7 ways friendships change after college (and why that’s normal)

After I graduated college, got married, moved to a new city and started a new job (all in one month!), I realized that making friends after graduation was much different than it was during college. Gone were the days of connecting with someone simply because they spent time studying at the same coffee shop as I did, took the same classes or struggled with assignments from the same professors.

But just because friendship is different after college doesn’t make it impossible. In fact, those changes are normal in this new season of life.

If you’ve discovered that both maintaining friendships and making new friends is a different experience for you than it was when you were up late studying in the library, you’re not alone. I asked women to share how their friendships have evolved since they turned the tassel on their graduation cap, and here’s what they said.

1. Friendships take longer to form

One of the biggest realizations that Shelby Lohman had after graduating from Hillsdale College in Michigan with a degree in mathematics and Spanish was that it took so much longer to make friends after graduation.

“In college, especially if you attend a small school, you can become best friends with someone so quickly (relatively speaking) compared to the time it takes when you’re working full time,” she reflected. “Post graduation, you’re probably not going to have meals together, or spend hours together studying in the library, or going to campus events that somebody else planned. The initiative is a lot more on the two people after graduation, and in the effort that they’re willing to put into what might turn into a new friendship.”

Annamarie Jakos graduated from South Dakota State and now stays at home with her two children and works as a seamstress. She also noticed that friendships were slower to grow after graduation. “I have been blessed with finding friends through my church Bible study and some other momma-friends who I first connected with over social media. It takes patience and a lot of prayers but the outcome is worth it.”

2. There’s a diversity in your post-graduation friendships

After graduating from Marquette with a degree in chemistry and mathematics, Sarah Huber got involved with a local social club. She noticed a new variety in the new friendships and community she invested in. “In these friendships, I value the different life experience and perspective from people not related to me who are a different age, mostly older. It has kind of expanded my world view and enriched my life. It provides a different mirror to my life from someone who is older and hasn’t known me my entire life.” she shared.

Making friends in new workplaces and social settings may also lead to friendships with others who don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with you.

“Going into college my definition of friendship was very narrow, and only included people who were religious, just like me. Now on the other side, I am far more open to women who are not religious, or who consider themselves more spiritual than religious,” Katie Andrews shared. She just graduated from Kansas State University and is beginning her teaching career as a middle school math teacher. “I’ve also come to realize that I value empathy and mutual respect in a friendship over being the same religious affiliation.”

3. You’ll need both creativity and intentionality when communicating with friends, old and new

During college, many events where you met and made friends were organized by someone else. Now friendships require more intentionality on your part. This intentionality in connection impacts both how you make new friends in this new season of life as well as how you maintain the friendships you formed during college.

“We need to reach out to others and create community. We weren’t created to be isolated from one another. In regards to keeping friends, you should make time for one another,” Carleigh Orlowski, a graduate of Fort Hays State University, shared. “Go visit your old friends or make sure to give them a phone call. They’re worth keeping in touch with!”

The way you stay in touch can also be more creative after graduation. “Something kind of fun that I picked up in the past few years is sending out Christmas cards with one of those somewhat cheesy year-in-review life updates to friends,” Sarah Huber shared.“It’s been a good way to just keep in touch and let people know what’s going on with me, even if we haven’t been able to see each other or talk much.”

4. You may be looking for something different in friendships

Every woman who shared her story with me mentioned that what she desired in a friendship had evolved since graduation.

“My opinion of friendship has not changed but added, to support and guide me to choose the right path,” explained Blosom Jose. She graduated from college in India and has a degree in computer science engineering. After graduation, she began work as a developer in Kuwait. “After graduating, making friends was way more different and challenging, but being in a youth group here made it easier to connect to new people gradually. I was able to stay in touch with friends from college through different applications like Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram.”

Victoria M. graduated from the University of Dallas with a degree in theology. Now, she works as a high school theology teacher at an all girls school in Houston, Texas. Her definition of friendship has changed since her time in college, too. “Coming from high school, I thought friendship was just about people that you liked to hang out with and have things in common with. It was actually my time in college that solidified the idea of an authentic friendship in my mind and experience,” she shared.

“I think a good friend is one that you like to spend time with and have some things in common with, but they are also much more. Good friends are people that help you to grow, that challenge you when you need to be pushed to become a better person, that are loyal and supportive, and that help you grow closer to Christ (even if they themselves are not necessarily Christian).”

5. You’ll realize how often you talk doesn’t matter as much as you thought it would

It’s especially important in this new season of life to remember that how often and creatively you communicate with friends doesn’t define how authentic those friendships are.

“Since graduating, I’ve realized that the frequency with which you and your friend(s) communicate is not the biggest indicator of how ‘close’ you are,” Shelby Lohman shared. “For both my husband and I, some of our most dear friends are the ones that we’ve only been lucky enough to see a few times (if any) over the last year, and we call them about once a month.”

Katie Andrews expressed something similar about the quality of friendships after college. “As far as keeping friends, I would say quality over quantity every time,” She explained. “Not everyone is meant to step into the next season of your life with you, and that’s okay. It’s also okay if that’s kind of a painful process at first. Don’t compare your post-college friendships to those of the people around you. I’ve struggled with this, and I’ve found it’s a lot more freeing if I focus on the friends I do have and want to keep in my life rather than lamenting the fact that I don’t have as many college friends as so-and-so.”

6. You may have to re-learn the art of making new friends

For many of us, we haven’t had to make friends outside the school system in a while, if at all. But after graduating from college, the structure that makes forming friendships a little easier is gone.

“I was lucky enough, although at the time I hated it, to move schools after 6th grade. I went from Catholic school on one side of town to a public school on another side of town,” remembered Mary Warren. She studied civil engineering at Kansas State University, and now works in environmental remediation design and oversight. “It forced me to learn how to make friends. Having been through that, I am pretty good at making friends. I would say the difference from college to post-college was that I lived alone for the first time in my life right out of school. So I didn’t have that built-in set of friends always around to socialize with. I had to remind myself that if I wanted to spend time with other humans, I have to put forth the effort of making plans to hang out with someone.”

Some resources women mentioned that helped them discover new friendships included social media groups, such as the Blessed is She regional Facebook groups, as well as in-person events at their parish and at local social clubs.

7. Some of your friendships from college may naturally come to a close

Although you may maintain some friendships from college, other friendships may naturally end once you graduate and leave campus. Lucrecia Nold graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in apparel and textile marketing. Now she’s working on a business plan for a bridal boutique. When Lucrecia reflected on the past 10 years of post-graduation life, she shared about the ending of some friendships as her definition of friendship changed.

“After graduation, I did a pretty good job of maintaining friendships with those from college. That said, I also realized who were my true friends and who were simply my party friends,” she shared. “To be honest, I don’t think in college I knew what the word ‘authentic’ even meant. As bad as this sounds, I probably would’ve considered an authentic friend any of my friends who I was frequently around, partied with, and made sure myself and others made it home safely every Friday and Saturday night. Now that I’ve matured, my definition is much different. An authentic friend is someone that you can fully trust and has your best interest at heart.”

Mary Warren also mentioned the process of letting go of friends from the college season of life. “I don’t feel like I have to hang onto friends that are toxic just because of a shared history. Just because we lived on the same floor freshman year doesn’t mean we have to be friends now if we don’t have anything else in common,” she explained.

“It’s like hoarding: At some point you have to learn when to let go. You can accept that someone was an important part of your past but they don’t have to be a part of your future.”

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