DateMySchool launched at SUNY New Paltz this summer on Aug. 18.
Columbia University classmates Balazs Alexa and Jean Meyer founded the site in November 2010. The two said they came up with the idea for the site after a student in the nursing school complained about the male to female ratio in her department, which was 90 percent female.
Alexa and Meyer faced the same dilemma – as the business school was 80 percent male – and decided to do something about it.
“We realized that there was a bigger market – lots of students want to meet across departments and campuses. And since we didn’t find a better solution out there, we thought DateMySchool might be a good idea,” Alexa said.
In one week, 1300 Columbia students registered.
When developing the service, they wanted safety to be a main factor. They created advanced privacy settings that “were unprecedented on any social platform,” Alexa said. These include that the site is only available to college students and alumni with active school accounts, members are unsearchable on Google and members are always in control of who can see their profiles.
Users must have an active e-mail address, which essentially acts like an ID, as one e-mail equals one person. Members can regulate access to their profiles by filtering certain schools, ages, departments and users in the same geographic region. While they can restrict other users, they can search for them as well. They can look for potential partners based on academic, geographic and personal backgrounds. DateMySchool can calculate the number of people that match your criteria and can even save the search.
The site also boasts communication features such as instant messaging and inboxing to help members converse and get to know each other. There is also a Q&A function, where participants can answer various questions and compare answers to others to see what interests and values they share. Members can make sure they don’t forget who they’re interested in by clicking either the “Like” or “Save” button. This action sends subtly playful hints to those who strike your fancy.
The combination of these features is what led Andres Lalinde to meet Michelle Przybyski, whom he married on April 29 after meeting on DateMySchool in late January/early February. Lalinde passed by a DateMySchool flyer and figured he would give it a shot.
“I thought to myself, ‘There are two great things about this site. One, I can set it so I’m blind to the girls in my program, so I can avoid awkward looks in the hallways,’” Lalinde said. “Two, this is seriously an untapped market.”
Lalinde also found the mere fact that you are dealing only with other students to be incredibly beneficial. He believes that there is “an implied understanding that the person you communicate with is going to be busy at times with school” and in turn they will understand that you too are busy. Lalinde noted that sometimes when you date someone who is not experiencing the same school related pressures as you, there can be frustration over not having enough time for the relationship.
Lalinde met Przybyski only a few weeks after signing up for DateMySchool. He came across her profile and sent her a message, which led to continuous talking, meet-ups, dates and eventually marriage, which he says has been “the best, most incredible” time in both of their lives.
“Neither one of us would change anything for the world,” Lalinde said.
Lalinde and Przybyski’s fairy tale isn’t the site’s only triumph, however. According to Alexa, the site has been extremely successful and most people plan a meeting within 30 minutes of chatting with others.
Their site has reeled in 350 schools and has reached more than 31,000 members with help from coverage by CNN, The New York Times, The Huffington Post and Time Out New York. Alexa also credits her “enthusiastic and dedicated” team with spreading the word.
While the founders get requests from campuses nationwide and are selective about where they launch, they knew they had to add SUNY New Paltz to the ever-growing list of participating schools.
“With a diverse community of 8,000 students, we wanted to help freshman find friends on campus, upperclassman branch out to new folks and alumni meet new people in their new homes,” Alexa said. “We also wanted to give you access to thousands of other students in Upstate New York schools included on DateMySchool for those who want to discover new people outside of New Paltz.
The team plans to recruit marketing interns to help bring more awareness to the site and peak student interest.
Though the site has mainly been marketed as a dating platform, they hope to advertise it more as a place for users to expand their friend base.
“We’re extending usage to become what we really are: a platform to discover new people online,” Alexa said. “Whether for dating, relational or study purposes, DateMySchool is the go-to place to discover new friends, not necessarily to connect with old ones.”