Photo of two people laying together in the grass as they look at each other.

Looking for low-cost date ideas on and off campus? Check out this comprehensive list of things you can do together! 

Get date ideas

You might want to date to get to know new people, start a relationship or casually hang out. It’s also okay if you’re not looking to date or hookup. Sometimes, it’s nice to focus on friendships instead. If this sounds like you, check out these tips for making friends on campus

If you are interested in dating during your time here at CU, here are some tips for making dating fun and meaningful. 

1) Communicate your intent 

To get the most out of dating, consider what you want from the experience. Keep in mind that not all crushes will turn into a relationship, but it can pay off to know what you want from a romantic interest. 

Here are a few expectations to talk about together: 

  • Talk through what you might be looking for. Clarify if it’s okay to date or hook up with other people or if you’d prefer to be exclusive. Keep in mind that your wants or expectations may change over time. Having ongoing conversations with your partner as your relationship evolves is key. 
  • Does sharing similar political views, aspirations, lifestyle or other factors matter? 
  • Clarify expectations about who will pay for things on a date. Keep in mind that sharing expenses when dating has been shown to help partners develop healthier boundaries. 

It's important to remember that effective communication requires vulnerability. A prospective interest might reject you for having wants that don’t align with their own, which can be a difficult experience. However, having someone clearly communicate their intent, even if it turns out to be rejection, can still be a better outcome than being led on or having a date end poorly. 

If you're using dating apps, consider using these expectations to help you tailor your profile and create meaningful filters. For instance, if you’re looking for something casual, you may want to consider filtering out people who are looking for a relationship or vice versa. Using these features and being honest about what you want allows you to set clear expectations and match with people who want similar things. 

2) Embrace authenticity and connection 

We are all hardwired to seek clarity, safety and stability in our relationships. However, modern dating culture may feel like low accountability and casual interactions are expected. We may feel pressured to play it cool, be chill, minimize what we want/need or avoid committing too early. Feeling constrained by dating norms and expectations can cause increased anxiety and uncertainty. 

One way to combat this is to intentionally embrace authenticity and connection. Allow your true self to shine through, whether you’re meeting people online or in person. If you prefer apps, build a profile that reflects who you really are. Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality and values through photos, questionnaires or your bio. Staying true to your authentic self can make it more likely to find meaningful connections.  

Remember that you can take it slow and let things evolve. Spend as much time as you need to get to know yourself and a romantic interest. 

3) Identify and communicate your boundaries 

Boundaries represent the limits, rules or expectations we set for our behavior. Setting healthy boundaries can help us navigate relationships in a more positive way and avoid feelings of anger, resentment, regret or fatigue. 

Here are a few examples to consider: 

  • Are you comfortable going out with someone who may be seeing other people at the same time? 
  • Do you want to get to know someone over text before meeting up or meet up with people right away? 
  • What physical touch are you comfortable with on a first date (e.g., handholding, hugging, kissing, sex, etc.)? How do you see physical touch evolving as you get to know someone? 
  • How do you feel about going out with someone who has previously dated a friend or acquaintance? 
  • Are there specific activities you’d like to avoid on dates (e.g., drinking, expensive outings, group events, etc.)? 

Clarifying our boundaries in our mind first can help us communicate them and establish a healthy relationship with ourselves and potential partners.  

Here are some ways you may set and communicate boundaries on dates: 

  • “I am feeling uncomfortable. Can we do something else that we would both enjoy?” 
  • “I’ve never done [activity] before. I’d like to go on a date with you, and I am down to try it. But if I end up not having a good time, will you be open if our plans need to change?” 
  • “You’re hot and I really like you, but I’m not ready to have sex with you yet. Do you still want to meet up, or does that change your interest in going on our date?” 

Be honest about your expectations and trust your gut. If someone dismisses your boundaries or pushes you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, they’re probably not a good fit.  

Free guide for exploring sex 

Sex is complicated, and you may not always know what you want. This free workbook can help you reflect on your preferences, desires, boundaries and the ways you think about sex. 

Get your copy of The Sex Ed Workbook


While exploring relationships may feel easy and great, it can also be rocky or challenging. Here are some resources that are available for relationship support, self-exploration and more. 

Support resources

Let’s Talk

Let’s Talk is a free service where CU Boulder students can meet for an informal, brief, confidential consultation with a CAPS counselor. Let’s Talk counselors can help provide insight, solutions and information about additional resources. Students commonly visit with concerns about stress, sadness, worry, relationships, academic performance, family problems and financial struggles. 

Medical Services

Medical Services offers sexual and reproductive health appointments and resources for all students, including birth control, annual exams, testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV prevention medications, free safer sex supplies and more. 

Free safer sex supplies

Did you know you can get free safer sex supplies like condoms, dental dams, lube and more? Stop by the first or third floor of Wardenburg Health Center or order a free Buff Box for delivery to your residence hall. 

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free, confidential trauma-focused counseling, advocacy, information and referrals for all CU community members, including undergrad and graduate students, staff and faculty. They specialize in addressing current and past life-disruptive events, including but not limited to crime, trauma, sexual assault, partner abuse, experiences of bias, harassment, discrimination, assault, other abuse and violence. 

Group therapy

CAPS offers process groups that provide a supportive space for students to deepen self-understanding and explore ways of relating more comfortably to others. This group can help students learn to deal with feelings of depression and anxiety, family dynamics and other personal concerns. 

Peer Wellness Coaching

Peer wellness coaches are trained students who can help their fellow Buffs navigate their time at CU. They are here to help students set and achieve their goals related to academic success, relationships, time management, personal wellness and more. 

Read more

Love bombing

New relationships are exciting, especially when you meet someone you instantly click with. In many cases, feeling connected and comfortable can be a sign of a healthy relationship to come. However, a relationship that starts off feeling great can shift in ways that are not so great once the excitement and novelty wear off. Here are some signs to watch out for. 


While stalking is often directed at someone from a previous intimate relationship, it can also occur between former friends, roommates or someone the person has never met before, including matches from dating apps. Learn how to identify stalking behaviors and connect with resources. 

Intimate partner abuse

Intimate partner abuse occurs in relationships that are or have been intimate. Abuse can take many forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, psychological, sexual, financial or reproductive abuse. Learn how to identify intimate partner abuse and connect with resources, or learn the difference between healthy and abusive behaviors in a relationship.  

Sexual assault

Sexual violence and abuse can have lasting impacts on individuals and communities. Learn about sexual assault, consent and resources available for students.