top five character strengths. However, this was love directed towards others. This week, I have been actively working on directing love towards myself, which has been a real challenge. Self love is more than just saying a few nice things to yourself in the mirror, although that can be a part of it. For me, self love includes actively reframing my negative self talk into either something that is positive or something that is constructive and actionable. Self love means taking myself for walks even when I don’t want to get out of bed and finding a new healthy recipe when all I want to do is eat my usual meals over and over. For me, self love is journaling, reading, and listening to music — doing the things that fill me up inside. Take care of yourself — you’re worth it.

Familial Love: I recognize that everyone has differing experiences with familial love. However, I am a big believer in the power of your chosen family. Whether that is your roommates, your friends, your cousins, or some other type of support system, these people are just as important as family. The love that is shared between members of your chosen family is powerful and strong. College can be a great place for finding this family. The newfound independence allows for a unique opportunity to find your people, and spend as much or as little time with them as you choose. These people will be there for you during some of your toughest moments and rejoice with you during the best ones. My chosen family and I have gone through hospital trips, breakups, promotions, awards, illness, and late night Taco Bell cravings. It’s important to put time and effort into these relationships, working to take care of people who will take care of you. Call up a family member, they matter.

Platonic Love: Friendships have always been something that were important to me, but throughout college I’ve discovered how vital they are for my happiness and health. With all the pressure of class and exams, your friends are there to help balance your life and keep your stress levels low. Sometimes, after a long day of studying, it helps to talk to a friend, whether that’s going out for dinner together or just sending a quick text. I’m a big believer in showing your friends love and appreciation. It is our relationships that bring us the most happiness in life, and it is important to express gratitude for the people in them. Platonic love is playing a pickup game of soccer together, laughing through trivia night, running errands, sending curated TikToks, picking up coffee, or watching Spongebob on the couch.

Community Love: College has taught me a lot about the importance of community. In appreciating the place we live and the people who inhabit it, I think it’s important to express love for those around you. Together we can make change happen, help each other in times of need, and brighten bits of our lives. I find it important to express love for everyone at this school and in Ann Arbor for making this place as special as it is. Do something good for your neighbor, bring up ideas for community improvement, look out for one another. We have each other, we must not take that for granted. Together we are powerful.

I celebrated this Galentine's Day with a charcuterie board and fondue created and enjoyed by my roommates, whom I also think of as family. College is a great place for making connections of various sorts, and hopefully you find time — whether that’s on a specific day, or a random Tuesday, to celebrate them. Whatever you chose to do or not to do during this holiday, I hope you remember that you are loved, and worthy of love.

Assortment of snacks on a table.
Assortment of snacks on a table.


Ellie Younger

Ellie Younger is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and plans to study Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience. Ellie volunteers with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) and is happy to have found her U-M community in the club Survivor Michigan, for which she is an HR executive. She loves hiking in her home state of Oregon, conversations about social justice, and good poetry.