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Best Friends Forever… (or Until We Go Off to College?)

Amy McCready | May 8, 2017

group of kids

Expert: Amy McCready

May 8, 2017

As graduation time rolls around, high school seniors around the country will be facing waves of mixed emotions. Relief that high school is over; elation to be moving on; and of course, sadness that friends forged over years – if not for more than a decade – will be going their separate ways. Tearful promises to keep in touch will be made, but will things ever truly be the same?

Changing friendships is just one of many transitions that high school graduates will face; and for many it’s the toughest part of all. Let’s face it, there’s something incredibly bittersweet about leaving the comforts of home and the peer group with whom you’ve grown up – through puberty, pimples, first loves and final exams. Your high school friends are likely the center of your universe -- so how can you move away without “moving on?”

As parents, it can be hard to watch your children go through this transition and you may be wondering how to help. Read on (then share with your teen) for a few tips to keep in mind about friendships during the transition from high school to college:  

1.  Make a communication shift.

It’s no big surprise that a study conducted at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Saint Louis University found that “Individuals who behave in maintenance behaviors should be more likely to remain best friends during the year.” While you might not expect to remain best friends with everyone as you transition to college, you can maintain important friendships by making shifts in how you communicate. Since seeing each other and daily interactions are no longer possible, you’ll have to intentionally be creative to keep the lines of communication open. Whether it be establishing weekly phone calls, Facetime or Skype dates, or group texts to check in, you will have to find new ways to keep your old friendships intact.

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2. High school friendships are often driven by proximity.

In high school, you see your friends every day with ease. You and your friends are often together simply because of shared activities. Once that daily interaction goes away, it’s natural for some friendships to fade. Out of sight sometimes really does mean out of mind.

I think I was friends with a lot of kids in high school just because we were involved in the same things. I had a lot of friends that I was close with because we all ran cross country and that bonded us together because we saw each other every day,” said Madelyn Hayes, a sophomore at NC State. “When we went to college we drifted apart because we didn’t have cross country to bond us together anymore. I still see them when we are back in town from college, but it is different, more like catching up rather than hanging out.”  

3. Prioritize what (and who) is important.

At some point, you will have to decide how much effort you are going to spend in pursuing friendships. It’s impossible to remain close with everyone from high school and everyone in college while juggling busy class schedules and extracurricular activities.

To have healthy, meaningful relationships, some friends will have to become acquaintances – and that’s okay. As Brooke Stitt, another college student I spoke with said, “It is kind of sad when you realize that some people are only there for a chapter of your life. But that is a part of life, I know.  In this new chapter, you have to get up and out and grow in places people never expected you to.”

RELATED: Guiding Our Children Through the Transitions: Off To College

Finally, keep in mind there is a bright side to this new phase of life. While you may be leaving behind lifelong friends, you’re about to embark upon an entirely new adventure. College can be a time to start fresh. Any labels you may have had in high school (jock, loner, that girl who fell while walking into prom) can be shed, and you can re-invent yourself.

The friendships you make in your first year of college may be some of the strongest relationships of all. There is a swift bonding period that occurs when you’re living in a dorm and away from the comforts of home. Your new friends will become like family. So while changing friendship groups may seem complex and overwhelming – it’s also quite simple. As the song goes, “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old. One is Silver and the other Gold.” 


Expert: Amy McCready

About the Author

Amy McCready
Positive Parenting Solutions

Parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of and the author of  The 'Me, Me, Me' Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling.