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Students give Valentine's Day a yawn

Put this on one of those candy hearts: "Can't buy love." Or "Romance is cheesy." Or maybe "I'd rather study."

What's with the sour thoughts on Valentine's Day? According to a new survey, college students consider Valentine's Day overly commercialized and even less romantic than any other day."Idealistic young people reject the commercialism, the materialism, and they're staking a claim and saying, `No, I don't want to buy into that,' " said Nancy McLaren, a professor at the Boston University education school, which conducted the research.

The survey of 250 Boston University students found that nearly half of men and 65 percent of women think students in general now are less romantic than in earlier generations, though most of the respondents described themselves as romantic. The margin of error was not computed.

"This reflects clearly the ambivalence of students at this transitional stage of their lives," McLaren said.

On the one hand, she said, there is the universal need for love and emotional intimacy. But young people realize it may be wiser to focus on education for now and put off a committed relationship.

Take Brian Sullivan, a BU sophomore majoring in accounting. He had forgotten today is Valentine's Day and said he'll probably spend it at the library. "If I'm lucky, I'll get a few hours of studying in," he said.

Or Adriane Stebbins, a sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who plans to curl up with a good textbook. She said there's not much time for romance in college.

"You get finished with your classes and you're just beat," she said.

Of those students who said they would mark Valentine's Day in some way, many said they planned to give handmade cards, poems, home-cooked dinners and baked goods as gifts, rather than store-bought candy, jewelry and flowers.

"I don't think romance is dead. It's just more creative than it used to be," said Karen Hennessy, a Tufts University senior.

"It's an excuse for me to make heart-shaped cookies with pink icing, and I normally hate the color pink," added her classmate, Nora Lee.

Others, however, rejected the holiday outright. "It's commercialized, expensive and it's just a waste of flowers and chocolate," said Melanie Wilson, a Tufts freshman.

"You don't need one specific day to show how much you care about somebody. If you really love or care about someone, every day should be Valentine's Day," said Tufts senior Pranjul Srivastava.

Jessica Milberg's last big Valentine's Day was in the fourth grade, when a secret admirer gave her flowers.

They're still friends, she said, but she hasn't had a particularly romantic Valentine's Day since.

"Valentine's Day is overrated. What's the big deal?" said Milberg, a freshman at Boston University who was heading out on the town with her girlfriends Saturday. "No one ever had a good Valentine's Day."

Such attitudes are particularly alien to Francois le Sellier, an MIT exchange student from France.

"Here the girls all say they have a lot of homework. It would take two weeks to get a date with them," he said. "I'm French. This is ridiculous."