"I just don't understand how dating works these days."
If I had a dollar for every time an adult relative has said that to me in the last five years, I'd be rich enough to just quit college now. Dating doesn't make sense to adults and in all honesty, dating doesn't really make sense to most young people either. It's different for everyone and no two relationships are ever the same. You meet someone in class, at a party, on Tinder, wherever, and after a few dates you start to realize you're beginning to like them. Some people's reactions to this would be to jump in all at once with their heart on their sleeve. HOWEVER, here's why I believe you should never DTR (define the relationship) right away.
Things don't have to turn into something overnight and frankly some people just take longer to figure out how they actually feel. For a long time I had a tendency to compare myself to my friends and their relationships which is both wildly unfair to myself and the boy I'm interested in for multiple reasons. For one, all people move at different paces and I simply just have a tendency to take things slow which is OKAY. You don't have to meet someone one day and have your future children's names picked out the next. In fact, it's probably better you don't. Your relationship should be a great addition to your life, but it shouldn't be your whole life. A good friend of mine told me that relationships should be the icing on the cake of your life. This essentially means that only 20% of your happiness should be from your relationship and the remaining 80% should derive from your job, friends, family, etc. Keep on living and let your connection develop organically, trying to force a label quickly and rush into things too fast could potentially ruin something good.
How well do you ACTUALLY know them? This isn't high school anymore. This isn't the boy you've gone to school with since Pre-K and know his home address, his mom's first name, and remember the time he wet his pants on your 2nd grade field trip. The simple truth about college is you don't actually know anyone's true intentions when you first meet. I believe a beneficial aspect of taking things slow is that there are no surprises later. My best advice before saying "yes" to official commitment is to see them mad, see how they handle stress, help them through a tough time - real life emotion changes people. Plus, who you're dating is a direct representation of yourself, even when you're not around, so it should be taken seriously.
It's more fun to date your best friend anyways. I have had a multitude of different dating experiences from actual relationships, to flings that die out after a few months, to hookups and no matter what the "status" of my relationship with any particular person was, I have found that the best connections I've had with boys romantically always derive from friendships formed first. My high school boyfriend was a close friend of mine before we dated and the guy I was with after him was also someone I considered my best friend first. Dating, no matter the kind, that is rooted in friendship is, in my opinion, the best kind. My sophomore year of college I started seeing a guy who lived in my dorm building, but we were never friends before we were romantically involved and looking back, I was never comfortable around him in a way you should be with someone you like.
Dating is future oriented. Something that differentiates high school and college dating is one word, future. In high school, dating tends to be far less serious than it is in college. I'm not suggesting that all college relationships are serious, but I am telling you that there's no way in high school I could've ever thought about the long term future of a relationship, now as a senior in college with a million things on my horizon, it seems dumb to be with someone you can't see long into your future with because no one is looking to waste their time.
At the end of the day, the thing about dating that's so important to remember is that it's different for everyone and you should never compare what you have with your someone to what your friend might have with their someone. Good things take time and as long as you're happy there's really no need to rush into anything too fast. The inevitable "what are we" talk will come when it does and if you're like early college me, you'll wait months to bring it up and then one night it'll come up rather abruptly after a few Moscow Mules and a drunken, "so are we gonna date or not?" text message, but that story is for a different time.