Exclusive dating site at University of Maryland takes off

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Few occasions on a college campus are more stressful than finals week.

Most students spend the time meticulously preparing for exams and end-of-the-year projects. Some try to master a semester’s worth of concepts in just a few days. The most daring resort to begging their professors for extra credit.

Personal hygiene and proper nutrition fall by the wayside.

But these stressed-out, sleep-deprived students still have needs.

University of Maryland senior Brandon Ferrell offered his peers a solution in the form of a free dating website called TerpMatch.

The rules are simple: Register with a university email address, type the name of your crush and wait. Unlike most dating services, TerpMatch doesn’t have messaging capabilities, photos or cringeworthy bios. The platform is about as straightforward as online dating can get.

Students say there’s nothing to lose because users’ identities are revealed only if two people search each other’s names.

But there’s a catch — all matches must be made by this week. Ferrell said he will close the site on the last day of the semester.

“There’s supposed to be a sense of urgency to it,” he said. “It’s really important for a lot of people . . . to see if the feelings are mutual.”

The computer science major said he built TerpMatch from scratch in about six hours. He launched the site the weekend after Thanksgiving and watched nearly 900 students sign up the first few days.

Now, more than 6,000 students are trying to match with their classmates.

“It’s a good way to test the waters because everyone has a class crush,” said Laurel Evans, a 21-year-old history major. “If you do match, you can see if the vibes were actually there.”

As a senior, Evans said, she might be more adventurous than the underclassmen.

“Maybe I’m a little more daring with whose names I put in,” she said.

For some, TerpMatch can facilitate a missed connection or catapult a person out of the friend zone.

Celia Cook, a 19-year-old sophomore, said she signed up for TerpMatch “out of boredom.” When she created her account, Cook took a picture of the website’s homepage and posted it to her Snapchat story with the caption, “TerpMatch, find me some love.”

Cook’s friend — and longtime crush — saw her post and messaged her with good news: He had created an account, too.

“I was not expecting him to be on there because I thought he was still in a relationship,” Cook said. An hour later, they matched.

“I wanted to scream,” she said, but quiet hours had started.

Time is of the essence when students are juggling ­end-of-semester assignments with last-minute love connections.

Cook and her crush quickly arranged a movie night in her dorm room and had dinner together on campus. She’s optimistic.

Students on the College Park campus aren’t the only ones who wait until the last minute to approach their crushes. Graduating seniors at Yale University approach their love interests at the Last Chance Dance in May. “Senior Scramble” is the term given to pre-graduation connections at Columbia University. Ferrell said he was inspired to create TerpMatch after he learned about a similar student-run platform at Dartmouth College called Last Chances.

Even though students are swamped with assignments, they’re still willing to spend their study breaks on TerpMatch. The website has a feature that notifies registered users when another account has searched for their name, so students are eager to figure out who is “crushing” on them, Ferrell said.

And the platform expedites what can be a grueling process. The ideal TerpMatch users know their crush in some capacity so that when they match, both parties can breeze past the getting-to-know you stage.

“Everybody’s really busy,” said Greg Bristol, a sophomore and mathematics major who uses TerpMatch. “It’s not really a time where a lot of people are going to go out and meet somebody new.”

Online dating has gained traction among young people in recent years. More than a quarter of people between the ages of 18 and 24 have used dating apps or websites, according to the Pew Research Center.

Cook tried her luck on mainstream apps over the summer but prefers the familiarity of a homegrown platform.

“Something about meeting complete strangers felt wrong,” Cook said. “On TerpMatch, I know whose name I’m putting in.”

Bristol said TerpMatch is more personal than other dating services “where you’re mindlessly swiping.”

“It’s really interesting because you know exactly who you’re typing in, so if you match, there’s probably something that’s going to come from it,” he said.

Ferrell is still working out lingering issues with TerpMatch. For example, there’s no way to differentiate between people who have the same name. When TerpMatch relaunches at the end of the spring semester, Ferrell may add an option for users to share contact information with matches.

“It’s for people who might not be confident enough to slide in the DMs,” Ferrell said, referring to the act of sending a flirty message to someone on social media.

“If you match with them, you can be confident enough at that point to follow them on Instagram or start interacting with them.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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