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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Rejecting ring by spring

If you don’t already know, “ring by spring” is the Christian college phenomenon whereby seniors feel pressured to get engaged to their college sweetheart before graduation, and our Catholic campus is apparently no exception to the rule. 

According to a study by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), Notre Dame has an above-average percentage of married graduates (67.5%), topping the national average by approximately 15%. Amongst the top 50 colleges in the United States, Notre Dame has the highest marriage potential. What can I say? I guess Notre Dame students like “putting a ring on it.” 

Romantics consider “ring by spring” as one of Notre Dame’s most important cultural traditions. Legend has it, if you kiss your partner underneath the scenic Lyons Arch or walk around the lakes holding hands, you’ll end up married. I imagine the perfect campus courtship: a meet-cute with a classmate, a ring by spring, a big Basilica wedding and a couple of (inevitable) legacy babies.

Cynics may instead chalk up our campus’s marriage obsession as a demographic consequence. After all, Our Lady’s admissions committee hand-picks a huge group of like-minded Catholic students every year. What do you expect to happen when you gather a bunch of young, single, high-achieving people whose shared religion places an emphasis on marriage? Anybody can tell you there’s bound to be a wedding in the future. In fact, I can already hear the church bells.  

But regardless of whether you’re a romantic or a cynic, I think everybody on campus feels the same “ring by spring” pressure — especially women.

Maybe, for you, the pressure manifests in the unusual amount of engagement announcements on your Instagram feed. Maybe the pressure manifests in the looming knowledge that you will never be in the same pool of (probably very compatible) potential partners ever again. Maybe, like me, the pressure manifests itself in awkward questions from well-meaning family members.

“No pressure,” the well-meaning family member says.

But seriously, if you’re single, that’s OK. Only 17% of married couples met in college. In fact, your chances might actually be better online (at least, according to research, not personal experience). 

And if you’re dating, maybe you don’t want to pop the question while worrying about final projects or job applications. Waiting might actually be a better option. A study by the IFS suggests couples who get married in their late 20s stay together longer

Maybe it’s a maturity thing. While a partner should be supportive of your growth, people in their early 20s are just starting to form their identities outside of school and it might be dangerous to define yourself on your partner’s terms.

Personally, I cannot imagine committing to a future with somebody at only 22 years old. Over the past three years, I’ve changed my major and my mind a thousand times, and I have no doubt that I will change again in the future. How could I expect anybody to be certain in me, if I’m not yet certain in myself? 

In my opinion, “ring by spring” isn’t romantic. It’s an accumulation of familial pressure, religious obligation, campus tradition and a desire to moor yourself in the vast, uncertain ocean of post-graduate life. And by this, I don’t mean to dunk on your engagement or your happy relationship. If you’re deeply in love, more power to you. 

Instead, I mean we should abolish the notion that you have to get engaged before you graduate college. The women who attend Notre Dame are whip-smart, and they didn’t come here with the intention of getting their M.R.S. degree, even if they stumbled upon love along the way. Either way, you shouldn’t have to live your life according to anybody else’s timeline.

So, if you catch sight of something shiny glimmering on my left hand next spring, it won’t be as outwardly exciting as an engagement ring. Instead, I’ll be wearing my class ring, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.


Claire Lyons

Claire Lyons is a senior at Notre Dame studying English and Political Science. She is currently the Viewpoint Editor of The Observer.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.