Is it worth being in a couple at university?

In this season of fluffy teddies holding giants hearts, Helen and Katherine Burch argue the pros and cons of being a plus-one or single figure

Helen believes that university experiences are better when they’re shared


'You have somebody who will notice if you die.' This is Katherine’s phrasing, which I feel is an unnecessarily harsh way of putting it. However, when learning how to live alone for the first time, it is good to know that that that you have somebody who cares what you’ve been up to, who will  pick up the phone to if things go wrong and will even listen to you talk - to an extent - about your dissertation. I am certainly not saying that friends and family don’t fulfil this role, but a good boyfriend or girlfriend has got your back as you battle through piles of work and bitchy social groups.

Getting to know you...

Unlike awkward first dates in restaurants, where heavily edited versions of you stutter at each other, uni dating is more informal. Even if your sole contact with your prospective partner was locking lips as the lights turned on in a tacky night club, if you are both genuinely interested, then you will quickly learn a lot about each other’s lives, and it won’t be restricted to evenings and weekends. It is also a lovely feeling to go for a night out and not feel the least bit concerned about who catches your eye. There is nothing more fun than getting raucously drunk as a couple. However, the whole urge to go out can suddenly seem overrated, as you decide that an evening snuggling with your one and only is preferable to an intimate table for ten with trays of sambuca shots.

Home comforts

Similarly, university life gives you the opportunity to spend days at a time living together, this gives you a good insight as to whether you would be suited to cohabiting in the real world. It can be more affordable to share expenses and shop for food as a couple, and this gives an incentive to create, if not gourmet, then at least edible meals for each other. You can move in together, which is great for actually having time to see each other in the stressful third year. It’s always heart warming to have somebody respond to your cheery cry of “honey, I’m home!” If your relationship does go horribly and traumatically wrong, it’s still a lot less scarring than being locked into a mortgage.

Katherine knows that singles really do have more fun

Valentine’s Day is the day that many single people dread; the excuse for couples to rub their happiness in the faces of everyone else. Contrary to popular opinion I (and every other person in the world not currently in a relationship) will not be spending Valentine’s Day this year crying in a corner with a bottle of Vodka. Clichéd as this may sound I actually embrace my single status at university. There are a number of reasons for this.


When I put all those gruelling hours of slog into my A-levels and personal statement, I did not do it to ruin my degree with a relationship. I came to university to get a degree, not a boyfriend; my studies are genuinely the most important thing for me. And whatever many may maintain, having a boyfriend or girlfriend does provide a distraction from studying. Whether it be because the love you hold is so all encompassing that you feel the need to spend every moment together or that your relationship is one of constant quarrels, this all takes up precious time that you need to study and develop your own interests. Even those couples with perfectly healthy relationships involve time and effort; this is something I would prefer to put into my subject. I want that First!


The term ‘poor student’ may be tossed around like a pancake on Shrove Tuesday but having a partner can be exceedingly costly. For instance, I like to buy my own food and eat it for myself, rather than find everything in my cupboards devoured by my significant other. As a couple there are so many happy occasions to celebrate: Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s day, anniversaries, Easter and Halloween (depending on how demanding your partner is). While it is charming to receive gifts for all of these precious occasions, it is not quite as charming to have to buy presents for all of these on the student shoe string budget.

Free and single

There is a definite freedom in being able to go out socialising and not worry about whether your other half is having a good time and when they want to leave. Moreover you can go out on the lash and catch the eye of that attractive person in the club without the guilt of a faithful partner sat a home. Besides it is good to spend at least a portion of your life alone, giving you the skills to fend for yourself and the knowledge that you can achieve what you want unaided. This also helps you when you are in a relationship because you know your own worth. If your romance should unfortunately fail, your life has not been ruined; you can thrive when you are independent too.

So while I may follow my friends on our Valentine’s day outing this year with the poorly scrawled words ‘single and ready to mingle’ in marker pen across my forehead. I have no intention to rid myself of the first word in that sentence.

Katherine and Helen Burch are in their second and third years respectively at the University of Exeter.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot