College Friends vs. High School Bonds


I remember going to college expecting to make some of the best friends of my life. It had always seemed that way — you have nice high school friends, but gradually they fade out of the picture and your college friends dominate your life. Wasn’t that the way it was supposed to be?

As I arrived at school and plunged into the rigorous academic environment that was promised in the Princeton brochure, the social scene surprised me in some way. There were the usual kinds of people I expected — the jocks, the preps, the econ majors — but not the friendships I was looking forward to.

I had dining hall buddies (people to eat and swap jokes with), and homework buddies (people to frantically share answers on problem sets with), but there was no gang of girls sharing secrets and supporting each other the way there was in high school. I compared notes with other friends and they agreed; for one reason or another, no one had as close friendships in college as they did in high school.


It seems that high school is an altogether more social experience than college. The higher you rise in education, in fact, the more solitary and independent you’re expected to be, so if you get to grad school you’re basically holed up in your library cube  all day with little contact with the outside world.

People in college are independent and driven. They have career goals and they always have things to do and places to be, most of which don’t involve bonding. Even those so-called bonding sessions you think you are having seem like goals on the way to becoming the perfect, accomplished college student. That’s how the friendships seem to evolve as well: we need people to eat with, so we form dining-hall groups. We need people to help us with our work, so we form study groups. We need to bond with our sports team, so we hang out with other team members.

Friends just for the sake of friends are relatively rare.

College, in some ways, can be a lonely life. But that doesn’t mean connecting to people is impossible; you just need to know where to look.

Instead of just being drawn to the people on your hall out of geographic convenience, you’ll have to do a little sleuthing to find people who share your interests. Join a club related to what you feel passionate about. Chances are there’s a club on your campus that suits your interests, from literary magazines to ethnic identity groups to dance or film enthusiast organizations. If you’ve got problem-set buddies, that’s great, but maybe not everyone is taking the class because they love the subject. Seek out people in the class who really like what you do and talk about the homework together. Don’t just follow the crowd so you’ll have someone to party with on weekends — do a little extra work to find people you feel compatible with, and have lunch with them once or twice a week. That way, you can connect with people even if you don’t live close to them.

One thing you don’t want in college is to be hanging out with people who don’t care whether you fail or succeed, who only want to be with you as a step towards some other goal. Seek out people who will applaud your triumphs and sympathize with your hardships, and your social life on campus will be a vastly more rewarding one.



  1. andreya says:

    I'm struggling with this issue right now. I feel like I haven't made the same strong friendships that I have in the past.. mind you my friendships date back to grade-school, so my close friends and I have been friends forEVER. (Everyone from my public school went to the same highschool so I have basically hung around the same great people all of my life.) I find that I compare everyone I meet here in University to my best friends elsewhere, and there really is no comparison (so far) and it's definitely discouraging. I'm trying though! Hopefully some fresh faces who can put up with my weirdness will come along this year. :)

  2. Beth says:

    I am the exact opposite. I always knew that my high school friendships wouldn't really last. Now I'm in college and the friends I've made here are the ones I can see being my bridesmaids. I didn't really find my niche until second semester of my freshman year, and you're right, it took a little adventuring. But it was so worth it.

  3. Katya says:

    I'm a senior in college and I've felt the same thoughout my entire college career. On more than one occasion I've definitely felt myself pining for the the same tight-knit friendships that I had in high school. Thanks for writing this, it's nice to know I'm not alone in feeling this way.

  4. kirsten says:

    I am kind of in the middle. I still have a few strong friendships from high school (I just started my 4th yr of college) and I know we will be friends for life. I have had a pretty solitary college life… but I have made 2 friends that I know I will be friends with for a LONG time. For me high school was more social, while in college I have to lock myself in my room and study because I know that I need that good job (and to be able to get to Grad school)

  5. El says:

    I guess this completely depends person to person: for me its completely the opposite way around. I had a few close friends in high school, but in college i've met my future bridesmaids.

  6. Lenna says:

    El's right. I barely had any close friends in High School, but I'm really close to people now in college.

  7. Tara says:

    It's a relief to know it's not just me–I feel the exact same way. :S

  8. Stephanie says:

    I really feel the same way. I am a junior in college and I still speak to most of my close high school friends a few times a week (some more than others). I found it difficult to meet people in college that I really connected with and had strong relationships with. It might be because I attend a very small school (about 2200 students) with little diversity. It’s nice to know there are other people out there who feel the same because I really feel like no one on campus has this problem but me…

  9. katie says:

    I love this article, I decided to go to school in a big city about one hour away from my hometown, and fortunately a lot of my close high school friends went to surrounding schools literally 5 minutes down the street. After trying to make college friends, we all just started hanging out again, and I'm certain these are the friends I'll have for life. We've met new friends along the way which is great but we've always remained together, these are the friends I grew up with and I love them, and just never found anyone as good as them. I always felt like a loser because I don't have a lot of college friends from the school I go to. But I'm glad I'm not alone in not finding long lasting college relationships. Bravo collegecandy

  10. Sarah says:

    I really glad I'm not the only one that feels this way. I feel like since I didn't meet my best friend the first week, now I'm completely out of luck. I just can't find someone I connect with as easily as I could in high school. I still call them whenever I need perspective from someone that really knows me because we're just as close as ever. I guess it's just the luck of the draw

  11. Erin says:

    I met my close friends at college. I cannot re-connect with my old friends as our lives are much different now. I live in NYC they still live in the local area, which is farmers, rednecks, college drop-outs, people with GED's and some normal people thrown in. But none of them are interested in art or fashion so it's hard to talk about my job to someone who decided to become a nurse and always trys to tell me her job is much harder and much more important.

    I think many of you with High School friends will have that problem later on, you may not have changed as much as of now but later on connecting with these people will be harder when you each grow in different directions. You will still keep very close friends but in the long run I think college friends are going to be the ones you identify with more, especially if they are in your major as they are going through the same problems and lessons as you, even in the real world.

  12. Hannah says:

    It's the opposite for me. I didn't really have any close friends in high school, but the friends I've made in college I'm a lot closer to

  13. Ashley says:

    Thanks for writing this. Exactly how I feel, and it's encouraging to know that I'm not alone.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I feel completely the opposite. Although I did have some good friends in high school, my closest friends are definitely from college. I can talk to them about pretty much anything—and a lot of stuff that I wouldn't be comfortable talking about to my friends from high school. And in a way I feel like I've grown more with my friends from college than I ever did in high school.

  15. Dannia says:

    Love love LOVE this article. I HAVE made some incredibly close friends in college, but this took a WHILE. At first, the basis of my friendships were like this article said, proximity. Girls on my floor, girls who I could go eat with, stuff like that. It took a while to find those few people I really connect with.. but even then, my best friend and roommate is still a high school friend haha

  16. […] College Friends Vs. High School Bonds [CollegeCandy] […]

  17. Liz says:

    Like some who have already posted, I had the opposite experience. I had relatively few close friends in high school but in college I found my sisters – though for full disclosure, it might have helped that I went to a women's college. I lost contact with most of my friends from high school, and while I'm glad they were in my life for a time, they don't hold a candle to the amazing ladies I met in the past four years. It took me five weeks to find my best friend in freshman year, but since then we've all been inseperable. That's what makes graduating so crappy!

  18. Christie says:

    Honestly, I barely speak to any of my high school friends anymore. In college I found friends with the same interests in me, but without all the drama. I am really close with all of my friends here, but that's because I DIDN'T meet them just in my dorm or during orientation. Rather, I searched them out. I couldn't ask for a better group of people, and I rarely want to ever go home. Let's face it, what are you going to talk about with your high school friends? You can't keep up with each other's drama because you don't know the same people, and you don't do the same things together anymore. The conversations just turn awkward.

    So I'd have to say, I prefer my college friends.

  19. Colleen says:

    I feel the exact same way. I thought that it was just me and that I wasn't making friends. I go to a school about 45 minutes away from home and everyone goes home for the weekend and I don't. I miss having a close friendship with my friends from high school whom I told everything to. I feel like I won't find that here at college and will just have to accept that. I joined a few clubs and hopefully that will help me make better friendships.

  20. Annie says:

    I love my college girls! At first I guess it was hard to get a close group of friends, however I feel like my whole hall last year bonded and despite all of our differences we work. Without a doubt i know that none of us would have been friends in high school, but we are now. Even though we are all different and we dont really have the same interests we can each bring a different perspective to situations. I actually feel bad because when i am at school i accidently ignore most of my high school friends. College doesnt have drama either.

  21. Priscilla says:

    Thank you for writing this. I'm a junior now and still have problems about this.

    My first semester was really bad, there's "group" to join in, but they don't really care about me. Then I find some friends I really enjoy sharing stuffs to.. We live on the same floor, but don't take the same class, so in this whole semester we don't get to hangout much like before.

    I'm confused. I know we have to study hard, but I need company.. (Uhm, I just broke my leg, so it's extra hard to visit her room.)

    There're lots of great girl out there, I guess it's time for me to get out of my comfort zone again!!!

    Oh, there's lessons I learned : Right now we're in the "real world". If you don't like someone, you just can't walk away. You need to keep sweet-talking because you need networking and need to practice how to live when we graduate and into the working life!!!

  22. Sara says:

    I have a few friends from high school that will be my friends forever, but we are miles apart in more ways than one.. they're all engaged, married, or having kids already and skipped the whole college thing. It makes it tough to relate. I have friends I've made at college and we can relate to each other more, but yet we lack the years of friendship that I hold dear in my heart that my high school friends have. It's a weird place to be in.

    Most of my friends here though aren't in college, but they live in the city I moved to. They're kind of my in between friends I guess. If that makes any sense. haha

  23. Mike says:

    It is so weird. I was just reflecting on this same issue a couple of days ago. I was wondering why it feels like I do not have the same bond as I do with my friends from home (H.S. friends). I think its like you said in your article, that everyone has their own things to worry about and do in college. Great article and I am glad that i am not the only person who feels this way.

  24. Ashley says:

    I love my high school friends and we're close but it's in college that I ended up with some crazy tight friendships. For me the big difference was living in a very social dorm and we were all forced to become each others family. I'm close with the high school friends still but I've been through things with my college friends that I didn't go through with those from high school. I would say its pretty even just different. But if i had to pick i would say my college friends because i find myself going crazy when they're not around. I can barely survive 2 weeks without seeing them and summer was beyond torture. Sometimes its hard imagining my life without them now

  25. Margot-Montclair Sta says:

    That wasn't my experience, I had a select few girlfriends in High School that I hung out with. Most of them were actually from different High Schools who I met through acting classes and other friends. I wasn't very popular in High School, well ever in school. In college that all changed. Popularity really wasn't an issue, people found their own niches and thrived. I never had a group of girlfriends in High School that were always there for me but now I do and I live with them! I go to a state school and I attended a very small competitive High School so that may be why I feel this way.

    My first year in College I often felt isolated but my second year I started joining clubs and groups on campus and going to events and made a lot of friends that way.

  26. Natty says:

    I'm still in high school but i plan to move to the U.S. for collegeo the or maybe move to the U.S. right now to study in grade 12

    I want to know how life in grade 12 would be like, like friends, activities and stuff.

    btw, college doesn't have as much activities as high school right?

  27. Al says:

    Exactly man! I had a group of around 10 close friends in high school and we would always hangout and do stuff around town. Most of them went off far away to OSU and I chose a more liberal arts chool for journalism which is closer to home. I commute this semester and expected to make all kinds of friends…but no one I really connect to. I hang with some people but I don't seem to fit in with them…they all came from the same highschool. Will staying in a dorm get me a little more social time I need? I mean, staying on campus so I have time to do stuff?

  28. Ellie Jordan says:

    This was (thankfully!) definitely not the case for me. In high school, I only had a select few close friends (who I've since grown apart from, thanks to changing in different directions. :/). In college, though, I had no problem making lots and lots of friends right off the bat, many of whom I have become very, very close with. I guess it's a different experience, depending on where you go and how you choose to interact with the people around you. :)

  29. Alexandra says:

    I pretty mucb experienced the exact opposite. My high school was really small and pretty cliqueish, making it difficult to fit in. There wasn't much diversity in interests or personalities, and it was always so hard for me to relate to the people there. In fact, I was pretty miserable a lot of the time. In college, however, I found the most amazing friends, and interestingly enough I found them in my own residence hall. I guess you can't generalize; geographical convenience is sometimes enough to form the basis for long-lasting friendships. As people before me have said, it all depends on the situation.

  30. karr says:

    Очень интересные мысли, хорошо рассказано, все просто таки разложено по полкам :)

  31. Rachael says:

    I've only just finished first year and already have drifted so far from my high school friends. And yet I am much, much closer to the college group than I ever was to the high schoolers. Sad, but we just fit better.

  32. Rachel says:

    I've had the opposite experience. The thing is, I was never popular in high school. I went in with no friends, and it was REALLY hard to change my image so that people would talk to me when they've known me since middle school and even elementary school. There was also only about 150 students. I made a couple friends in my freshman year, but I never hung out with them, which made me feel like crap. I eventually made friends, but none ever really lasted, except one. We got a lot closer at the end of our junior and senior year, and I definitely enjoy her company, but right after the first day at college I found tons of great friends that I can't live without. I found this article kind of puzzling because nothing that it says about college friendships is true for me. Only one of my friends is in my major, which really isn't the focus of our friendship at all. I go to the dining hall with them and spend all my time outside of class with them. Honestly, I've only made one really good friend from a class (after having met her outside of the classroom, but thank god we shared that monday and thursday 8:30!). To anyone who read this article, I really hope you don't take it for truth. College is amazing in the opportunities it offers, and by no means have I ever made friends due to convenience. Don't be discouraged, because like many others have stated, I've made some of the best friends for life one can imagine at school!

  33. […] or spew cheers between classes.  They didn’t congregate by the captain’s locker – in fact, they really weren’t all friends, at least not in the clique-y way that we’ve come to associate with cheerleading squads.  And […]

  34. […] you’re fresh on campus or are a seasoned beer pong pro, everyone can remember the day they said goodbye to their high school friends.  It began a whole new type of LDR.  The long distance friendship (or LDF) is most common among […]

  35. […] Transitioning from high school to college is an experience where you have to adapt to the inevitable fact of life – we’re all growing up. CollegeCandy provides a great article discussing the differences between high school friends and college bonds. Read more: […]

  36. arrr says:

    This is my experience very much so. I took some college classes over the summer and have recently started my freshman year of college and I deeply miss high school.

    I feel I don't really relate to people in college or am scared to maybe but in high school it was like whatever. I know you were from the same town or just not feeling any pressure just walk in class and sit down not worried who's in the class you already know all of them.

  37. jules says:

    I'm in the first semester of my sophomore year, and I cannot agree more with this article. My fist year of school was iffy. I was on a sports team and would usually just hang around with them, but I got in a fight with the coach, so I quit, and a lot of the girls on the team picked up my coach's mentality and stopped speaking to me. I'm still friends with about 3 girls I met last year through other means so on the weekends I go out with them, and this year I'm living with 2 girls that I just met. We're starting to get along really well, but we don't go out together. I have a lot more acquaintances.
    However, as for my home friends, each time we spend apart from each other makes us 10x closer when we come back together. They're the most amazing group of girls/guys. I'm joining more clubs in college, and I do have a good amount of nice friends, just not close friends as I did in high school.

  38. kervisha says:

    I just finished my first semester at school and I am feeling the exact same way. What I noticed though when I read through the comments was that people either had amazing friends in high school and couldn't find that in college or they had pretty good friends in high school (but not super close/deep) and found amazing friends in college. It seems as if it's one or the other, no one finds equally amazing friends in both high school and college.

    Which sucks because why can't you have both?

  39. derp says:

    fate fell short this time

  40. Dr. Chiefton says:

    I find that college students have their priorities focused less on socialization and more towards their education. I previously haven't been able to connect with my fellow peers that well, because they didn't value our bond as much I do. They may seem like they don't care in the least, but their minds are just elsewhere.

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  42. Don Lamb says:

    I found that you make friends in senior years, Junior years are usually more scholar based. Once you start doing projects you'll make life long friends.

  43. Cammy says:

    I’ll be headed to college in about a week, and I am so excited. I never really had close friends in high school, they’d leave me out and there was always drama. I really hope thus article isn’t accurate because I’d always hoped I’d find lifelong friends in college. I guess we’ll see.

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