From Pat Neff bells to wedding bells

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

Juggling academics, wedding plans gives college life an interesting twist

By Anna Flagg

Life can be drastically different at Baylor depending on your relationship status.

Being single or being married can mean different stages of life, but it also adds to the variety and diversity that makes up the Baylor student body.

The “ring by spring” mentality can sometimes have a negative connotation, but many women on campus have learned to deal with the “MRS degree” stereotype.

Elizabethtown, Pa., senior Katie Nilsen Johnson came far from her home of Pennsylvania to attend Baylor with the plan that she would not date during school, much less get engaged.

After a break-up her senior year of high school, she said she decided that in college she wanted to focus fully on school, friends and her commitments at Baylor, without the distraction of a boyfriend.

Then Katie met Grant Johnson, a graduate student at the time, in the Baylor Bookstore as she was buying books for her freshman year.

After reconnecting a few months later while he was deejaying an event, she realized she might just have to break her plans of staying single.

A year and a half later, the summer after her sophomore year, he proposed in her hometown in Pennsylvania. They have now been married for three months, and Katie has learned to deal with people’s opinions on their marriage.

Photo illustration by Ambika Singh | Lariat Photographer

“The people who really know the both of us know that we thought about it and didn’t rush in,” Katie said. “The people we weren’t as close to were not as supportive because they thought he was too old for me or that I wouldn’t finish out my degree.”

Grant works in Waco while Katie is finishing school. Nilsen said it has been somewhat of an adjustment to go from dating to being married in college, but they try to maintain a balance by still making time to spend with their own friends as well as together.

“I think at Baylor there is the ring by spring saying that can give off a negative connotation,” Katie said. “While I see how it could be a bad idea for some people to get married young, it just depends on the individuals as well as the situation. It just worked out better for us to get married, but it isn’t for everyone.”

McKinney senior Alison Sheffer came to Baylor freshly out of a long-term high school relationship, also thinking she would be the last person on earth to be engaged in college.

“My parents raised me to be an independent person, and I didn’t think I wanted to marry until way after college,” Sheffer said.

But after her high school boyfriend, Nick, who attends the University of Arkansas, began pursuing Sheffer again, she realized that what they had was irreplaceable.

After dating for a year and a half, he proposed during the summer of 2011 below the lit Eiffel tower. They will be getting married after her graduation in May.

Sheffer said she was one of those people who thought college was too early to be engaged, and she understands how some people could have ill feelings toward her early engagement.

She has now realized that everyone’s situation is different and said she is glad that her closest friends and her family have been

supportive, even if they are not in the same boat as her.

Like Sheffer, Spring senior Meredith Baker began her journey at Baylor knowing she wanted to build lifelong friendships first and foremost.

After meeting her now-fiance, Brandon, they became best friends and began dating shortly after. They dated for three years before getting engaged Oct. 29 on a Baylor swing.

Baker said even though she came to Baylor thinking she would not be engaged during school, she realizes that her plans are not always God’s plans.

She said she is thankful for the support of family and friends and is keen on not rushing things and making mature decisions about the future.

Baker also hopes to keep wedding planning for post-graduation so she can focus on school and finding a job at present.

“Brandon and I are very excited, but we are focused on graduating and finding jobs first and foremost,” Baker said. “We will definitely stay focused on school.”