How to Balance Old and New Friendships in College

By Kelly Burch

Friends are more than a source of happiness—they can also help keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. That’s why it’s so important to keep your friends close and continue working on your relationships, especially during life transitions such as heading to college or moving away from home.

It can feel like a tricky juggling act as you try to make time and space for your home friends while cultivating new connections on campus. If you’re struggling to find balance between the two, keep these tips in mind.

Expect Some Changes

Just as your relationship with family will change during college, your relationships with friends will too. Don’t take these changes to mean that something is wrong. Instead, remind yourself that your connections are simply growing and shifting during this season of change. Some friends might always be part of your life. Others, who you might have bonded with through a specific high school sport or club, may take up a smaller part of your life as you transition to college.

Living at home during college can have its unique challenges. Your high school friends might not expect your relationship to change, since you’ll have the same address. But you’ll have to manage your old friendships while balancing commuting, work, classes, and making new friends on campus. Or, you could feel left behind if some friends move for school. Adjusting to college is a big transition time even if you’re not moving, so it’s normal to experience some growing pains or changes in your relationships.

Give Yourself Time

The beginning of college can feel lonely. Your relationships with your high school friends are changing, and it can take time to find your community in a new place. Have some patience with yourself during this time. 

Set small goals that allow you to connect with friends back home while exploring new connections on campus. You could try scheduling a regular FaceTime or Zoom call with your home friends, and then pushing yourself to spend the same amount of time hanging out with peers who live in your hall or apartment building.

Remember: It Takes Two (or More)

A happy, healthy friendship usually involves some give and take. While friendships aren’t always fifty-fifty, both people should offer support and put in effort to stay connected. If a friendship starts to feel unbalanced—if you’re always the one to initiate keeping in touch or hanging out—try having an open, honest conversation. 

You might say something like, “I’m feeling a little disconnected from you” and gently prompt your friend to see if they’re going through something that is preventing them from being present in your relationship. It might be helpful to assume that your friend is out of touch for a reason that has nothing to do with you, like getting busy with coursework or going through a challenging time with family.

Practice Being a Good Friend

Making new friends is hard work, but so is showing up as a good friend. Luckily, small acts of kindness and bids for connection can go a long way in a friendship. These resources may help you be there for friends and get what you need out of your relationships:

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.