Is it worth being in a couple at university? - Student Life - Student - The Independent

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.

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