The Skinny on College Dating Site Options for Relationships and Hookups
Although COVID put a small, temporary damper on user growth, online dating continues to accelerate over the years with no signs of slowing down. In fact, according to a national survey, over a third of Americans who married between 2005 and 2012 met their partners online.
There’s an abundance of dating platforms to consider at this point in time. So which are the best dating apps for college students?
Each dating site caters to a particular age group, as well as interests and dating goals. It can be a challenge to figure out which one is best suited to meet your needs. Navigating the different features and services offered by each platform can take up a lot of time and effort.
We’ve gone through all the most popular choices and considered their features in order to make your search a little easier.
Here are the 10 best dating apps for college students. Some of them even have college-specific features!
Best Dating Apps for College Students
Let’s start by going over the best dating apps/sites not for hookups. Or rather, those with a relationship-oriented approach to dating.
Our favorite choice overall, Hinge is a unique college dating app option in that it aims to make meaningful conversation easier. After all, sometimes coming up with an initial opening message can be the hardest part of getting the ball rolling on dating apps.
Hinge provides users with a way to directly (privately) comment on another user’s photos. Then you can continue the conversation from there.
It also helps users fill out their profile by providing a selection of fun and/or thought-provoking text prompts (which other users can comment on to initiate conversation, too). This is is great for college students who may be less experienced at dating and could use some direction when creating their profile.
By helping conversation flow and helping users to open up about themselves, we think there’s a good reason Hinge has a rapidly growing user base. It’s a great user experience compared to some of the other apps and we hardly encountered any bots/fake profiles during testing.
Hinge is one of the best dating apps for college students to use right now. As of 2022, it’s the third most popular dating app in the United States.
Bumble has two big characteristics that make it stand out:
First — women must initiate conversation. Men on the app can’t send a message until the woman does.
Second — (and perhaps even more controversially) matches disappear if a conversation hasn’t been started within 24 hours of the initial match. Talk about putting on the pressure! But if you’re tired of matches that never go anywhere (what’s the point of swiping?), well then, that’s one way to encourage a speedy start to a conversation.
Bumble has a 3:1 ratio of male to female users. Because of this, college women are more likely to have success with this app.
This dating app now features a “verified student” option where by using your university email address, you can become verified as a college student. Also known as Bumble Student or “student status” on the app.
So what are Bumble Student features?
Getting student status on Bumble unlocks “stickers” you can put on your profile showing where you go to school and letting people know you’ve been vetted.
Right now this is the only benefit of becoming verified, but it’s still worth doing because Bumble says new features are coming soon! Plus, sometimes they run temporary promotions giving away free “superswipes” to those who verify.
Known for attempting to match users based on personality, OkCupid is another good dating app for college students.
When you create an account on OkCupid you start out by answering a series of questions including personality traits and your beliefs. This dating app’s algorithm then finds compatible profiles based on your answers.
While less popular than some of the other dating sites, it’s a nice option for college students looking for a deeper, philosophical connection. It certainly doesn’t have a “hookup” reputation and is geared toward more serious relationships.
4. Coffee Meets Bagel
Next up on our list of the best college student dating apps is Coffee Meets Bagel.
Coffee Meets Bagel differentiates itself from other college dating sites by sending users a very limited selection of matches, only once a day at noon.
This might not seem like enough engagement for some students, but others might find it a relief to be able to concentrate on a small amount of potential conversations rather than being flooded with tons of profiles.
Whereas most dating apps have more men than women, Coffee Meets Bagel boasts a 60/40 ratio of women to men. This makes it an excellent dating app for college guys who want to find a relationship.
HER is a dating app designed specifically to help queer, lesbian, bisexual, non-binary, trans, and gender non-conforming folks make connections. In fact, profiles for cisgender men are not accepted on this platform. This makes it the first (mainstream) dating site of its type.
The features of this app are similar to other dating apps–you can like and match with other profiles, in addition to sending messages for free.
Though the app’s popularity varies by region, HER is one of the best dating apps for queer college students seeking to form meaningful connections with like-minded people. It’s an ideal platform to make genuine friends or find potential romantic partners.
It comes as no surprise that Tinder is the best dating app for hookups in college. This is the app that started it all and popularized swiping.
The interface is straightforward–users swipe right or left on potential matches, and if both users swipe right, it’s a match. Then either person can initiate the conversation.
Above all else, Tinder is great for casting the widest net. Though other apps’ market shares are growing, Tinder still reigns vastly supreme as far as user numbers (although it might be slightly slowing on growth).
Most popular among gay men, Grindr is another widely-used app geared towards hookups similar to Tinder.
However, rather than swiping through profiles one-by-one, on Grindr the user is presented with a big grid of photos enabling you to quickly scan a lot of profiles at once. Of course this puts more emphasis on finding a physical connection rather than deep psychological compatibility.
Although it has become more inclusive over the years, Grindr is still very niche-specific. Single gay men will have the best luck with this platform. Grindr is a good “dating” app for college students seeking something quick and casual.
Are you the kind of person who has trouble approaching strangers?
Happn mixes things up from the usual dating app formula and tries something unique: users are shown potential matches who they’ve come near in real life, geographically. The matching system is similar to Tinder–only if both users like one another, is conversation enabled.
If you’ve ever had someone catch your eye but been too afraid to say anything, and later regretted it, this might be the best college dating app for you. Just keep in mind that Happn has a smaller user base than other dating sites.
Happn works best in higher density settings such as on a college campus or in a big city. Going on a bar crawl or exploring a metro area with friends is an ideal way to increase your odds of finding matches with this app.
While there aren’t dating apps specifically tailored for only Ivy League college students, there are a couples of apps that are more exclusive than others and try to target high-achieving users.
9. The League
The League is a dating app with a steep bar of entry. Not just anyone can sign up for this ambitious project which aims to curate a community of highly desirable singles.
To use this app, you’re required to join the waitlist and submit an application. The app’s internal team reviews your profile and decides whether to approve it or not. The League self-describes its user community as “selective” and “high quality.”
The League is a good dating app for ivy league students who are patient and want to find a partner with standards as high as their own. Granted, that is, if you have the means to afford the cost.
Perhaps even more exclusive, and known to have been used by a few famous celebrities, Raya is a very special dating site.
Raya is one of the best dating apps for college students with a sizable social media following or some sort of connection to fame and elite social circles. Obtaining an invite from someone already using the platform is the most effective way to get your foot in the door.
Users must apply for access and privacy is a main focus on Raya. For example, you can get kicked off the app for screenshotting another person’s profile! If any of this has piqued your interest, you can find out more about this dating app + tips for boosting your application here.
Is Bumble or Tinder better for college?
There’s no clear-cut winner between the two–both are great dating apps for students to try out. Ultimately, which one is best will depend on your goals for dating and individual preferences.
Some people successfully find long-term relationships on Tinder and hookup culture tends to permeate all dating apps. You can’t go wrong with either!
What dating app do college students use the most?
As it has been for years, Tinder remains the most popular dating app among college students in the US. Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge are the dating apps college students use the most.
Is there a Tinder for college students?
Yes! Tinder U is a new feature available for students at select 4-year universities in the US and UK.
After verifying using your school email address, your profile will then show which school you’re verified to belong to. Then during swiping you’ll see more profiles that belong to your same school and ones nearby.
Is Hinge good for students?
Absolutely! Hinge is particularly great for college students because you can filter to only show you people that are also in college (or masters degree programs). This dating app is very established with college-aged users.
Conclusions on college dating apps
So that wraps up this post on the best dating apps for college students. I hope this list has helped you figure out what app(s) to try out based on their features.
I feel these are the best apps to meet college students, but the fast-growing industry is constantly evolving due to technology, with apps changing frequently and new ones being released.
Do you know about any up-and-coming apps that are worth checking out? Drop a comment below, I’d love to hear about it!
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