College dating site to visit campus

Students discuss online dating’s pros and cons and place in college life.

Simon Benarroch

For University of Minnesota junior Katie Strand, online dating seems like a desperate measure.

But according to Melanie Wallner, spokeswoman for the college student-only dating site, online dating is losing its stigma as “we’re all becoming more open” to new forms of online interaction.

The site has more than 125,000 users and representatives will visit the University of Minnesota this fall on a nationwide college tour.

Perhaps the site’s main selling point is its exclusively catering to college students — users must have a .edu email address to register. Students can filter by university, department and more with each user’s visibility adjusted according to how much information they put forward. And, unlike other social networking sites, DateMySchool doesn’t index user information on Google, Wallner said.

A 2006 Pew Internet study of online dating activities shows 66 percent of American adults believe that online dating is dangerous.

To address this, the site’s three main priorities are anonymity, safety and exclusivity, Wallner said.

“Safety is our chief concern,” she said.

However, some don’t seem quite as concerned about online safety as they do about other aspects.

A broader, more recent study by the BBC World Service found that as of 2010, 68 percent of Americans don’t think the Web is a good place to find a boyfriend or girlfriend.

University of Minnesota junior Zach Kelly doesn’t associate online dating with college students. He said it seems better suited to older people who have “run out of options.” Students at the University should have plenty of dating opportunities, he said.

“College is a hugely social experience,” Kelly said.

“It just seems weird,” said sophomore Devin Freed, likening online dating to other modes of social networking like Facebook.

Freed said he thinks these sites only really serve to separate people but conceded that it works for some.

Emma Rohleder, a junior, said people might just get tired of the time consuming, trial-and-error nature of traditional dating. Online profiles allow users to sort through potential dates and weed out likely flops proactively.

“It’s not so much desperation as frustration,” Rohelder said.

Turning students on

The DateMySchool team aims at “keeping the tour old school,” according to a news release, by traveling from campus to campus in a custom painted 1983 trailer.

“We just finished painting it.,” Wallner said. “It’s magenta.”

They will play loud music and hand out gumballs and other freebies, the release said, while simultaneously getting students registered with the site.

Wallner said University students should “expect a lot of freebies and a lot of fun.”

In any case, this fall’s college tour hopes to turn students on to the idea of finding love online.

The Hotness Index

Last February, realizing the sheer amount of data they were sitting on, DateMySchool released “The Hotness Index,” which ranks colleges by the attractiveness of their students.

The site’s administrators took count of the most-downloaded profile pictures and, deciding this to be a good measure of attractiveness, sorted the results by school.

The result was two charts — one for women and one for men, each listing the top 10 “hottest” schools, with the University of Minnesota-Duluth taking first place for women and New York’s School of Visual Arts placing first for men.

The University’s Twin Cities campus didn’t make the top 10 for either gender.