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Homework and Bridal Magazines: A Snapshot of Young Marriage at Iowa State

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Produced by HuffPost's College Reporting team for the "Dating On Campus" series, which will zoom in on a different aspect of college dating daily.

Rachel Trampel passed on a job opportunity as a science writer in Lincoln, Nebraska, so that she could move to Minneapolis with her fiancé. Trampel, a 22-year-old senior majoring in journalism at Iowa State University, got engaged earlier in the school year to her high school junior prom date, who had previously accepted a job offer in Minnesota. 

"It was a really hard decision," Trampel admitted, saying that she does feel like she has become the follower -- something she didn't want to be. Had they still been dating rather than engaged, the situation might have been different, she said.  

"Someone has to give up something though," chimed in her friend Ivy Elsbernd, a senior majoring in Kinesiology and Spanish at Iowa State. 

"Yeah and I know he would've given up something for me," Trampel responded. 

Elsbernd and Trampel are sitting in a friend's living room with their close friends Chelsey Lass, senior in mathematics, and Emily Bohach, senior in interior design. As the girls check their e-mails and try to catch up on homework, Trampel eyes the pages of bridal magazines. 

Each of them is currently in a committed relationship and although Trampel is the only one engaged, they all bring up marriage, discussing the difference in expectations from twenty years ago, when their society would have expected them to get married before they hit 25. 

U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate the median age for marriage in 1970 was 20.8 for women and 23.2 for men, in 2008 the age increased to 26.1 for women and 27.7 for men. 
Bohach said that she doesn't know how someone could afford to be married so young. As a senior though, Elsbernd said that at this point she automatically thinks of the long-term perspective of dating. As a freshman, she said, it was the opposite -- more about "let's see what this week brings." 

"When I was a freshman I think I was in relationships just to be in a relationship," Kim Norvell, senior in Journalism and Environmental Studies at Iowa State, said. "Now that I'm with someone who I know I'm compatible with, I realize that those relationships were just time fillers, so to speak." 

Norvell has been with her boyfriend for six months. As she prepares to graduate, there have been talks of moving to another state or even marriage in the future but said there's no rush to get married until both partners are ready. 

"To me that means finishing school, finding a job and being happy living together," she added.

Trampel said she notices most of her friends who are in serious relationships are those who are focused on school the most. She attributed this to the fact that they developed those dating situations later in college, since earlier they were involved in programs that were harder and thus forced them to concentrate on their majors and the search for internships instead. 

Dr. Alicia Cast, associate professor in sociology at Iowa State, suggested students may look for committed relationships more so later in college as their lives begin to get "serious." 

"I suppose a little bit of it is also feeling a little unsure about the future and wanting the security that a stable relationship provides," Cast said. 

Norvell believes society frowns on young marriages today. 

"There are too many instances where people get married too quickly and it ends up in divorce," Norvell said. 

Rachel Park, a junior in English and theater at Grand View University, said she knows both she and her boyfriend of four years plan on marrying someday. But with both of them in the middle of their academic life, now is not the time. 

"[My boyfriend] wants to experience all that he can in life before he devotes his full attention to a spouse," Park explained. "That's kind of the opposite of selfish to me." 
Park lives with her partner which she cited as an important test of the waters for a couple considering marriage. 

Cast pointed out cohabiting "out of wedlock" has become more accepted by society. 

Cast said more people spending time getting an education delays the average marriage age as well. The 2008 results of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey showed 40.7 percent of those aged 18-24 were enrolled in college or graduate school. 

Leisa Whalen, 23 year-old student at The Salon Professional Academy in Ames, Iowa, lived with several boyfriends in the past and reaffirmed the importance of living together before marriage. Still, she said many of her 18 and 19 year-old classmates are engaged. 

"I swear I'm the only single person there," Whalen said. "They act like I've never had a boyfriend."

Trampel said her family and friends expected the engagement to come and she said spending time apart when she studied abroad and while her then boyfriend went away for internships put things in perspective. 

"Getting engaged doesn't mean we have to get married in the next six months," she said. Trampel may not actually have the wedding for a year or even five years, she said, and can still back out of it without going through a divorce. 

Aside from browsing wedding dresses, she has not undertaken any other sort of planning. It's important for her and her fiancé to be established financially first. 

"I made this plan in fourth grade that I would study science in college, get engaged when I was 24 and married at 30," Trampel said. She did study science and she did begin dating her fiancé her senior year of high school but the rest is coming a little sooner than expected.