Byline: Lisa Fredericks
Many professors and faculty here at the University of Northwestern — St. Paul witness the romantic relationships their students enter. These relationships sometimes lead to marriage while in college. There is a wide range of opinions on the phrase “ring by spring.”
Accounting professor Vernon Pollard believes that students getting married in college is “way premature” because “people are not in the same place of maturity and resources.” Regardless of where Pollard stands, he says: “All you can offer students is perspective and then let them decide.”
Pollard’s perspective is that “marriage is more emotional than practical” and that someone “cannot solve emotional problems with practical solutions.” He adds, “Getting married is not the beginning of love. Marriage is legal. What is pressing us to legalize it?” Pollard shares that students must be self-aware of who they are first before they blend their life with another person. He wants students to also think about where they are placing their gratification and relationship with God.
Associate dean of student engagement, Dawnette Scott, commented from a historical perspective of when women were not allowed to go to college and that only men could. She shared how because of this, when women were allowed to go to college, they were going to get their “MRS” degree. Although these humorous statements can be made, there are sufficient reasons to why they are created, especially when it comes to Christian campuses.
“My exposure has been more on Christian universities,” says Scott. “I think there is an ethos within Christianity that values marriage to such a degree that it got a higher ranking in people’s mind than singleness—it is more esteem; it is seen more as valuable. I don’t agree with that, but I think it is seen that way.”
Ring by spring can be seen both negatively and positively. Admissions counselor Choua LeMay says “The positive is that students do genuinely find love, and that’s never a bad thing. The negative is that, there’s a false notion that generates unnecessary pressure for students to leave their four years with wedding plans in the works.”
Can it really be possible for every student to find their significant other by the time they graduate? It can be obvious that this cannot be guaranteed for everyone and brings Pollard’s questions stated earlier into discussion: “What is pressing us to legalize it?”
As a former student and now on staff at Northwestern for a total of five years, LeMay shares her observations of students in romantic relationships: “I think it’s a normal step in this particular stage in their lives to be looking for someone to spend the rest of their lives with. I believe this is a turning point in a student’s life: maturity goes through a major growth spurt and life lessons are to be had. It’s a good time to explore compatibility in a future spouse.”
However, the concept of ring by spring has also caused a lot of students to rush to find their spouse since many of their peers are. “It’s a covert type of pressure but pressure nonetheless. Part of the pressure comes from a traditional Christian mindset that assumes everyone should get married and start a family—that it’s normal. Or that woman should marry and assume domestic roles. Or perhaps, pressure happens when you witness all your friends around you finding someone, getting engaged, making wedding arrangements and starting the next season of their lives and the innate desire in us all wanting to “settle down” hits hardest,” says LeMay.
Regardless of romantic relationships, there are other types of relationships that college students are also facing. Scott says “You got some relationships that are young and mature. You got some relationships that are bold and beautiful. You got some relationships that are slow moving but beautifully moving. You got people who know how to do relationships and people who don’t. There is a lot to learn about how to do relationships well— and that goes for roommates, friendships, working and dating. Everybody is trying to figure out how to do those things well.”
Ring by spring has definitely been embedded into the culture here at Northwestern and many other places. Despite the challenging influences, it can arise for students, Scott encourages students to “try not to think about it too seriously [that is] finding your life mate in college too seriously. It will happen for some and it won’t happen for others. It doesn’t mean you won’t get married. My greatest recommendation is to use this time in college to figure out who you are and how you do who you are out in the world cause if you keep shaping that then you’re going to be the best partner, spouse, parent,[fill in the blank] that you can be.”