Changes to friendship groups after graduation

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Your relationships with your uni friends will inevitably change after university ends. But that doesn’t mean you won’t still be good friends.

There are a number of reasons why this may be the case:

  • You and/or your friends may be moving away to a number of different geographical areas. Some may even move to other countries. Simply not being around each other, all of the time, will change the way in which you relate and interact with each other.
  • In part, your relationships will have existed within the rhythm and structure of student life. The fact that you are no longer students will shift the way your day to day routines work, and change the kinds of things you do and think about every day. Your friendships will have to adjust to these changes.
  • You will no longer be sharing the same experience of being students – even if you were on different courses, you will still have been learning, working to assignment deadlines, attending the same student’s union and sharing the same learning culture. The loss of this common, ongoing experience will change the nature and content of your conversations.
  • As part of this, you will each be developing new interests and having new experiences separate from your uni friends. Finding ways to share each other’s new experiences will be an important part of strengthening and developing your friendships.

Because of these changes, some students can find that their friendships drift after uni, gradually feeling less and less connected. But this doesn’t have to be the case. All relationships, of every kind, need work and thought to keep them going. With some commitment on all sides, there is every possibility that some uni friendships can last well beyond graduation.

1. Make time

You can no longer rely on university life making it easy to spend time together. So, plan and protect time together – think about different types of activity you may want to do, e.g. catching up over coffee, chilling while watching a film, sport or exercise, having fun. Timetabling regular catch ups into your diary can make it easier to maintain contact.

If you are in different geographical locations, the same thing applies – plan regular online catch ups and face to face plans when you can.

2. Be interested

Try to be genuinely curious about the parts of your friends’ lives that are new and different – be they work, hobbies or new people. Your shared past gives you common ground on which to build, but you also need to engage with each other’s lives as they are now and in the future.

3. Welcome new friends

It can sometimes be off-putting when our friends make new friends. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little bit of jealousy or loss but you don’t have to let those feelings dominate. If your friend likes someone new, it’s possible that you will too – you might even make a new friend. Stitching together friendship groups can help to strengthen your relationship.

4. Add new friends of your own

Expanding your social network can take the pressure of your existing relationships and give them space to breathe. Be open to new friendships at work, in your community, around hobbies etc.

5. Remember what you share

Whatever brought you together as friends will still exist. Focussing on that can help you reconnect.

6. Give yourself permission to let go

Sometimes friendships do run their course. This is ok, you will always have memories of your time together but if it is no longer working it is alright to move on. Sometimes we have to move on to create space and opportunity for new friendships that work in our lives as they are now.

Keeping in touch with friends from university after graduation does not have to be difficult. Yes, sometimes, you do just naturally drift apart, but long-distance friendships can work. Strong friendships don’t need daily conversations.

Page last reviewed: June 2023