While many are familiar with long-term relationships and co-habitation, college undergrads rarely take their relationships to the next level of commitment while still enrolled. Married students may be a minority on campus, but with the entire housing facility of Tenth & Home dedicated specifically to family residences, they are still a significant part of the community.
One perk of being a married undergrad? “In-state tuition,” said Stephen Miller, a fourth-year Management major from South Carolina who is married to a life-long Georgian.
Miller proposed to his wife Ashley after two months of dating. “The first time I physically met [Stephen’s parents], we were telling them we were engaged,” said Ashley Miller, a fourth-year Math major.
The Millers, who met freshmen year after a mutual friend introduced them in CS class, will celebrate their second wedding anniversary this April.
Stephen’s father was against the marriage at first. “Until he found out that…I would become in-state and I would be saving money,” Stephen said. At that point, he urged Stephen to go ahead and marry if he was sure that Ashley was the right person.
At the request of their parents, Ashley and Stephen held off getting married until the end of their second year.
They may wake up next to the same person every morning, but a day in the life of a married student does not have to differ much from that of a single student.
“The day progresses as it would for any college student, especially any other college student in a relationship…I guess the difference would be that we cook dinner for each other, we eat together every day instead of just when we’re going on a date,” Ashley said.
Making mealtime a priority helps college newlyweds to balance school, work and marriage. Ashley works nights so Stephen brings dinner to her and they eat together.
“She cooks better than I do, though,” Stephen said.
Ashley says now that she is married, she offers more support to her spouse in his academic work. “My dad [said], ‘You get married and you better not drop out of school. School is number one.’ It’s like, I know. And I think it was a distraction more when we were dating,” Miller said.
Over time, Stephen and Ashley learned to give each other space and to encourage each other to focus on school when necessary.
Shelly Alderman, a second-year Physics major, also became engaged during her freshman year. Her husband, Xander, is in the Marine Corps.
“He’s been in training, which means he’s been in a couple different places, each place not for very long…since I am in college it didn’t really make sense for me to follow him around,” Alderman said.
Next semester, Shelly will transfer schools and join Xander when he is finally stationed in Hawaii.
Shelly and Xander Alderman met in high school and credit their close relationship to the experiences they have shared as young newlyweds. “We found that going through changes together and growing up together [has] really strengthened our relationship, and it’s different for people who meet when they’re older…they’ve settled into living and have their habits,” Shelly said.
According to Alderman, marriage provides a consistent source of support and encouragement for both partners as they work toward their degrees. “You have somebody who says, ‘You know, you finished the last project you said you couldn’t finish. I believe in you and you can do this.’ That helps a lot,” Shelly said.
John Lennon once wrote the famous Beatles song, “All You Need is Love.” For the Aldermans, this is not necessarily true; wedded bliss takes more than love.
“I’ve found if you have a lot of respect for your partner, you’re more likely to communicate well [and] you’ll probably be more faithful,” Shelly said.
“[Marriage] is easier if you have a lot of respect for the person you’re with.”