Losing Friends after High School

Leaving high school is one of the first milestones as you transition into adulthood.

Change is inevitable after high school. Friends go their different ways and lose touch. It’s part of growing up.

For some, the thoughts of leaving high school and moving on are just too much to handle. We need to think of this time as the start of an adventure. A time to cut out that dead wood. Here are some reasons we lose the majority of high school friends when we leave.

If you are interested, I also wrote How to deal with leaving high school

Friends of Convenience

Your friends in high school have been through a lot with you. First love debates. First dance preparation. Exam stress. You’ve been through it all together but how friendly are you all really? Of course, you may have one or two girlfriends/boyfriends that you would lay your life down for. You share everything and tell each other everything. But what’s going to happen after graduation? You’re getting ready to go to one college and they are going somewhere completely different. But as we move away and into new lives in college, with new friends we often find that our high school friends were just friends of convenience.

We moved country when our daughter was 13. She started high school and made a couple of friends quite quickly. But in hindsight, everyone was already in a click or group and it was hard for her to break into that.

She went through all of high school with one firm friend but when she graduated and went off to college she never met up with this girl again. I couldn’t really believe that this kid that was regularly in our house, over a number of years, was just gone.

In relation to this friend, I wrote My daughters friend is manipulative

So looking back I can see that they were just kind of thrown together. I’m sure they had things in common: makeup, clothes, (boys!) but I’m not sure they were ever really best friends. I look at my daughter now and she has two fantastic friends in college. They are all doing similar majors, they live together in dorms and all like to party!

For most high school friendships, we have some things in common but not enough to keep us together. As we leave high school we are entering adulthood. We want to spread our wings and for most, the opportunity to go to college gives us the chance to be whomever we like. Not constrained by the pecking order of high school.

Last time you’ll see most of them

When we graduate high school it’s hard to imagine that we won’t be returning to school in the fall. No more classes with the people you have spent most of your teen life with. It’s hard to get your head around that.

For most this is a time of celebration. They can’t wait to get to college or out in the world and if they saw their high school classmates again it would be too soon.

But for others, this can be a very difficult time. Maybe you haven’t planned to go to college and are feeling jealous or sad about the fact that your friends are all leaving.

I have also written a post on not wanting to go to college. You can find it here; What if I don’t want to go to college? Exploring Alternative paths

Apart from one or two in your group, for the most part, you won’t ever see these people again. I went to a 20-year high school reunion some years ago and was more than surprised at some of the people talking with me had never said two words to me in school. Especially some of whom had given me a hard tie in school. They had no recollection of this and I suppose we had all just grown up. I was also saddened by the few that hadn’t made it that far in life.

At your graduation, you should really sit and look and remember the moment because within a year or two or less you will never see most of them again.

Embracing College

Moving away to college without the support of your best friends sounds quite scary and overwhelming. But believe me, if you arrive at college with the correct attitude you will have the best time of your life and more often make friends that will, in fact, stay friends with you throughout your adult life.

If you are moving to college dorms all other freshmen are in the same boat. Very few students start college with people they know. It’s better if you don’t know anyone. It forces you to put yourself out there.

In college, you can be whomever you want to be. Join the clubs you’re interested in, and do the things you want to do. Suddenly you realize that those activities you were doing back home were very much on the agenda of others. If you are returning home regularly to hang out with high school friends you are missing out on what is going on at college.

These people are now your new life and no you don’t want to just drop your high school friends but you’ll find if they are at college they are in the same situation. If they are not at college you’ll find suddenly you don’t have a huge amount in common anymore. When you arrive at college, keep your door open, join clubs, and don’t wait to be asked to go eat.

You be the one doing the asking. Of course, it’s body-numbing scary! But it’s so worth it. This is your new life, and the more you open yourself up to this new college life the more you realize how little you actually had in common with your high school friends.

True Friendships go the distance

This goes against everything I have said already. It’s true that most friendships from high school will fizzle out. You will come to the conclusion that it wasn’t that you didn’t have anything in common in high school but that you have changed as a person when you moved away and that you no longer have anything in common. This is the normal course of events. You become an independent adult when you leave home.

But if your best friend from high school is also away at school and you realize that you are going in different directions you can still remain friends. The expectations of each other need to be lower. There can’t be jealousy on either part. You have to allow each other to make new friends and be happy for each other and interested in their new life. As time goes on the time spent texting or online with them perhaps becomes less and less but a true friend will always be there for a chat.

Last night I had a Zoom call with four other ladies that I have known since I was five years old! That was a long time ago. We all went to the same elementary together and then on to high school and although over the years we have dipped in and out of each other’s lives, we are still in touch.

Some have had children, some have moved away and six months or a year could go by without any contact but we call, join a Zoom, or meet for dinner and we could all be back in high school having a chat and a laugh.

Friendships need work. It takes one person to keep things going. No one is going to be the same person they were in high school, everyone changes. Life changes people. Even in your freshman year, you’re not the same person you were in high school.

But a true friendship will go the distance if you’re willing to make allowances for change and put in the effort.

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

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