Studying for exams, scheduling next semester’s classes, grabbing dinner with roommates and touring wedding venues — one of these activities seems out of place. However, this is reality for many undergraduate students in the United States today.
While most students are lucky to find their future spouse while in college, others are ahead of the game and end up getting married while still in school. About 7 percent of all American undergraduates are married.
Michael Avery, 20-year-old sophomore biblical studies major, recently proposed to his girlfriend of 14 months. They met in April of 2012 at a church small group. His 21-year-old fiancée Aley Lopez lives in Memphis.
The two discussed their situation and said they decided that the Holy Spirit was leading them in the direction of marriage. “We just thought, ‘why wait?’” Avery said.
Engaged in early October, Avery and Lopez are planning to get married this May. Their post-wedding plans are to live in Warmath Family Housing on campus.
Both said they desire to pursue ministerial professions. Lopez has a passion for leading worship, and Avery wants to do missions and other ministry work.
Although his mother is overwhelmed due to three of her children getting married within one year, the Avery and Lopez families are supportive on both sides.
Most weekends the couples spend visiting, but it is difficult to plan a wedding when the couple is not together on a regular basis, Avery said.
When approached with negative statistics about young marriages, the two say they are not affected.
“We believe that we have the right intentions,” Avery said. “A lot of people get married young for all the wrong reasons.”
Faith played a significant role in the couple’s decision to marry young. Avery said Christ is the essential foundation in their relationship. Even when it comes to finances, “money isn’t a big concern because we know that Jesus will provide.”
According to the Pew Research Center, the country’s overall marriage rates are declining. In 2010, 51 percent of all Americans were married, compared to 72 percent 40 years earlier. The average age that Americans marry is 29.
For Americans who get married between ages 18 and 24, the chance of those marriages ending in divorce is over 50 percent. While society is not always in agreement of couples getting married before graduating college, success stories do exist.
Alexis Broussard, junior English literature major, married her husband, Heath, junior pre-med biology major, when they were both 18.
The couple met during their junior year of high school. Heath played on the football team coached by Alexis’ father.
They dated for about a year before they were engaged. He proposed the summer before their senior year in high school in the same place that they had their first date.
“Our families were very supportive when we decided to get married,” Alexis said. “They just wanted us to be careful and be fully aware of what we were doing. It’s a life-long commitment.”
At the end of the summer, the couple found out they were expecting a child. Worried at first, they recall the pregnancy brought them closer together.
They married two weeks before starting classes at Union in August 2011.
The couple has a two-year-old son, Trey.
Alexis Broussard said balancing school, work and family would not be possible without the help of God, their parents and each other. She schedules her classes during the time that Trey is in preschool. Otherwise, she and her husband take turns watching their son.
“After Trey goes to bed at 9 p.m., I do my homework and studying,” she said.
Scheduling time for each other is also important to the couple. Her mother takes care of Trey when the couple have date nights every other week.
“The challenges we face are minimal compared to the advantages we have being a young family,“ the couple said. “Our parenting challenges are no different from the average parents … we have more time to be with our son than the average couple.”
Alexis Broussard added that an advantage Trey has as the son of such young parents is that he gets to spend time with his great-grandparents as well as his grandparents.
Struggling with time management is the main hassle the couple said they face on a daily basis.
Alexis Broussard offers key advice to young couples: “If your relationship does not give God glory or imitate his unending love for us, it’s not worth it.” Additionally, she emphasizes that a person should not waste time if he knows with 100 percent certainty that his significant other is “the one.”
After graduating, Heath Broussard hopes to attend medical school in Memphis while his wife teaches at a private school in Germantown, where Trey will also attend. She will simultaneously be working toward her master’s degree so that by the time Trey is in college, she can teach literature at a university, she said.