Whether you’re just starting to adjust to college life or navigating those first few years after graduation, multitasking is your friend. You’re already living independently and getting a handle on classes or trying to jumpstart your career — throwing in dating can feel like adding another part-time job to the mix. It takes a surprising amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy to spend an entire evening hanging out one-on-one with someone you’ve never met before.
Enter the group date, a low-stakes hang with your friends — and maybe one or two of their (cute, smart, interesting) friends. Because it involves a larger number of people, group dating may sound like a lot compared with one-on-ones, but it’s actually stealthily perfect for introverts because of the extra social padding. You can step away for a breather or even dip at any time without ruining your date’s night. Also, the pressure doesn’t fall 50% on you to keep the conversation going. If there’s an uncomfortable silence, your loudest, funniest, and maybe drunkest friend is there to pick up the conversational slack.
Yes, you probably group dated in high school. And no, it doesn’t have to be that uncool this time around. Plus, if you or anyone else in the group is broke as hell, all of the below ideas are cheap or free — and none of them involve playing video games in your friend’s basement.
1. Throw a dinner party — culinary skills optional. Even if “dinner” actually means ordering in pizza, the slightly classed-up vibe means that everyone’s on slightly better behavior than they would be at, say, a dive bar.
2. Attend a talk or reading. Whether it’s a writer, activist or some other prominent figure, there might be an interesting speaker on campus or in town. Bonus: Since this group date entails sitting back as an audience member and soaking in Culture™, you don’t need to be “on” for the whole night.
3. Have a picnic at a grassy spot. This daytime, just-maybe-alcohol-free hang has the intimate feel of a one-on-one but with the option to switch gears and go play Frisbee with your friends if it turns out that you and your date have no chemistry.
4. Hit up a karaoke bar. Singing in front of new people means you’re all leaning hard into the awkwardness — together. It also gives you a glimpse into your date’s psyche: Do they keep picking breakup songs (bad)? Or do they casually roll up to the mic and slay a David Bowie single (hot and amazing)?
5. Escape The Room! Like karaoke, escape rooms have the benefit of being an active date. Applying the “show, don’t tell” principle to dating gives you a clear idea of who this person is and what they’re like under pressure. Also, experiencing a mutual adrenaline rush can be kinda sexy.
6. Go to a major sporting event. Even if you’re not the athletic type, there’s something infectious about being part of an enthusiastic crowd, and it may make you socially braver than you typically are. Bonus: Tailgating, whether you’re a student or an alum, remains a fantastic way to meet even more new people.
7. Compete in a trivia night. Get a glimpse of what you’d normally see on a fourth or fifth date: the unexpected interests and idiosyncratic fandoms that really make someone who they are, even if the subject wouldn’t have come up under normal circumstances. Is this person a huge “Star Wars” buff or do they have an encyclopedic knowledge of World War I facts? The potential for nerding out is endless — and that’s a good thing.
8. Take part in a seasonal activity. Like a haunted house or hayride in the fall, or ice skating in the winter… take your pick. Even if you think it’s kind of cheesy, maybe your date will agree, and you can bond over snarky comments.
9. Go hiking. Fresh air, scenic nature, and a pleasant endorphin rush make this a fantastic group date. The person you’re into might seem untouchably, unattainably perfect now, but watching their friends rag on them for their lame sunset Instagram is extremely humanizing.
10. See a crowd-pleasing movie at midnight. May we recommend a Pixar movie or trashy slasher flick? It’s a classic group date, with the option to make out in the dark at any time.