Looking for love or…not: Pick the right dating app for you

So, maybe you’re tired of being alone on Valentine’s Day. Maybe you’re looking for a convenient “friend with benefits” or maybe you’re just bored and like flirting with people. Whatever the reason, if you’re finding yourself looking toward the world of online dating, it can be hard to know how to start — especially once you know that you have options; free options.

That’s right, there’s more than just Instagram direct messages. Here’s a breakdown of the free dating apps available to college students; ones that you’ve likely heard about and some which may be new to you.


Chances are, you’ve heard about Tinder. It’s arguably the reason why dating apps have become so popular. Tinder is pretty straight forward; you’re shown images of other users and you swipe right to “like” them and swipe left to pass. If two users swipe right on each other’s profile, the pair are matched and given the opportunity to talk.  

Tinder allows users to set preferences based on gender, age and distance of users. Although it is typically referred to as a “hook up” app, it’s certainly not that way by rule. So, if you have specific expectations, like finding a relationship or a no-strings-attached situation, you might want to mention that to your matches. Either way, meeting someone becomes more likely when you’re using a tool that boasts 1.6 billion swipes a day and over 20 billion total matches.


Grindr is very similar to Tinder, except it’s designed to specifically serve the gay male community. With three million active users who use the service daily, Grindr credits itself with being the largest social networking service for the LGBTQ community. You can also customize your profiles similarly to how you can on Tinder, but with the addition of indicating which pronouns you prefer to be addressed.


Bumble sets out to help users make meaningful connections by empowering women. This app isn’t exclusively used for dating since users can also set their “mode” to indicate that they are searching for friends or business connections to swipe that way. The app works by showing you other users who are swiping in the same mode that you are.

Although it begins with the same premise of swiping on who you would like to date, Bumble does come with some benefits. By sending a specific photo of yourself to the company, you can verify your account, which helps deter catfishing. The real difference comes with the app’s time restraints and messaging requirements. On this app, women have to make the first move — meaning send the first message — within 24 hours of matching with someone or the option to communicate disappears forever. In turn, men also have to respond within 24 hours. The feature was designed to ensure that matches actually lead to conversations. The app claims to have facilitated 1.3  million matches and one million first moves by women every day.

Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel was developed in 2012 with the idea of meaningful relationships in mind and is arguably the app on this list most designed for relationships. Every day at noon men receive 21 potential matches — that the app calls bagels — which are selected using algorithms based on information from your profile. Men can either like or pass on the profiles. Then, women are shown the profiles of men who have already “liked” them to decide whether or not they wish to connect and chat. The app also has settings for the LGBTQ community. The app boasts that it has made one billion introductions so far.

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