Married Undergrads Seek Balance

McGinnis, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was hanging out in his room when his roommate had some friends from Wellesley over—among them was Erica H. Hawkins. “When I met her, basically the thinking was, ‘This is the right person. I want to marry her,’” McGinnis says. The two dated all of freshman year, and in June 2008, they flew to the mountains in Utah, Erica McGinnis’ home state. While they walked along the path near Salt Lake, stopping at a bridge over the waterfall, McGinnis bent down on his knee and proposed.

“It was picture perfect,” Erica McGinnis recalls.

They married two months later in Kaysville, Utah.


For both McGinnis and Nadler, religious beliefs played a role in their decision to marry young.


McGinnis, who was born in Colo. and attends church every Sunday, says that on average Mormons marry earlier than the population as a whole.

McGinnis, who is interested in software design, says that the early marriage age could be attributed to the high value that Mormons place on family and marriage.

“I can go to Harvard and get as many prefixes as I want,” McGinnis says, “but the most important title I’d have in my life is fatherhood.”

McGinnis also says that marriage is a practical response to Mormonism’s rules against premarital sex—the result is that Mormons tend to have a shorter “courtship process,” he says.

Nadler, an Orthodox Jew, says that some who share his religious beliefs also tend to marry young. According to the US Census Bureau, the median age of a first marriage in the United States was 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women in 2010. Nadler says that based on his experience, he thinks many Orthodox Jews marry earlier in their 20s.

Many of Nadler’s friends were already married when he married, Nadler says. As a result, Nadler, who hopes to attend law school or graduate school in philosophy, says he was “very familiar and comfortable with having this traditional responsibility.”


But married students says that married life has proven to be a balancing act. One of the toughest challenges Westphal says he faces as a married undergraduate is feeling like he is precluded from opportunities at Harvard.

Westphal has joined clubs on campus, including Harvard Christian Faith and Action, but he says that he does not plan on studying abroad.

“It’s not very plausible,” he says, “because I want to dedicate time for [his wife] Cheryl.”


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