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Why Your Friendships Might Fade Post-Grad & How An Expert Says To Cope

Adulting in your 20s is something that will never be easy. You start in your early college years, trying, and possibly struggling, to find the perfect college friend group that’ll last for the next 40 years like they do in the movie. Once you think that your friend group is finally solidified, it’s unfortunately time for graduation. But what happens after graduation? Is it normal to not have friends after college, or is it time to reconnect with people from home whom you haven’t spoken to in at least four years?

As someone who’s graduating this May, trying to maintain my friendships after graduation is all I think about (besides getting a job, of course). The need to maintain college friendships is even more stressful as an out-of-state student; I have no idea if my friends are moving even further away after graduation or if I’ll ever hear from them again.

There are so many things that current college seniors are stressing about, like where they’ll be one year from now, but the pressure of making sure to have as many friends as possible post-graduation shouldn’t be one of them. I’m not saying to completely ghost all of your college friends, but it is (unfortunately) normal to not have friends after college. 

I spoke with Dr. Julia Heavner, a mental health expert, about the complications of maintaining friendships after graduation, and here’s what I learned. 

We’re all going through a period of significant changes.

Those final few weeks of college are filled with a series of firsts and lasts, like last classes and exams or first job interviews and offers. But you’re growing and changing throughout college too, it’s some of the most experimental years of our lives. 

“It is common for undergraduate students to go through multiple evolutions of what they want their career, hobbies, life, romantic relationships, and friendships to look like,” Heavner says. “While some people keep the same group of friends as they go through these changes, for others, this process can contribute to more difficulty maintaining friendships.”

In the movies, college is depicted as a crazy time where every student is partying every day and they all have millions of friends. However, this isn’t the reality for every student and there isn’t a clear-cut path to how many friendships you should have in undergrad or maintain after graduation.

I think the easiest way to determine — for yourself — how many friendships you should be maintaining is to focus on the relationships that make you feel good and reflect your values. 

Take the time to process your emotions surrounding graduation. 

Graduation doesn’t feel like a real concept to me yet; I know it’s coming, but I can’t comprehend that my last classes ever are this Thursday. I honestly don’t know if it’ll feel real after graduation either. 

Graduates are going through a huge transition within the next few months, like leaving the campus where we’ve spent the last four years and moving away from our friends and support systems, Heavner explains. While it might be tempting to bottle up any emotions regarding graduation, that’s actually the opposite of what you should be doing. 

“It is important to acknowledge the feelings of loss and sadness that may arise,” Heavner says. “They can use their emotional experience as data: what am I going to miss the most? What have been the things/people to keep me grounded, healthy, and happy? With this information, they will then be able to consider 1) who to be intentional about keeping in touch with from afar and 2) what kind of new supports will be important to establish at home/wherever they have moved to, to best set them up for success post-grad.”

Taking inventory of your emotions can help you determine what you want to prioritize in your last weeks of undergrad life, or maybe what you want to change when you go back home. Either way, it’s best to acknowledge what you’re feeling instead of waiting for a massive meltdown the morning of graduation. 

We’re all capable of maintaining college friendships while making new ones. 

One of the things I’m dreading most about graduating is maintaining my friendships. Right now, I live or work with all of my closest friends and I see them literally every single day. But I’m not the best texter, and many of them are even worse texters than I am, so I’m definitely anxious about what lies ahead. 

Maintaining friendships doesn’t have to be an added stressor though, and maintaining contact can “be as simple as putting a reminder in your phone to call a friend once a week/month/etc,” Heavner says. “Although it doesn’t sound glamorous to have to schedule people in, being proactive and a bit methodical about keeping friendships alive is typically the best strategy!” 

As a journalist, this is kind of like growing relationships with important sources; it’s important to check up on them every few weeks or months instead of only reaching out to them when you absolutely need them. Think about it, your friends don’t only want to hear from you when you’ve run into an old situationship at a hometown bar, they want to hear about all your new endeavors too.

 Making friends at a new job can seem a bit daunting too, as sometimes you’re working with people who might have years of experience over you, but “showing up professionally and as your genuine self” is an important first step, Heavner says.

Once you’ve established yourself in your new job, it’s time to get a bit more involved in the workplace. For some, it might be as easy as joining a pre-established company interest group, like a kickball team. If there isn’t a company interest group or not one that you can see yourself actively participating in, you could always start up something easy like a book club and invite others to join you. 

It could also mean volunteering for extra projects, participating in a workplace committee, or making sure to attend the first few dinners or happy hours, Heavner added. 

Regardless of what you choose to do, it’s important to be flexible and put yourself out there because you never know where you might find a new friendship. 

As graduation approaches, I’m trying to take inventory of my emotions to help me process while enjoying all the moments with my college friends. We’ll only experience this period of our lives once, and it’s important to appreciate every minute of it.

Julia is a national writer at Her Campus, where she mainly covers mental health, wellness, and all things relating to Gen Z. Prior to becoming a national writer, Julia was the wellness intern for Her Campus. Outside of Her Campus, Julia is a managing editor at The Temple News, Temple University's independent student-run paper. She's also the Co-Campus Correspondent of Her Campus Temple University, where she oversees content for all sections of the website. Julia is also a student intern at the Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting, where she works on the data desk and is assisting her editor in building a database. She has previously interned at The American Prospect. In her free time, Julia enjoys going to the beach as much as possible, watching reality TV (specifically Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules), and editing stories.