Breaking up is hard to do

By Lee Shulman Bierer, College Admissions Strategies, Founder


For young couples in high school heading off to college, it must seem like the world doesn’t believe in love. Everyone, well mostly everyone, is telling them to break up and start fresh in college. Long-distance romances can be challenging in the best of times. Trying to maintain a relationship that started in high school can be especially tough. Dealing with the transition to college AND being separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles is not a recipe for long-lasting love. No, that doesn’t mean it can’t work and yes, love can conquer quite a bit, but be prepared for some messy times, some tears and maybe heartbreak.

Long-distance relationships require hard work. Everyone knows that. Maintaining a long-distance relationship can be distracting for some students because they are less engaged in what’s happening on campus. However, for other students, being faithful removes the social distractions of parties and greek life and allows them to be more focused on their academics.

When couples decide to try and stick it out, they start out saying that they want the same things. But, problems arise when their definitions of “hard work” differ. Tackling the issues of trust, loyalty, jealousy, commitment, intimacy and satisfying the partner’s need for reassurance can be taxing.

Set the ground rules.

The biggest discussion point is deciding to be exclusive or agreeing that it’s okay to date other people. This decision often comes down to “Are we gonna make it; is it worth the effort?” For starters if you are not both on the same page in that initial conversation, the forecast is gloomy. You need to ask yourself how you feel about sharing your boyfriend or girlfriend with other people. It’s important to be honest with yourself. If you are feeling that you’re hanging onto to your high school relationship for security reasons; you’re better off cutting your losses sooner than later.

Here are some thoughts from students from the book “Survival Secrets of College Students.”

  • “I wish I would have come in with freedom to date around instead of with a long-term boyfriend. There’s a lot of exploring going on, and I wasn’t able to do that. At 18, you aren’t looking for a life partner; you’re looking for a good time.”
  • “I have been discouraged by parents and friends saying that long-distance relationships don’t work out. We have been going together three years. We visit each other two or three times a semester. Don’t say you should break up. Try it and see.”
  •  “If you think the relationship is going to last. Go with it. I knew when I was a freshman here that the relationship I still had with my high school boyfriend was rocky, and why I continued with it, I’m not quite sure.”
  • “I think a lot of girls come to college thinking they have to have a boyfriend. I’m glad I didn’t date anybody my freshman year, because that’s when you develop friendships.”


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;