I’ll be the first to admit that I had a small circle of friends in high school. We were a tight-knit group of six or seven, and since some of us were part of other small circles, we would occasionally combine two of them for slightly larger gatherings. A lot of us had known each other since elementary school, and others had joined at the beginning of freshman year. By the time we graduated, each of us had been building a bond with the others for at least four years.
One of my biggest fears about starting college was being able to find a circle of friends that would make me feel as happy and comfortable as my friends from high school. It made me examine the friendships I had had to figure out what made them so strong. Was it the sheer amount of time we had known each other? Was it our shared interests? The way we almost always ended up in classes together? The shared experience of growing up in a small city in Ohio?
I’d made plenty of acquaintances throughout my high school career, but by the beginning of my time at Kenyon, it had been about four years since I’d really “made friends.” I was worried that I’d forgotten how to do it. Knowing that I would have a kind of built-in friend group through the cross country team was reassuring, but I was still anxious about getting to know people in my hall and classes.
What I didn’t know then was the way that college friendships are different from high school ones. In a way, high school friendships are easier; when you see someone at least once a day for at least five days out of every week, it isn’t hard to maintain a bond. It’s a bit more difficult to make time for college friendships. Odds are, you won’t be in a class with most of your friends. Friendships built through athletics are great, but when the season ends, you spend less time around those people. College relationships lack the constant interaction that is common in high school ones.
The other day, I heard someone say that in college, “you don’t make plans like you did in high school.” When I thought about it, I realized how true that is. In high school my friends and I would make plans to go to the Friday night football games together, get Chipotle after school, go shopping for clothes, and have movie nights and sleepovers. Organizing any kind of get-together in college is hard with all of the busy schedules everyone has. You might run into a friend at the library and study together, or you might see them in Peirce during a meal. The most common forms of planned social interaction here are pregames and parties, and if you’re like me and don’t usually go to those things, it can feel kind of like no one wants to hang out with you.
That’s not the case, though. College friendships definitely function differently than the ones we’re used to from high school, but that doesn’t make them any less genuine or valuable. There’s something really heartwarming about not seeing someone for a while and then getting to catch up with them. Since I haven’t known my friends here for very long, I learn something new about them almost every time I talk with them. Going to Wal-mart with a friend or two is both valuable bonding time and an adulting experience. And when you do manage to organize everyone to go to a restaurant or event together, it feels like a really special celebration.
College friendships might feel a bit lonelier than your high school ones did, but that’s the nature of the beast. People come to college both to further their education and to have great experiences, so there has to be a balance between the two. Appreciate your college friendships for what they are instead of trying to mold them into what you expect them to be. They’re equally as wonderful as the friendships you forged in high school, just in a different way.
Image Credit: Writer’s Own