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Three friends standing in front of the ocean

Does starting uni mean the end of high school friendships?

It’s almost a given that some of your friendships will change when you move from high school to university. This can be especially daunting if you’ve been happily surrounded by the same faces for the past six years.

Losing a friend can be heartbreaking but not all friendship changes are negative. We spoke to some students and recent graduates from Deakin University about which friendships shifted and which ones stayed strong.

Making new connections

While some students attend university with their high school friends by their side, many end up flying solo. Claire Cheeseman, a current Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science student at Deakin University, says that most of her friends went elsewhere. ‘There were a few people in my cohort that I knew, but I wasn’t really friends with them so it felt like I had to start from scratch,’ she says.

It didn’t take Claire long to realise that making friends at uni wasn’t going to be an issue. ‘There were so many activities in orientation week and I found that everyone was in the mindset of “I’ve got to make friends”,’ she says. ‘I was just really open and really friendly and just tried to chat with everyone. I found that everyone was really chatty back.’

Zoe Tilley, a Deakin Graduate, had a similar experience when she started her Bachelor of Arts. ‘I made a lot of friends just by chatting in seminars and then going out or going to uni events,’ she says. ‘Remember, everyone is in the same boat. It’s likely that the person you strike up a conversation with was hoping to do the exact same thing.’

When friendships drift away

So, while you’re busy making new friends and settling into uni life, what happens to your high school friendships? ‘There’s certainly a big change in your high school friendships once you start uni,’ Claire says. ‘I found that some people definitely dropped away or I dropped away from them after realising that we didn’t have much in common. But there are key people that I still catch up with every week.’

Trina Cort, a graduate of Deakin’s Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations), says that while most of her high school friendships stayed strong, a few friendships drifted during her second year of university. ‘I did lose contact with friends I was really close with in high school which was hard, but I was able to meet more amazing people and grow as a person,’ she says. ‘Friends with similar interests, goals and hobbies are the ones that have stuck around through high school and university,’ Trina says.

'I did lose contact with friends I was really close with in high school which was hard, but I was able to meet more amazing people and grow as a person.'

Trina Cort,
Graduate, Deakin University

Zoe found the biggest challenge with maintaining friendships was finding time to catch up. ‘Your friends have different uni schedules, multiple jobs, internships and new friendship groups to juggle,’ she says. ‘Catch ups may not be as consistent as they used to be. Friendships definitely become more of a two-way street in uni – it’s really obvious when someone isn’t putting in the effort.’

There’s no denying that losing a friend can be hard. Trina says that when looking back on memories from high school she sometimes feels a little sad and nostalgic. ‘But I believe everything happens for a reason and I’m meant to be friends with those who I’m still close to,’ she says. ‘Maintaining that frame of mind allows me to feel better about losing contact with past friends.’

Lifelong friendships

People to enrich your uni experience

One of the benefits of university is meeting a diverse range of new people. Trina says her uni friends made life much more fun. ‘It definitely made my university experience better and more enjoyable,’ she says. ‘Having friends to experience the uni lifestyle with you is super important and it definitely helped when it came to studying for exams and attending events.’

The people Zoe says she met during her degree also allowed her to gain new perspectives on herself and the world. ‘Through uni I met an array of people who had grown up differently to me.’ ‘I learnt a lot about myself and how I connect with people. It also helped me grow up a bit. I became friends with people older than me and they taught me a lot about life and where it can take you.’

The ebbs and flows of companionship

Since graduation, some of Zoe’s university friends have moved away but she’s still confident that they’ll be friends for life. ‘I am still super close with them and see it staying that way for a long time,’ she says. ‘I think you go through some really important and defining years together, so naturally you feel connected.’

In addition to her uni friends, Zoe is seeing more of her high school friends again. ‘It went through stages,’ she says. ‘Some months we would reconnect and I would see a lot of them, but schedules would shift again and it would be a catch up every few months. It was hard, but it also helps you define the friendships you really want to keep from high school. You learn pretty quickly who’s a friend for life and who was a friend because of the convenience during school.’

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