Friends in College:

How We Learn to Grow Up with the People Around Us

The people we meet in college become our family. Our shared experiences during this time bring us closer together, as if we became friends because we have all seen each other struggling with homework and drama. With all our triumphs and failures, our friendships continue to grow stronger. Through my two previous explorations into this topic with a podcast and development of a theory, I discovered why we grow close to the friends we made at a university and why we stay friends with these same people into adulthood. The friends we have in college are significant because they become part of our family and we learn to grow up with them. This unique bond then carries into adulthood because of our professional lives and communication skills. Unlike in our adolescence, the friendships we make in college are influential to our lives because we mature academically, socially, and professionally alongside these people.

When first entering college, something students focus on is making friends. Within the first two weeks of school, incoming college students are expected to make friends everywhere. And with the stereotype that the friends we make in college last a lifetime, this can be stressful. At first, these incoming students rely too heavily on friendships from high school. When I interviewed a students at Western Washington University for my podcast episode, most of them commented on how they are still friends with people from high school and they are having difficulties making new friends at college. When I asked Riley Bryson, a student at Oregon State University, about his college friendships, he commented, “I am only really friends with my roommates from last year.” His close friendships came from the people he was forced to be around all the time. This is actually a common way that people become friends. They are friends with roommates or previously known people. Despite not meeting a plethora of friends everywhere in college, my research and studies have showed me that we become close friends with people in college because of shared experiences- good and bad.

“We fought together in the trenches against the stresses of college and celebrated our undergraduate highs together. It’s these shared experiences that will forever link us together,” Melanie Long from Harvard Magazine.

College can be the best and worst time of someone’s life; that is why people tend to grow close with their friends from college. The people that stick with each other in tough times have a strengthened relationship because each person has been through a lot and they were there for each other. These same friends are also with each other for the highlights. The parties, clubs, or exciting classes also bring people closer while at a university. The bonds people form over these shared experiences ultimately help the relationship. Something in the way these people become a new family when they are so far away from their own creates a special relationship. The familial bond that forms can be the reason why these friendships last a long time and continue into adulthood.

After college, it can be hard keeping friendships, especially as people mature into adulthood. However, my theory is that college friendships can last into adulthood and stay successful because of communication, shared interests and location. From a survey I conducted on Facebook, I found that 79% of people surveyed had parents that remained in touch with the people they knew from college. When asked how often some people communicate with friends, a few responses were more than twice a month, up to daily. The people that communicated this often said that this is because they work in the same field as the people from college, so shared interests and location are key factors in the frequency of contact. Despite career field or physical location, constant communication plays the largest role in maintaining college friendships. The more work these people put into the friendship, the more secure the friendship was. So as myself and other college students go through life at a university, we can keep in mind what a strong and healthy friendship is built on.

The stereotype surrounding college friendships is that they will last a lifetime. Through my research, I have found that this is true- with a lot of work. My theory is that college friendships last because of communication, location, and shared interests. These types of friendships form because of circumstance, but last because of hard work and strong will on all involved parts. So, as people graduate college and enter the world of adulthood, they can keep the friends they had while at a university by continuing to grow up with them. This matters because my theory can help incoming freshmen at universities form healthy and lasting friendships, which can be beneficial to them in the future.

For more information and connections, read my other piece titled “The Friendship Connection: A Look Into the Survival of College Relationships” or listen to my podcast on Soundcloud titled “Alternative Ally Final Podcast”. Links below.

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