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What If Your Dream School Isn’t Really Your Dream School: Navigating College Friendships

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

What if your dream school isn’t really your dream school? I waited years to get to UCLA, hoping that I would be accepted. I took many AP classes, did every extracurricular out there, and completed a few passion projects. I wanted to thrive at college, with a huge friend group and always exploring LA. Now that I’m here, however, my college experience isn’t what I had hoped for in terms of my friendships. But, that’s OK. 

Freshman year, I thought it would be a lot easier to make long lasting friendships in college, where I am surrounded by students who work hard in their courses and want to succeed in college and post-grad life. However, this hasn’t really been the case. I reached out to friends from classes or in clubs, but it seemed like as the year went on, people’s friend groups got more and more cemented. Also, most people from the LA area and Southern California go home on the weekends to spend time with family, making the Hill eerily quiet some weekends. This left me feeling confused and defeated. Was I the problem or is that how UCLA students are?

However, when I started sophomore year of college, I was determined to make more friends at college that made UCLA feel like home. Sure, I had met a lot of people on my floor freshman year and became very close with my roommates, but I wasn’t sure if I had found my people yet. So, I joined a sorority and Her Campus, confident that I would make good friends. Now, I can say that I have. Joining a sorority was probably one of the best decisions I have made in college. Sure, it has been hard at times to feel like I really fit in at UCLA, especially this year, but joining a Greek life organization has allowed me to make great friends and expand my social circle. To be fair, I don’t know if I’ve really met my people yet, but that’s OK with me. I have learned (this year especially) that it’s fine not meeting your people in your first two years of college. Some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a specific amount of time. 

Sydney White / Amanda Bynes
Universal Pictures

I have been so hard on myself in the past to find my people and meet my best friends, people I can truly be myself around. I blamed it on the sophomore slump, thinking that this year was just going to be an off year for me. Maybe sophomore year isn’t going to be my year; I can live with one OK year in college if the other three are amazing. However, I’ve learned that making great friends in college takes time. And I may not have that big group of friends I desperately wanted as a college freshman, but I have a few good ones in different friend groups, and honestly, I think that makes life so much more special. From one of my best friends I met in the mailroom on the Hill, to my two best friends in my sorority, to my freshman year roommates and floormates, I truly have become more content in my friendships. I think that the real key to making UCLA, or any college, feel like home is allowing your friendships to grow naturally and to detach a little bit, letting everything flow. 

With that being said, your dream school may not be what you had hoped socially, but make the most of it. Do all the things; join that club, do Greek life rush for a week just to meet people, go to your building’s mixer Week 1. There’s no harm in trying, because you literally have nothing to lose. And if you haven’t found your niche yet at UCLA, that’s OK. I firmly believe that it will come with time, and sometimes you have to be alright with having a bunch of friends in different social circles rather than one big friend group. Friendship looks different for everyone, and sometimes it may be disappointing, but if you maintain faith and stop being so debilitatingly anxious about it, your friendships in college will become all the more special and real.

Calina is a second year Communication Studies major and Global Studies minor at UCLA from Santa Cruz, California. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, going to the beach, exploring new places, and spending time with friends.