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The Highs (and Lows) of College Friendships

These friends can really last a lifetime!

college friendships
Illustration by Jack William Arnold

After many hours working on applications and packing up your childhood bedrooms, the expectations for college can be very high. Yet, the first thing you are faced with is anxiety over being totally alone.

So, how do you finally meet the people who make those college years unforgettable? How do you make the brand new friendships last?

From first year to final year, let’s talk about the people that make college the whirlwind it is…

From the very beginning

Through the treacherous hallways and bright club lights, somewhere along the line, we meet people who are just as nervous as we are. None of us know what to expect or what we’re doing when we walk through those doors, no matter how much Gilmore Girls we’ve watched.

We band together for support and stumble along the way. We are all trying to figure this whole college thing out. “It’s a completely clean slate for everyone; it’s such a formative time of your life.” is what Reilly, a Sheffield Hallam student, says.

A girl walking up stairs at college to meet two friends.
The excitement and nerves in starting this new chapter. Credit: Shutterstock/ Sebra.

The people you meet can become your home away from home. You just have to throw yourself into meeting new people. I know it’s easier said than done, but as Reilly tells us, “people just sort of stick around whether you’re reserved or not.” You bond over the things you miss and the things you’re yet to experience.

It is quite literally a case of picking people as you go along. It could be that you meet friends in your dorms, through mutuals, on nights out, in lectures and seminars or maybe just in the library. There’s definitely no point worrying if you hate the people you share your accommodation with; they won’t be the only people you ever meet.

Choose your friends wisely. You need to surround yourself with people who make you happy and who you can trust irrevocably. These friendships develop a lot faster than typical friendships; you’re around them more or less 24/7. You want to ensure you’ve got the best and most supportive people around you to tackle the debriefs in the ‘morning after.’

In amongst the crowd

You’ve settled in now. You’ve got the matching build-a-bears and shared trauma from house parties and ominous bars. You’re bonded for life.

Granted, friendships in college change all the time. There’s a never-ending stream of people for you to meet. Three years is a long time for you to work your way through the list. “I think we all obviously changed since the first year.

There was a lot of growing up that was done by all of us,” explains Miriam, a Sheffield Hallam graduate. “You create lifelong memories and lifelong friendships. None of them are ever getting rid of me!” exclaimed Miriam.

Five friends studying outside together at sunset next to a lake.
Spending just about 24/7 with your new second family. Credit: Unsplash/ Ben Duchac.

Reilly tells us about the amount of invisible strings when you get to college and how the six degrees of separation theory really comes into play. It’s crazy how many strangers you find you’ve been connected to for your entire life, but you’ve never stumbled across each other until now.

Next thing you know, you’re in the same dorms or sat together in your lecture. “Two of my friends had never met when they came to college only to find they’d been at the same girl’s 18th birthday party and lived up the road from each other for years,” says Reilly.

Seven figures being connected through sparkling wire, showing how people are connected.
People are always connected – the six degrees of separation. Credit: Shutterstock/ Andrii Yalanskyi.

Different friendships weave in and out of your life all through college. I am definitely not in the exact same friendship group as I was in my first year at college. Some people have stayed a constant, some haven’t but it’s ok. You don’t need to worry. As Reilly said earlier, “People do just stick around.” Your room will soon be wallpapered with all the photos you’ve accumulated of your new family.

Saying goodbye

All you can really say is it’s been a pleasure. From holding your hair back when you’re sick after five too make vodka cranberries to giving you a hug when that little bit of homesickness creeps up on you. These people are so influential to who you become in those three or four short years at college. You change a lot, and they’re a massive factor in that.

Two people hugging outside next to a pathway.
The moment when you have to say goodbye to the people you’ve spent so much time with. Credit: Unsplash/ Tani Eisenstein.

The last couple of months of college can feel so bittersweet. The excitement of never having to wait a millennium for the washing machine to be empty but the sadness of your mates not being in the room next to you can be very overwhelming. It’s not the be-all and end all though. As Reilly says, “these people will be the Aunts and Uncles of my kids.”

Treasure the last few walks home together or the nights in watching High School Musical and singing along to ‘you are the music in me’ (Sharpays versions obviously, it’s the only one that matters). It’s not a normal thing to be living in a city of just your friends, where you can walk across the street, and all your friends are slouched on the sofa. So take complete advantage of it before you either move back home after graduation or go back to your hometown for the summer.

Graduation day at college. Everyone is in cap and gowns and with their families outside.
Graduation day is on its way. Credit: Unsplash/ Charles DeLoye.

The friendships you create in college last a lifetime whether you stay friends or not. “You can never forget each other, even if we don’t stay friends – it’s impossible. They’re so important to me, and they always will be.” Reilly tells us.

“It’s such a formative time of your life. They’re with you for all your struggles and good times.”

Reilly, Sheffield Hallam University

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