How to Decide Which High School Friends to Keep and Which to Cut

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College is portrayed as the time in your life when you’re supposed to spread your wings, leave the places you’ve always haunted and make new friends and adventures. But what happens if the place you go to college is the same place you grew up?

It can be difficult to know how to grow and change when everything (and everyone) around you is familiar. Who you’re friends with can be a large factor in determining how you grow and who you become. It’s probably a good idea to stop and take stock of your hometown buds to decide who is worth keeping around and who will get the cut.

First things first: deciding who you actually like. This may seem obvious, but I cannot tell you how many people I met freshman year who said things like, “Oh, I’m so happy to finally be able to make new friends. I hated all my friends in high school.” Sometimes friendships are built more on convenience than mutual interests or compatibility—just ask all of the freshmen-year roomies slash BFFs who no longer speak to each other.

A friendship needs more than close proximity. Ask yourself, “How do I feel after hanging out with this person?” Do you have fun together? Can you talk easily? Do you hang out because you miss them or because you feel like you should? After high school, you may find that a number of your friendships sort of fizzle out. It just happens, and that’s okay.

After you’ve thought about who you genuinely like as a human being, look at the general direction of your life. This isn’t to say you should cut off anyone who isn’t following your specific life path. It may be time, however, to reconsider your wild-child friend who has progressed from selling her Adderall in the cafeteria to picking up boxes of mail-order Molly from the post office.

Not everyone you knew and liked in high school is going to be moving in a positive direction. Part of maturing is recognizing when to walk away from somebody moving down a dangerous life path. By all means, if this is someone you truly care about, you can try to talk to them about it. But sometimes people need to make really big mistakes in order to learn, and you don’t have to make those mistakes with them.

Not every relationship ends because one party decides to take up drug dealing. What about the friends you truly like and who seem to be moving their lives in less illegal directions? Personalities and interests tend to change a lot during the transition from high school to the “real world.” It’s time for the “real friend” test. Attempt to hold an intense, one-one-one conversation with your friend about a serious topic. If she can handle it, you have a winner. Make sure you’re not just surrounding yourself with mere acquaintances or “party friends.” We all need at least a few true-blue best friends.

You should never take it for granted if some friends from high school are true friends. It can be difficult to weed through old friends while living in the same city, but ultimately, it needs to be done. Otherwise, you and your friendships won’t grow to their full potential. Have the confidence to go through elimination rounds and at the end of it all, you may find that the right high school friends will be your friends for life.

Chloe is a Senior English major at UW-Madison. She spends her free time re-reading Harry Potter, planning vacations she cannot afford, and smelling the candles at Target.

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