Making the grade: the lowdown on Ivy League digital dating

Love is pulsing through cyberspace.

In the past month, two new university-geared dating websites have offered their services to Yale students. Date My School is a casual social space, whereas IvyDate is a formalized matchmaking machine. I created profiles on both sites to delve headfirst into the phenomenon.

Full disclosure: Dating websites have never appealed to me. The notion of finding love online seems problematic at best and dangerous at worst. But beyond issues of reliability, it has always seemed like a romantic last resort, a “plan B” reserved for uptight professional types. After just a cursory look into the world of online dating, I discovered this is not the case.

Within the first 12 days of its expansion onto Yale campus, Date My School had already attracted 174 Yale students to its membership. It now has a total membership of over 10,000 users from Columbia, NYU, FIT, Princeton and Yale. Becoming a member was very simple — all I needed was a Yale University email address.

Date My School is a kind of free-for-all Facebook/Twitter mash-up in which every member has access to everyone with matching “looking for” specifications including gender, age and university preferences. Despite my very spare profile, I received three views and two chats in the first few hours … based solely on my university, age and gender preferences.

Users post messages on the homepage wall, and these are visible to anyone with access to their profiles. Most were not related to dating:

“I’m beginning to think that everyone’s so scared that all people do is view people and see who’s viewed them.”

“Note to self: Don’t listen to Beethoven’s Fifth while shaving. Ow.”

“I recently found a letter I wrote to the tooth fairy from when I was 6. I asked her for a microscope. That … explains a lot.”

I question whether Date My School really brings about any dating or not. Some user comments even led me to suspect that the website has become a vehicle for homework advice and apartment hunts.

IvyDate is a vastly more sophisticated, more serious option. It accepts “exceptional singles” from 13 top schools and a smattering of others who want to date students or alumni of these schools. Structurally, it’s just better.

IvyDate is SAFER.

While Date My School claims security by admitting only those with a valid university email address at one of the five approved institutions, university affiliates are free to represent themselves in any way they please. IvyDate employs a full “admissions committee” to ensure that “it’s a serious profile, that the photos are legitimate and genuine, [and] that the person is generally quality stuff.”

IvyDate is MORE DISCREET.

Unlike Date My School’s open profile policy, IvyDate does not allow members to browse through others’ profiles, except for students who opt in to the upcoming “Campus Connect” section of the website. IvyDate uses a heuristic “mechanism [that] identifies which profiles are best suited for a romantic relationship,” and members are only able to view the profiles of those they are matched with. Each week, members receive new matches and are then able to determine whether or not they would like to contact these matches. Since the site has just launched, it won’t be starting the matchmaking process for another month or so, and I was unable to experience the process.

IvyDate is SELECTIVE.

The website reviews each member before approval to “ensure that our membership consists of truly exceptional individuals.” When I was approved (admittedly, after I wrote the site’s business development manager asking to be accepted for this article), I was informed that I “stood out amongst thousands of highly qualified applicants” and that the founders believe that I “have a number of qualities that make [me] a truly exceptional single.” Approval can take up to several weeks and is certainly not guaranteed. In any case, the site seemed exclusive enough that, when I was asked to describe myself in three words, I decided against my friend’s suggestion (“lovely kuckoo bananas”).

When filling out my profile, I was asked to choose my ideal vacation spot (think: glitzy pictures of faraway, exotic holiday destinations), three things I would bring to a deserted island and the number of children I would like to have. None of these are things that I consider in my daily life, nor are they things that I relate to dating. Notions like “me in three words,” how I like to spend my money and plans for the future aren’t really reflective of where I am in my life. The casual (if sometimes inane) topics on Date My School are more common to the sophomoric student.

Many happy couples have met through dating websites and services, so I don’t want to disparage them as a source of love. But the concept is still not something that I can relate to as a 20-year-old college student, and I don’t know how much sense it makes to market it to me. For now, I’m mostly just curious as to the romantic matches IvyDate will come up with, although the Campus Connect section definitely shows potential.

Neither site has any appeal for me outside of some inconsequential browsing, but with a few fixes, who knows? They might just usher in an era of youthful, digital dating.

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