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Choosing Dates With Diplomas

Victoria Hoffer, a graduate of McGill and Yale Universities, found dating after her 1995 divorce to be excruciatingly banal.

“The men I met were as dumb as posts and as dull as dishwater,” Hoffer wrote in an e-mail.

Hoffer, who graduated from college in 1964 and is the mother of Crimson editor Alexandra D. Hoffer ’06, said she turned to The Right Stuff, an online matching service, to “meet someone more interesting.”

With more than 4,600 members in North America and a growing membership in Europe, The Right Stuff offers affiliates of top-tier universities and colleges an alternative to the standard, hit-or-miss dating many, like Hoffer, encounter after graduation.

Dawne L. Touchings, the company’s founder and president, said she discovered just such a scene upon graduating from Cornell, an experience which led her to found The Right Stuff in 1993. The company went online in 1997, a format now preferred by most members, and has since expanded its list of eligible schools to 50, she said.

The Right Stuff is “an introduction network for graduates, faculty, and students of Ivies, Seven Sisters, Stanford, and other excellent schools,” according to an automatic reply at the company’s telephone number.

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To be eligible, a school must have been—or currently be—in the top 14 on U.S. News & World Report’s listing of top research universities or liberal arts colleges, according to Touchings. A select group of other schools, including some arts schools like Julliard, are included as well.

Potential members must first prove their affiliation with an eligible school by providing a copy of their diploma, a transcript, an alumnae card, or proof of correspondence with their university, according to the website, www.rightstuffdating.com.

Touchings said membership costs $70 for six months of access to brief profiles of members of the opposite sex. If a student is currently enrolled at a school or graduated from college since 1993, the fee is only $35. For members under 32, subsequent memberships, after the first six months, are free of charge.

Using search filters for interests, Touchings said, members can narrow down potential dates—and if they find a profile intriguing, they can pay $3.10 for an in-depth biography of the member, which includes a photo.

Members are assigned numbers in order to preserve anonymity, but personal meetings are encouraged. If a member becomes interested in pursuing a relationship further, the six-month membership can be put on hold, so that members needn’t pay for time spent out of the program, according to the website.

The site also includes a page called “Rejoicing Members,” featuring quotes from those who have had success with the service.

“A 53-year-old woman is to The Right Stuff what a ‘hard-to-place child’ is to an orphanage,” one member wrote. “But I am now part of a network, encountering new personalities every month, if only by mail.”

While some are attracted by the promise of an guaranteed Ivy date, others view education filters as unfair.

“I do think that it’s pretentious, but that might be a good thing,” says Rachel A. Scheide, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, which is not an eligible school. “Snobs want to date snobs.”

From advertisements from alumni publications to the New Yorker, Touchings said The Right Stuff uses a number of methods to market itself to graduates and faculty of the schools on its list, and future recruitment efforts will focus more on current students.

Because The Right Stuff is geared towards fostering heterosexual relationships, Touchings also began a site for those in search of same-sex Ivy relationships in 2003, which is located at www.gaygrads.com. She said this site did not catch on as well as the original, however, and she is looking to revamp her marketing strategies to increase its success.

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