Skip to main content


Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

The effect of a college relationship on personal growth

While Hollywood movies tempt romance through imagery of shimmering stars painting a night sky while two lovers stare dreamily at each other, the benefits of a relationship are not purely illustrated in this way. A relationship requires dedication, planning, and work from both partners. College, for many people, is a time for self-development. Out of the confining restraint of parental control, it’s filled with interaction with other classmates, within or outside of your study focus. But more memorably, it may introduce you to your first serious partner. This partner, and why you both like each other so much, may be born out of many reasons other than because simply attraction. Attraction, the constitution of a relationship, will be drawn from deeper reasons.

Why do we Date?

This is a question most visually describable by clichés we see in novels, movies, and TV shows. Is it because we may then live out the musical dancing scenes of La La Land? Is it because we can have an ‘extra’ close friend to liven up our everyday lives as seen in Friends with Benefits? Inherently, dating arises out of a need to interact with someone beyond the superficiality of a friendship. While you can talk to friends over Facebook, Snapchat, or lunches any day, it’s the closer ones who will chat with you for hours over dinner. You want to reveal to them your deepest inhibitions and wildest ambitions. This may be a more difficult ask. Your partner though, is the person you reveal everything to – topics which would be inappropriate to discuss with a friend, even a close friend, and topics uncomfortable to discuss with family.

Deep Conversation

So, a relationship in which both sides can talk limitlessly about any topic, what does this contribute towards personal growth? Talking meaningfully involves visualisation of the future, it reveals needs above superficial wants. While college life may be defined by hilarious conversation during hazy night outs with people you only just met and will never meet again, or networking events with students only concerned about promoting their personal achievements to appeal to potential employers; it is also a time when paths toward self-actualization are undertaken. And while that drunken party may be as equally a bad time to hold a meaningful conversation as that cocktail night held by the investment internships fair, the quiet dinners you have next to the harbour with your partner will be the best opportunity for both of you to talk. Deeply talk. And this talk may reveal more than you’d think about what your goals truly are in life.

To form a framework for meaningful conversation, empathy is necessary. One person needs to give the other ample opportunities to reveal possibly vulnerable parts of themselves, or thoughts which may open opportunity for judgement. It is unlikely that you would tell me what your fears for the future are, or that you aspire to be a circus clown, if I don’t give you the comfort of knowing that I can listen without passing on criticism or bias. A college relationship develops skills in empathy and emotional intelligence. Two individuals exchanging their dreams for the future and reciprocating concerns for each other’s present will enhance mutual emotional quotient which will be important for future relationships, whether they be of a familial, platonic, or business nature.

Learning What You Want

A college relationship teaches us what we do and don’t want. It isn’t a given that it will last for the long-term and involve an eventual selection of diamond engagement rings. However, what is guaranteed is a learning process of what qualities we like seeing in the people we surround ourselves with and what our chief dislikes are. Whilst you may have envisioned romance as walking along a beach hand in hand with your partner, the reality of your first relationship, during college, might be that they preferred late nights out involving alcohol and parties. Consequently, if the relationship doesn’t last, you’ll know that for your next partner, you may want someone less extroverted and more likely to prefer late nights in, with you, rather than drinking tequila shots.

Planning Your Future

If it does last, a college relationship will teach you how to plan for the long-term. At the point when you both look into each other’s eyes and realize that you want to buy a house and travel the world together, you will realize that a plan is necessary to make this financially viable. Add children into the mix and suddenly those movies enjoyed in Gold Class seating may need to be less frequent. Instead, you may visit a financial planner to allocate resources to achieve your ‘couple goals’ for the future. In shorter term, even saving up money to buy your partner his or her birthday present will require planning for your budget allocation. In a college life, this would involve fewer nights out and a more discretionary expenditure of money. The cost in the dollars which could have been spent on the next trip to Hawaii with your partner may make another round of drinks less appealing.

Economics, in its allocation of our most essential resources, time and money, can summarize the benefits of having a college relationship. Whether it’s learning about why you want to date, what type of person you want to date, or how you can keep dating while being financially sustainable, it contributes a spectrum of factors to personal growth.

If you would like to contribute an article to Cornell React, please email us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar