The Evolution Of College Friend Groups: From Freshman Orientation To Year 2

College friend groups are much different than high school friend groups. In high school, relationships have time to fully develop and change. With your high school friend group, you share memories that range from distant parts of your life. You don’t have to explain each person or event you make reference to because your high school friends likely already know exactly what you’re talking about, and you share secrets you forgot you even had. This is all thanks to time and development. However, in college, friendship groups are put on a fast track. Starting from the moment you walk onto campus at freshman orientation, everyone is talking to everyone, trying to form relationships, find connections and discover where they fit in in this new environment. No longer are friend groups built on nostalgic kindergarten play times that transitioned into play dates and, over time, developed into sharing a party bus for prom. In college, you are pushed into the deep end. This sort of fast paced environment leads not only to immediate best friends but also to quick former friends, old friend groups and friends you forgot you ever had. Here I will use my own experiences to break down the unusual phenomenon of the college friend group. This journey will start from my freshman orientation and until the beginning of my second year.

Freshman Orientation

For most people, freshman orientation is considered their first college debut. In preparation, I packed new clothes and tried to make my suitcase seem smaller than it actually was so I didn’t come off as “extra." When I got there, I was bombarded by smiling faces, outreached hands and questions like “what is your major?”, “where are you from?” and “what dorm are you living in next year?”, all accompanied by excited voices. It’s at orientation that people discover how truly easy it is to make friends in college because everyone wants some! Before you know it, like me, you’ll be one member in a circle of 10 people who you struggle to remember the names of, telling your deepest and darkest secrets, trying to one up each other and planning outings together for when school actually starts. You’ll go home with their numbers in your phone, some pictures of them on your gram, and the idea that you’ll be friends forever. Then move in day approaches.

Zero Week

Zero week is a week of no classes, where students are able to move in and get adjusted. This is the perfect breeding ground for new friend groups. If you’re like me, your orientation friend group will quickly become your first former friend group as the pool of people becomes bigger, you cling to your roommates and you realize the convenience of making friends on the same floor as you. Some people do keep their orientation friend groups, but living in Hedrick Hall, the most social building where all doors were left open, and having two great roommates, I was not one of those people. Before I knew it, they were forgotten contacts in my phone. It seemed like the second my roommates and I knocked on the door of our dorm neighbors, we were sucked into a whole other world. We had inside jokes, watched movies together every night, planned trips, hugged as though we haven’t seen each other in years each time we saw each other, and, as college goes, became a fast friend group. By the end of zero week, I felt closer to them than I had with my oldest high school friends and we thought that college was going to be us against the world forever. This was all within one week. Then school started and it took about one quarter for “forever” to become a simple “hey” in passing.

First Weeks of Classes

Zero week embodies all the fun of college without any actual class. It is a true courtesy before being absolutely wrecked. It’s not until class starts and you begin your college life, finding yourself and discovering your future, that you discover a new friend group. Greek life alone will pull you away from some of your friends, whether it is you or them who is a part of it. Then, people will join clubs which will mean meetings, and ultimately time spent away from old friends and with new ones that share similar involvements. After that, there are friends from your classes who see you at your worst and have become your life line. Eventually, more and more factors will lead you to different people who you share more similarities with. After a few weeks, movie nights became lesser, hangouts became more and more postponed, and eventually my zero week friend group dissolved. Because many lived on the same floor as me, every once in awhile, we’d all meet in the lounge by chance, play some cards and share some stories like old friends because, even though only a few weeks had passed, that’s what we were. It may seem fast and odd compared to high school friend groups but it is not nonetheless the way of the college friend group. What was once forever, soon becomes former, but that does not always mean forgotten.

Second Year

First year is an adjustment year, not just to college but to life, because college is where you discover who you want to be in life. That being said, coming back to school after my first year and into my second year, I could recall going through about 5 different “best friend” groups. Each of these were during a point in my life where I thought I was something, discovering I was not and then moving on to discover a new path for myself. During orientation, my friend group all shared my desire to try everything, explore and go out whenever we had the chance. During zero week, my friend group shared my new desire to form intimate bonds over staying in, late night walks and contemplating in nature. Then, school began and I shifted my desires and thus my friend group. This cycle continued at a rapid pace until my second year where I held onto the friends that stayed connected over summer, shared my passion for the arts and corny jokes, liked nice dinners and who didn’t mind staying in or going out. I found that though my friend group was smaller than my first year, we were closer.

Perhaps I will change again and thus so will my friends. That is college. You change, discover new parts of yourself and find new people along the way. However, just because you do not remain “forever friends” with many of the people who you thought you would, that does not mean you were never friends. Hold on fondly to the memories of late night talks, old card games, movie nights, nights at the planetarium, sharing a scream at midnight, rushing to finish a launchpad together and everything else that has and will come along. College isn’t forever and neither are your friend groups, but memories are.