Elite dating website serves top schools
By Jennifer Garfinkel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, April 25, 2005
With spring descending on Hanover, it seems only natural that love might be in the air. Yet for the 5,000 members of www.rightstuffdating.com, love can be found not only at a sunny spot on the Green, but also from the comfort of their homes.
Among the many online dating services available to singles, www.rightstuffdating.com sets itself apart with one rule: the website is only offered to graduates of top-tier universities. Graduates who agree that "smart is sexy" can join the self-proclaimed "Ivy League of Dating."
Out of frustration with the existing dating scene, Dawne Touchings, a Cornell graduate, founded The Right Stuff Dating service from her New Jersey home in 1993. The website component of the company, now the method of choice for most members, was created in 1997.
Touchings and her friends did not enjoy relying on personal ads and the bar scene to meet men.
"You may have nothing in common with the person sitting across from you at the table," she said. "We use education as a screening device."
Touchings offers the service to graduates of the top 14 universities and the top 14 liberal arts colleges. She annually refers to U.S. News and World Report for these rankings and schools are added as they climb to the top 14 positions. Since institutions that slip from their top-14 spots remain on the list -- and the seven all-female sister schools are also included for historic reasons -- the dating list is currently comprised of 50 schools.
After showing proof of graduation and paying the six-month, $70 membership fee, each new member fills out a short biography and submits photos. Members can read all of the short biographies online and, for a nominal fee, request the extended biographies of members who strike their fancy.
"People tend to seek people of a similar education level. It makes sense because education says a lot about a person," Touchings said about the concept for her company. "There's something of a shared history."
Although some would say The Right Stuff Dating promotes exclusivity or elitism, Touchings' concept may not be too far off from reality. Since 1976, 10 percent of living Dartmouth alumni have married other College alumni, according to an article by Meg Sommerfeld '90 in a 2000 issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.
"It is important to me to be with someone who values education as much as I do, and I guess one way to measure this is through how much education a person has had," Alexandra Prinstein '98 said. In fact, Prinstein is part of the 10-percent Dartmouth statistic -- her fiancee Seth is also a Dartmouth graduate.
"With that being said, though, this is only one detail about a person -- the fact that Seth and I both went to 'prestigious' schools gives us something in common but I wasn't necessarily looking for this in a mate," Prinstein added.
Still, other college students said they disagreed with the concept of an exclusive dating service, even if it will provide men and women with a commonality. Tufts undergraduate Stacy Davidowitz, whose school did not make the cut for The Right Stuff Dating, called the dating service "snooty and exclusive."
"I feel that the people who actually pay to do this are all the same. But on the other hand, I guess that's who they are and that's who they're getting," Davidowitz said.
At George Washington University, another school that did not make the list, senior Scott Silver found it odd that the service measures daters' intellectual capabilities by the schools they attended.
"I think it's a bit obscure that the site is the one deciding who is intellectual and who is not. There are plenty of people that go to higher level schools that have no common sense and are not desirable," he said.
Touchings also created the website www.gaygrads.com, a dating service based on the same principle but for homosexuals. The website, which admits the top 20 colleges and top 20 universities, has been advertised for a year and a half but has failed to gain popularity.
"I'm going to change some things and re-launch it," Touchings said.