Why do we feel the need to put a deadline on something so incredibly personal?

The pressure that comes with being a college student is immense at times and can be quite a lot to handle. You would be hard-pressed to find a college student that hasn’t felt completely overwhelmed by the number of expectations, responsibilities and stresses that are married to college. Along with all of this comes an idea that does nothing but alienate, divide and foster a false narrative for what romanticism should be like: “Ring by spring.”

First off, I want to make it very clear that being in a relationship in college — even one as serious as getting engaged or married — is by no means a negative thing. There is nothing wrong with romantic relationships in college and this view does not come from a place of disdain for those who are in a relationship looking to get engaged.

If you find yourself engaged in college or hoping that your collegiate years will yield a fiancé, more power to you. If you want to abide by the laws of “ring by spring” and make it your vendetta to be engaged to someone by the time that final spring semester rolls around, do it. It’s all about your own personal path and what you are most comfortable with.

On the other hand, if you are looking to remain single and don’t care for a relationship or just simply don’t have any plans either way regarding dating, that’s great too. We all have our own path through life.

This is just the issue with “ring by spring.” Pressuring young people with a superficial deadline to be engaged by the spring of your final year of college is unnecessary. 

A study done by Baylor University found there is a certain amount of pressure that resonates with some students regarding the idea. “Not surprisingly, the students report that they feel an incredible amount of pressure. In fact, 60 of the 139 responses to the question, ‘What is “ring by spring”?’ use the word ‘pressure’ to describe the sentiment behind the “ring by spring” culture.”

To create a trend essentially stating, “you must be engaged before graduation” alienates those who either might not want that for themselves or wouldn’t mind it but know that is not a realistic option for them personally.

This phenomenon also sets an incredibly unrealistic standard for many people. Believe it or not, many people don’t find their “soulmate” in college. An overwhelming majority of college students don’t come anywhere near engagement while in college and that is completely normal.

Setting such a high standard for so many creates this pressure to live up to. Others might be more bothered by the idea of “ring by spring” than some, but at the end of the day, it remains a redundant and unneeded aspect of the college experience. 

In addition, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in just the last 50 years, the average age of people getting married for the first time has risen from 21 to 28 in women and 23 to 30 in men. Studies have even shown that the older a person is when they get married, the less likely they are to get divorced.

Of course, there are many variables that go into divorce or even unhappy marriages outside of young age and “ring by spring.” It would be hard, and wrong, to say that “ring by spring” is the sole reason for those who get married young to end up divorced. This is an argument against the overall idea of what exactly “ring by spring” is. 

Obviously, there is a great deal that goes into this issue, what it does and why it exists. The details of the term create a much more complicated conversation than just is it a good or bad thing.

Ryan Montague, Ph.D., a professor in Azusa Pacific’s Communication Studies Department, will teach a dating and spouse selection course this summer. He shared his thoughts on the phenomenon. 

“‘Ring by spring’ isn’t positive or negative. We love to bifurcate things,” Montague said.

This is true as there are many different things to consider when determining what exactly “ring by spring” is and how it affects young people. However, I am simply arguing that the overall thesis of “ring by spring,” and “you need to get engaged before you graduate,” is wrong.

Again, I stress that we all have our own path and each relational situation and each romantic participant is different. These are just broad statistics and arguments that present an overarching theme.

No matter where you are in life, what you are up to, who you are meeting or what you want out of your college years in any aspect, every individual finds their own way. Cultivating relationships of any kind and learning about yourself is one of the most positive aspects of the college experience. College is a great place to meet people from all walks of life who might have differing views than your own. 

Romantically, college shouldn’t be any different than forming friendships. Romance in college should be about meeting new people and discovering or compiling what you are looking for in a partner and relationship. If a relationship happens to turn into an engagement, that’s wonderful. However, the difference is that the engagement should be done out of love; not out of a feeling of obligation because of a social trend.