College students flocking back to campus this year have more than just new courses, new classmates, new books, and new parties at their fingertips. They also have a brand new dating app. Or, more accurately, an old dating app with a shiny new college-students-only feature. Tinder announced yesterday that the new feature, called Tinder U, will be available to anyone who both has a .edu email address and is geolocated on that college's campus.
How is this any different than using regular Tinder and setting your age range from 18-22? Basically, it cuts out all of the Tinder users in the surrounding town or city who aren't going to a college in the area. So, if you're on Tinder U, you won't be picking up all the 18-year-old high school seniors, or anyone in your age range who decided not to go to college, or any young genius who skipped a bunch of grades and finished their degree early. Your options are the students at your school and the students at any other 4-year university nearby. That doesn't mean that people in town are totally off-limits. Anyone who uses Tinder U will easily be able to toggle between regular Tinder and the new feature to see non-university students whenever they want to broaden their range.
When the Tinder U feature is on, it'll place a filter that represents each user's college over their profile. By the looks of the mock up, if you go to USC then you'll likely see either a red or gold banner and the letters "USC." If you go to Syracuse University, you'll probably see an orange banner and "SU." That way, you can easily tell whether your match is on your campus or at a nearby school.
In Tinder's eyes, this feature could be something like Bumble BFF, where students use the feature mostly to find new friends. "Need a study buddy? Not a problem. Coffee date on the quad? We’ve got you covered. Freshman year and you don’t know a soul? This is your ticket to the coolest crowd on campus," the app says in the announcement. And, sure, maybe some scared freshmen will use it to meet friends beyond their dorm floor. But, as plenty of people on Twitter have pointed out with raised eyebrows, Tinder doesn't seem like the place to go for a "study buddy" (unless you're studying human anatomy, amiright?).
Still, plenty of other people question why college students need an app at all. College is what Lisa Wade, PhD, a professor of sociology and author of American Hookup, calls a "thick dating market," meaning that college students are buried in potential dates and hookups. So why would anyone need a dating app to meet people when there are 20 to 50 new potential S.O.s in each of their classes?
But just because they don't necessarily need dating apps, doesn't mean college students don't want them. "I have a theory about Tinder on college campuses because I think it is being used more and more," Wade says. "I think one way it's being used is as a kind of flirtation device." The way it goes, in her theory, is that a college student sees a cutie on Tinder, swipes right, and later sees their match in person at a party or in class. Because of Tinder, they already have an in to strike up conversation. There is no confusion or guessing; the hot person in your history class already knows you're into them because you swiped right. (And hey, so did they.)
In that case, the appeal of Tinder U is pretty clear. But, it's also clear for people who weren't exactly Casanovas in college, or who are gay and trying really hard to figure out if the smokeshow in calculus is also queer.
Because, sure, college is a thick dating market. But that doesn't mean that all college students are great at talking to the people they find hot, or that it's super easy to find someone you like who likes you back. And no matter where you are, dating apps make showing interest in people easier. So why not download Tinder U and swipe until you find your campus crush? Maybe they'll become your new "study buddy."