With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, many students who would otherwise spend the holiday swiping through dating app profiles are giving the once-a-year matchmaking service Datamatch a try.
Datamatch is a nationwide student organization that sends out a matchmaking survey ahead of the lover’s holiday. The service originated at Harvard in 1994 and has since spread to over 30 colleges and universities across the country.
Over 40,000 users are signed up nationwide. At least 7,000 students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are participating according to Datamatch’s website, which is more than any other university involved this year.
“It has grown a lot. I know our freshman year, there were 4,000 something students doing it. Then last year, we had 5,200 students do it. Now this year looks like we’re going to have 6,000,” Datamatch UW-Madison President Caelan Kleinhans said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal. “I think it's really bringing people together, which is the main goal of it and a fun experience for college students when they might not otherwise have anything to do.”
Students who want to participate in the matchmaking must fill out a 20 question survey made up of comedic and casual questions. Datamatch collaborated with the Madison Misnomer, a satirical newspaper on campus, to create a list of starter questions last fall.
“We try to make questions that are very topical, about a lot of stuff that's happening on campus — things people can relate to. That's usually where the most fun comes for students,” Kleinhans said.
Datamatch UW-Madison tailored their quiz for UW students. Some questions include witty and relatable references to Chancellor Blank’s departure, Madison microcelebrities and State Street date night ideas. The survey was finalized at the end of January, Kleinhans said.
The survey opened a week before Valentine’s Day on Feb. 7 and closes at midnight on Feb. 13.
An algorithm calculates and weighs different options and preferences to filter down potential matches with either similar or different answers based on what the person prefers.
“We're more open to all different types of people and what they're looking for, and we take more of a laid back approach than a traditional dating app might,” said Kleinhans. “[Datamatch] is by college students for college students. So in that sense, you already have people who understand college students specifically and have them in mind when designing this whole thing,” Kleinhans added.
Matches are released the morning of Valentine’s Day, and Datamatch will promote a week of free in-person events, date ideas and deals for participants to further encourage dates. Coupons to Ian’s Pizza and FreshFin poke will be available, as well as a swing dance class, a movie night and free ice skating.
“We’re hoping these events will provide a nice fun thing to do that's for free. People can go with their matches, or they could just come with their friends if they want to as well. It's not restricted to just people that you're matched with,” Kleinhans said.
Although news of success stories often goes unreported, Kleinhans heard of one while putting up posters advertising this year’s survey.
“Someone saw us and said, ‘My friend found someone on Datamatch last year and they’ve been dating each other for this entire past year’,” he said. “It’s really nice to hear that people actually get relationships out of this and get something a little bigger than just having fun.”