Lava Life, E-Harmony and now, U-Date
Have you ever declined a friend request on Facebook because the individual was twice your age? Or rejected a potential suitor from an online dating site due to geographic limitations?
A student-founded dating site is looking to provide a solution to such issues common to students within the realm of online dating. U-Date.ca, created by a pair of university students, is currently the only online dating forum exclusive to those in Canadian universities and colleges.
Co-founders Natasha Varga-Papp and Jordan Dowdall are both fourth-year undergraduate students at the University of Guelph, and share credit for the idea. With Varga-Papp completing a degree in arts and science and Dowdall in commerce, the pair are a balanced combination, perfectly suited to lead this start-up venture.
Varga-Papp explained the idea’s origin: “We discussed it a couple years ago, just in conversation, how this kind of thing didn’t exist. We were intrigued by this, and thought it would be cool to fill that void in the market. Technically, we are the founders. There’s a couple people helping us with website development and promoting, but it’s basically just us.”
To this Dowdall added, “There’s so many students on Plentyoffish.com, the biggest free dating site in Canada, to which we offer the first real alternative for students.”
The service offers an exclusivity not found on Facebook or other online dating sites. “You have to have a functioning, legitimate university or college email to sign up, which makes it unique from the generic social networking universe,” said Varga-Papp .
Furthermore, U-Date offers a sense security otherwise unknown to the online world of social media, which is accomplished through the site’s exclusivity. “We want to create an environment that’s secure and safe, and free of ‘creepers’ for lack of a better word. It’s shocking that no one’s came out with a service that shields people from that, especially for the student population.” Dowdall explained.
Registration is completely free and user-friendly, completed after using a school email to set a username and password. Every profile is filled with basic information commonly found on any dating site, such as age, school and program, interests and goals. The whole process is highly personalized to connect users on a level more relatable to student life.
“You can fill in fun facts like what kind of cell-phone you use, your favourite place to study on campus, or your favourite drink to order at the bar — you can tell a lot about a person with information like this,” Dowdall added.
Once students are logged in, means of communication range from sending flirtatious “winks” or friendly messages. “You don’t add friends, you can message people or you can wink at them, and then we’re looking into getting a chat function in there as well,” Varga-Papp said of user interaction that actually occurs on the site. Anything further is left up to individual discretion.
Not looking for a relationship? Varga-Papp emphasizes that although called U-Date, the site serves a variety of functions for its users. “On your profile there is an option to fill in what you’re looking for. This can range from dating, to a study partner, to friendship.”
Currently, the service allows you to search through a database of 119 users, a number which the pair hope to see increase in the near future. “Right now we’re relying a lot on word of mouth, but we have Facebook and Twitter, which users can follow directly from the home page. We’re coming out with some posters soon that we’re going to post around Guelph University as well as other campuses, like Laurier and Brock, where we know people,” Varga-Papp explained about their marketing tactics.
Dowdall continued, “Feedback so far has been ecstatic. People are excited that there’s finally a site dedicated solely to student communication. There’s just nothing that really compares in Canada. Essentially we’re looking for possible partners for the future.”
Varga-Papp concluded with some good advice for users looking to connect quickly “the more information you add to your profile, the more grounds you have to establish and maintain contact with others.
It all comes down to one simple mission — connecting students online.”