One thing I quickly learned as a freshman at California Baptist University was the concept of “ring by spring.”
I think most people can attest that they have experienced the “ring by spring” culture at CBU and other Christian universities. However, for those unfamiliar with the concept, “ring by spring” refers to the aspiration of students to be engaged by the spring semester of their senior year in college. It has easily become one of the marks of a Christian university.
I’ve witnessed the pressure to find love while in college during conversations with friends and classmates. Each time I hear the stress in their voice as they worry their time at school is coming to a close and they are still without a relationship. I have also seen new relationships in college met with overwhelming questions of marriage and their plans for post-college. This type of pressure can contribute to unnecessary stress in a new relationship, which can place pressure on the couple to decide about their future prematurely and rush unprepared into a committed.
I am also in no way saying that being engaged young is a bad thing or something to avoid. As a 20-year-old who is engaged and, in a way, achieved the absurd “ring by spring” mission, I am not against being young and in love. I am, however, against the pressure students feel that says because you are dating in college or because you are engaged in college, you must be chasing the “ring by spring” ideology.
While I understand the desire to want to date as a young adult and find someone to share your life with, I worry that “ring by spring” culture is creating unrealistic perceptions of dating and marriage. “Ring by spring” creates the idea that your time in college is measured by who you meet and not by achieving a college degree.
I struggle to find the benefits in a concept that says if you do not find love in college you have somehow failed to fulfill your “ring by spring” potential and thus wasted your time in school.
In a study done by Stacy Keogh George for The Institute of Faith and Learning at Baylor University on the “ring by spring,” culture, over half of the students surveyed said they felt pressure to be married.
“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,” Keogh George said. “When asked directly if students feel pressured to be married, at least 67% of students say they feel at least a little bit of pressure.”
The pressure students reported feeling can also cause an assumption that because you are single, you have less value in your community. This creates an unhealthy attachment to relationships by establishing that your worth comes from who you’re dating.
“While students and faculty may joke about the marriage-obsessed ring by spring culture, it dispenses a social psychological burden that follows students, particularly women, throughout their undergraduate experience.”
The idea that students must find someone to marry in college because they need to check off some weird box rather than believing that they can find their spouse in a different season of life is a flawed system.
While “ring by spring” culture is not necessarily the fault of Christian universities, the ongoing discussion about needing a “ring by spring” only fuels the fire and pressure students feel.
It is partially the role of the university to eliminate the need for a “ring by spring” by intentionally talking about dating and marriage as a marathon that goes through life and not a sprint with the finish line as graduation day.