Don’t even think about starting university in a relationship

This September, hordes of hopelessly devoted students will head off to university in a new city and misspend the best years of their lives with some undesirable from school.

For a precious few, it works out, but for the majority, going to uni with a first love from home is like forever eating salad with no dressing or getting into Hogwarts and opting for your local grammar school instead. Don’t do it. Don’t even think about doing it. If you’re still thinking about doing it, read on.

We were students once, hence the know-it-all tone. Not the kind who enjoyed student life, but the kind who went home every weekend to see boyfriends we now haven’t thought about since 2009. Boyfriends who, with hindsight, had nothing on the corridors of attractive, intelligent, first-time-away-from-home freshers in our halls.

We lost track of the number of students who turned up in freshers’ week telling everyone about their girlfriend or boyfriend from back home. Almost invariably, they had split up by Christmas – after the gift exchange.

Your first year of university is daunting, and it can feel easier in the moment to hold on to a security blanket beau from your school. Inevitably though, you meet people at university who you have more in common with, because you’ve chosen to study the same subject and you’re having the same reaction to the Thomas Hardy module, or because you’re simply doing the same things; nights out, halls dinners, table tennis.

It’s sad not to be able to make the most of these romantic scenarios. Instead of knocking on each other’s doors before dinner and staring at each other in lectures, you’re phoning your boyfriend and enduring stilted conversation, leaving nights early because he’s coming to stay tomorrow. And he’s probably thinking the same.

Rose McGreggor, 24, went to the University of Oxford, while her boyfriend was at Durham. She says: “When I went to Oxford I was so in love, but we grew apart and eventually broke up when I was in my final year.

“I could only see him every other weekend and our relationship got reduced to a series of phone calls. Then when I did see him it was awkward because we were living separate lives. I’d always want to go out whenever he came to visit, which was probably a bad sign.”

Similarly, Emma Johns, 30, stayed with her boyfriend from her hometown of Aylesbury while doing her undergraduate degree at the London College of Fashion. Looking back, she says it was pretty tragic. “We broke up the minute the course was over. I probably would’ve ended it with him sooner if I’d been at a campus uni with more of a community, but being in London meant it was easy for him to visit and for me to go home.” Does she regret it? “Yeah, totally.”

Johns says she found it difficult trying to maintain two things at once. “I think if you have a boyfriend, you don’t get involved in the same way. If you’re committed to someone else, you’re not as likely to meet new people,” she says.

As the actress and filmmaker Greta Gerwig advises a group of first-years in her new film, Mistress America: “Where is this old-person morality coming from? There’s no cheating when you’re 18 — you should all be touching each other all the time.”

Very rarely is it meant to be. The “no you shouldn’t break up” camp is usually just one tent, housing the one couple that made it through. The old romantics out there will say that you should do anything to be with the one you love And 1% of the time, they’re right.

One guy at our university got up at 6am and Skyped his girlfriend in Australia every day for three years – and now lives there with her.

Toby Marsh, 40, from London, met his wife at 16 and says they stayed together “through uni, through travel, career changes, births, deaths and marriage. We grew up together. It’s easy to say relationships don’t survive through university, but, as with many things, you need to work at them and respect them. We are very lucky.”

Lily Knight, 26, a student at Drama Centre London says: “When I got to drama school I was told immediately that holding down any kind of normal relationship would be almost impossible. The first term was the biggest change in situation I have ever encountered and in my exhaustion and delirium, I broke up with my boyfriend. I don’t fully blame those people for the end of my most precious relationship, but I do think people’s fortune-telling can be incredibly damaging.

“If I had to advise anyone breaking up their relationship before uni, I would say ignore people’s prophecies,” she adds. “Struggling through the first few months might be difficult but sitting at home lonely two years later, still sad and regretful is far worse.”

If you know it to be true, following your heart instead of a stranger’s advice is right. But if there’s reasonable doubt, you’re probably in the 99%, and you might even miss your chance with the real “one” because you’re busy texting your school boyfriend or girlfriend saying you wish they were there. When actually, the right person is standing in front of you wishing you didn’t have a boyfriend.

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