3 Tips for Keeping Friendships Strong After College
I remember the day I met Caroline.
It was the fall of my freshman year of college and I was at my first ever fraternity party. Squeezing by the masses of college students to head down the rickety basement stairs, I bumped into someone. She turned around and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Caroline. You must be new too.”
Caroline and I quickly became friends. We navigated joining a sorority together, we bonded while building houses with our InterVarsity chapter during spring break in New Orleans, and we frequently sat in the stairwell of our sorority house until the wee hours of the morning talking about faith, boys, and weekend plans. Over time, she became one of my closest college friends.
Then we both graduated.
Though we continued on as housemates, our lives quickly went in different directions. She was studying for her nursing board exam and applied to serve with the Peace Corps while I began planting a Greek InterVarsity chapter back at our alma mater.
Suddenly, our friendship that had always been easy and convenient, wasn’t. She was busy during the day, and often I was on campus with students in the evenings. Days would go by without us even seeing each other, let alone having a meaningful conversation.
In December, frustrated with our friendship, I confided in a mentor of mine about the situation. She told me: “Friendships after college take work; they require intentionality.”
I wish someone had told me that last May when I walked across the stage.
Don’t wait until December to learn how to be a good post-grad friend. Here are three ways you can love your college friends well after graduation.
1. Find a new common ground.
What happens when you graduate from college and the very thing that bonded you and your college friends together—maybe your InterVarsity fellowship, or a sports team or Greek house, or your major, or your dorm—is no longer relevant?
In college, Caroline and I bonded over our involvement in our sorority. After graduating, we both did our own thing. We no longer had a common interest to talk about. But back in November, Caroline had begun taking karate. This February, in an effort to spend more time with her (and work out more often), I started taking karate too. I was amazed at how spending a few hours a week doing karate together was the boost we needed for our friendship.
Rather than basing your friendship on past memories, make new ones! Take an art class together, become running buddies, or serve at a food pantry once a week together. You will be surprised how a common interest or activity (outside of your shared college experience) will strengthen your friendship long term.
2. Serve your friends sacrificially.
When I was an undergrad, InterVarsity taught me how to share the love of Christ by serving my friends on campus. I would pick up my sorority sisters from the bar when they needed a ride home, study with a classmate who needed some extra help, or grab an extra Iced Macchiato from Starbucks for a friend whom I knew was up late finishing a project.
The big shocker for me after graduating was that serving your friends sacrificially doesn’t have to stop after college! In fact, it shouldn’t.
So what are some ways that you can continue to serve your college friends now that you are no longer on campus? You might help a friend move (post-grad life often involves some moving), give your friends rides to the airport, make some extra coffee in the morning so your roommate can have a cup, offer to dog-sit (for free!) while your friend is on vacation, or cover the tab for a friend you know is struggling financially. The list is endless!
3. Prioritize prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” Yet, if I’m honest, prayer is often last on my list of things to do.
This spring I was challenged by one of my coworkers to pick a friend and commit to praying for them every day for six months. I stuck a sticky note with their name on it in my bathroom so that, every day while brushing my teeth, I am reminded to pray for them. As a result, I frequently pick up the phone and call this friend to catch up and learn what is going on in their world. The simple act of consistently and intentionally praying for my friend has caused me to be a better friend.
Maybe you choose to pray for one friend every day for six months, or for a different friend each day of the week. Regardless, prioritizing prayer and setting up rhythms in our lives to pray for our friends is a way to love and serve them.
As you begin to navigate life as a college graduate, there is an invitation. Ministry doesn’t stop just because you leave campus. We are invited to serve people and show the love of Christ to them our whole lives. That includes figuring out how to love our college friends when college (or our InterVarsity chapter!) is no longer a part of the picture.
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Matt Kirk.
Finding community can be just as arduous a journey as finding Nemo. Especially if you forget people’s names like Dory or cling to your comfort zone like Marlin. Movie metaphors aside, finding community when you’re in a new place requires genuine commitment to the journey.