Please note: I'm not here to tell you that dating in high school means nothing! Obviously, what those relationships means and teach you are going to largely depend on your specific school and life environment, but there really is a difference in dating after high school!
I'm not just talking about dating in college, either, but I'm going to go ahead and group college like "the real world" for dating, because if you are smart and don't limit yourself to college being another high school experience, dating in college can be life defining! But, it's not always as exciting or free as people make it out to be.
Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
There's a whole new level to commitment once you're dating out of high school. In high school, maybe you dated that guy or gal you saw every day in biology, or that you knew from your friends brother on the track team. You had an easy, reliable way to see them, and frankly it didn't take a lot of effort.
The reality is that once you're out of high school, your commitments are going to change and you're likely going to have a lot more of them. To keep a relationship strong, exciting and interesting, you're going to have to take on a higher level of commitment to keep it alive!!!
It Might Feel Lonelier
Not the relationships themselves, but in high school, you might guy from one crush the next with ease. Everyone you're going to interact with is pretty much right in front of you on a daily or weekly basis, so it feels exciting and constant.
Dating in the world after high school might feel slower to you. It can be difficult! You don't meet people through friends like at school unless it's an intentional blind date or just a chance meeting, and we all know that while those happen, it feels like we have to wait ages for them. So it can be lonely at times!
Less People Care Who You Date
Maybe I'm alone in this experience, but I actually had a high school teacher tell me once that she thought I should dump my boyfriend--and he had already graduated! She was right (in the end, haha), but it was frustrating that my relationships had to go through so many approvals just because it was happening at school.
Sure, in college and after college or just in the working world, people still care who you date. Your family and friends always will! But there's not the same kind of big brother-esque world looking on and spreading rumors about whether or not you really made out in the hallway during biology (the answer was obviously...noooo).
Diversity = Excitement!
In high school, you have a diverse population....but that population is one you've been with for years or will be for years with very little change coming in and out. As high school students from the same area, you're likely to have similar thoughts and philosophies, as well as ages.
In the world after high school, you get the chance to meet a vast number of different kinds of people! There aren't strict grade levels that everyone fits into. You're all just there!! Different ages, different philosophies, different personal histories and more! This leads you to discover more about the qualities that people you enjoy dating have, and also help you to discover yourself, which is really exciting!
People Aren't Necessarily "More Mature"
I've had friends fight with me on this one, but seriously, the maturity factor isn't that different from high school into real life.
Sometime in high school I was listening to my mom talk about balancing her check book, and when I asked why she was having trouble, she basically told me it's because she isn't organized at keeping track of money.
And that is when I realized that most adults are no more adult than me--they just have had more experiences. There isn't a qualifier for maturity and adult-ness that come with being "of age" or "out of high school," even if you're often treated that way!
Don't expect a certain image of maturity or adult behavior from those you meat--just see what their personality is like and go from there!
You Should Really Spend More Time On You
While I think it'd be great if we could all "find ourselves" in high school, but the reality is that most people are focused on finding themselves socially, figuring out what they enjoy in the world, and going through teen drama!! Which is fine....but!
When you get out of high school, it's not all about finding 'the one' as fast as possible. You probably won't get married at the age your mom or grandma did, so stop using that as a rule. Date! Enjoy yourself! But date for you. People get caught up in the world of feeling like they need to date in high school, and they do the same thing after high school. Dating is great, but dating when you're confident in yourself is even better!
There Actually Aren't Any Rules!!
I know I just wrote all this so it seems silly but come on!! Just get out there and date if you want to date! Don't expect it to be exactly like high school, but don't expect it to be impossible, either. Dating is what you make it. Be confident in your wants, be honest with yourself and your partners, and keep your friends around to make it all easier.
I know that some people think of college dating as only "hook up culture" so they wouldn't really agree with me on all these points, but I had a totally different experience, so I think that your college dating life can be very much like what people consider post-grad dating life, if you let it!