This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.

We love a good party as much as anyone, but the logistics of trying to get to know someone in a packed basement over thumping tunes while everyone is doing shots in the corner are a bit challenging. It’s not exactly the prime environment for romance.

Dating apps are the saving grace of university students everywhere. Whether you’re serious about finding someone, or just looking for a quick hookup, you may just need the right app.

After all, everyone’s doing it. 

Do you really need to use dating sites?

Yes, you can still find love in the real world, because meeting in bars, clubs, parks, and other romantic locations still happens every day. By subscribing to a dating site, you’re simply shortening your odds of finding someone special.

Dating sites and apps let you put your information out there to a massive network of potential dates. Plus, you can save a lot of time, energy, and cash by testing out a potential relationship on an app before meeting in real life.

Should you use free dating apps?

The good news is that are absolutely loads of free dating sites and apps out there, and the likes of Tinder and Hinge are seriously popular options with students. Most of the biggest and best dating sites also have free versions with limitations on certain features. So you can easily enter the online dating game without spending anything.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for with dating sites and apps. For the best experience with the greatest possibility of finding exactly what you’re looking for, the best option is probably not a free app. We’re sorry to break it to you, but the best dating sites don’t come cheap. Of course you can still find a date with a free app, but if you’re looking for compatibility tests, chat rooms, videos, and a greater level of control, we recommend upgrading.

What should you know before using a dating app?

It probably seems obvious, but the first rule of online dating is to just be yourself. It’s all too easy to pretend to be someone you’re not online, but that kind of catfishing game won’t garner you a true connection. By being yourself and presenting yourself accurately and honestly, you open yourself up to the possibility of a great relationship with someone who likes you just the way you are. And isn’t that the whole point of dating?

Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Forget all those outdated rules that say a man is supposed to make the first move or that a woman can’t pay on a first date. Instead, focus on finding an equal partner who helps support your goals, wants to see you succeed, and has dreams of their own.

Get a bit more creative with your messaging than the standard “Hey.” If you’re looking to connect with someone on campus, then open up the conversation with a question about them and a little bit about yourself. Messaging someone is more discussion group than lecture hall — it’s about passing the conversation back and forth. 

Once you decide to meet up — which is the entire point, after all — stay open. We often come up with an idea for how someone will be after meeting them online, and it’s rare that your expectations sync up with reality. Allow yourself to really get to know this person for who they are rather than who you thought they would be before you make up your mind.

That said, it’s crucial that you’re honest. If you really don’t feel a connection, then do the right thing and tell them. A good line to use is something like, “I’ve really enjoyed meeting you but I think there are probably better people out there for both of us.” Not only will they appreciate your direct approach, but it will alleviate that post-date awkwardness of wondering where you stand. Ghosting sucks for everyone. Just be up front and save each of you a lot of discomfort.

On the other hand, what if you really do like them after finally meeting in person? Then what? Set up your next date while you’re still hanging out. That old rule about waiting three days to call? It’s dead. RIP outdated dating rules. Make plans to do something low-key, and for the first few dates make sure the plans are to meet in a public place. The benefits of making a date to do an activity cannot be overstated. It provides you with ample conversation starters and gives you an opportunity to get a little competitive and joke around. Some playful teasing goes a long way. And remember: It’s all about having fun.

What is the best dating app for university students?

At this point there are dating apps for every niche you can think of, whether you’re into gaming, geek culture, or focusing on your career — there are people seeking the same things you are. As a university student, you have specific needs and probably don’t want to wade through all the older people trying to get married. You need dating apps that are specifically good for uni-aged people.

To help you find the perfect dating app, we’ve tracked down the best options for whatever kind of university experience you want, including leading sites like eharmony(opens in a new tab), Match(opens in a new tab), and AdultFriendFinder(opens in a new tab).

These are the best dating apps for students in 2022.

Best For Serious Relationships

At first, eharmony(opens in a new tab) may feel like a lot. Matches are based on a lengthy questionnaire that drills down into the specifics of your dating preferences and personality. It may seriously pay off to invest the time that’s required for your profile, especially considering that at one time eharmony was responsible for creating the most marriages(opens in a new tab) of any online dating site.

Chances are, if you find a match on eharmony then they’re just as serious as you. A decent amount of thought and effort goes into filling out a profile, but it could definitely be the difference between wasting your time and meeting someone who’s on the same page and looking for the same thing. Why waste your time on hookup apps when you can easily narrow your options to likeminded matches? 

Best For Commitment

Who hasn’t heard of Match(opens in a new tab)? If you’re currently in university, the site has probably been around longer than you have. One thing that has kept Match around for over 20 years: it apparently works. Once you make a profile and set your dating preferences, you’re free to view whoever you please. Match doesn’t limit the profiles that are available to you, so the Match world is pretty much your oyster. The dating app will give you Match suggestions based on your set criteria, which you can change and alter any time.

For one thing, Match guarantees you’ll find someone, and if you don’t, then you get to keep looking for another six months for free. Another great thing about Match is its “Missed Connections” feature. This part of the app uses your location to match you with people you’ve already crossed paths with in real life. Think about all the times you saw someone cute on campus but didn’t make a move. Or better yet, think about how much more convenient it would be to match with someone who doesn’t live on the opposite end of campus. Proximity is not overrated. 

Best For Hooking Up

PROMOTED

Best For Tight Budgets

Hinge(opens in a new tab) is kind of like a mix between Match and Tinder. On your profile, you’re asked to fill in the basics as well as indicate whether you smoke, drink, want kids, or don’t. Then the app asks you to fill out a few questions and pick three to appear on your public profile. The result? Instead of just judging by pictures, users get a more personal experience and a better idea of your personality based on what questions you choose to answer and how you choose to answer them. Hinge allows for a lot of filters in order to narrow down your search. They also give the “dealbreaker” option to narrow the search even further. Once you come across a profile you like, instead of “liking” the entire profile, you must choose one thing in order to try and match.

Hinge is perfect for those who are just enjoying the casual uni experience, but would consider a relationship if the right person came along. It’s easy to use and offers slightly more than the typical surface-level swiping. The fact that you’re forced to like a specific profile feature makes it easy to break the ice. Someone liked that you answered “my sister” in the “things I can’t live without” question? Aw. How sweet. Now respond back and ask them if they have any siblings. See how easy that was? 

Best For Keeping It Casual

Tinder(opens in a new tab) is probably the best pick for those looking for a more casual experience. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Tinder is the original “swipe right, swipe left” app that pretty much changed the game when it comes to online dating. Tinder matches you with singles based on your location and pulls your interests from your Facebook profile so that getting started is pretty much as easy as it gets. All you have to do is select a few pictures and a write a short bio. You can also attach your Instagram account if you want. Then, it’s time to swipe. If you and another member both swipe right (for yes) on each other, you become matched and are free to message each other. 

Some 80% of Tinder users are millennials, which means uni kids are definitely familiar with the app. Tinder is perfect for those who aren’t really thinking about commitment, but are open to having some fun with someone new. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A disclaimer though: one study exposed that over 70% of college kids had never even actually met up with somebody from Tinder.

Best For Meeting Up

Bumble(opens in a new tab) requires women to make the first move in the hopes of limiting the number of unsolicited messages received from creepy dudes. Obviously, if you’re not seeking a heterosexual relationship, this rule doesn’t apply to you. This system is in place to level the playing field and change the dynamics of dating to promote respect and equality from the beginning. Like most dating apps, Bumble uses swiping to show you potential candidates. If you both swipe right on each other, it’s a match. Here’s where Bumble differs from Tinder, though: matches expire after 24 hours, so women have a limited timeframe to come up with the perfect opening line.

Universities can sometimes feel like unsafe environments for women, so having a space dedicated to respect and equality is definitely a plus. Additionally, Bumble’s setup pushes people to get out of their comfort zones by forcing them to make quick conversations — and isn’t uni all about getting out of your comfort zone? Bumble is not marketed as a hookup app, so it’s good for students who are looking for something a little more substantial than a Tinder fling. 

Best For Gay Men

Grindr(opens in a new tab) is known for being the go-to hookup app for gay men, but there’s also the chance to find real, sustainable relationships, too. On the app, you’re presented with a collage of men in your area ready to  chat. Most users will let you know straightaway what their intentions are — like if they’re just looking for casual sex or something more — so you at least won’t have to play the “what’s happening here?” game for too long. Because Grindr shows a pool of geographically-close people rather than one person at a time, there are fewer boundaries than apps with swiping features. Anyone can message you without the two of you having to “like” each other first.

University men who are looking for casual sex, but don’t want to try to hit on dudes at the bar absolutely swear by Grindr. Unfortunately, Grindr is known to be hypersexualized, so it’s not the best place to find lasting love, though we’re not saying it can’t happen. Grindr has the option to display STD information, which is an option not found on most apps. This will also probably encourage you to get tested yourself, which you should do regularly, especially if you’re having casual sex.

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