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Are You Making Friends or Drinking Buddies?

College isn't all fun and games. Sure, you'll have a lot of fun, but you'll also work harder than ever before. You'll struggle, feel uncomfortable, doubt yourself, and survive some spectacular failures. 

So you need a tribe. A posse. A crew. A gang of people you can turn to for support. In the field of education we call this a "cohort." Students are far more likely to stay in school and perform well academically if they are part of a cohort. 

What Does a Cohort Look Like?

Cohorts can look like almost anything, and you'll probably find yourself as a member of more than one. What defines a cohort is the thing(s) they have in common. Maybe everyone's a mechanical engineering major. Or on the field hockey team. Or residents in the same dorm who also hail from New Jersey.

photo courtesy of ethan hu via unsplashed

photo courtesy of ethan hu via unsplashed

All Cohorts are Not Created Equal.

The ties that bind a cohort are not always sustainable. Often times your status within the cohort changes when your identity evolves, and it will do that A LOT in college. Maybe you change your major, or quit a sports team, or move in to a new dorm. Cohorts come and go. Those with stronger and more diverse connections are far more likely to last.

Where Do You Start?

It's orientation, you're new on campus, and you're nervous. THAT'S OKAY! Everyone else is just as scared as you, even the ones who don't act like it. And guess what? The rest of the campus knows that.

Every club, organization, and program compete for freshman. They need your energy, your talents, and your time. They work hard to recruit you. So let them.

What If You're Worried About the College Workload?

I've talked with plenty of high-achieving students who say they plan to delay extracurricular involvement until they get a handle on the college workload. Don't do that. You need to have outlets for stress, and interests outside the narrow focus of many majors. It's essential for your mental wellbeing.

What If You're Worried About Your Social Life?

You need a social life, and you'll start one the moment you move on to campus. You'll have a roommate and hallmates who are all looking for people to walk to class with, go with them to the gym or library, eat with them in the cafeteria, etc.... It's relatively easy to find people to hang out with when you're a freshman. And if you're looking, it can be just as easy to find people to party with. It's often easy to find parties too, since they are loud events that call to those who walk by. Fraternities and other groups hosting parties might even send people into your dorm to spread the word. 

So Are You Making Friends of Drinking Buddies?

It can be easy in those first few weeks of college to find friends through parties. It's far easier than seeking out clubs and organizations with similar interests and learning when and where they hold meetings. But don't be swayed into thinking easier equals better. When times get tough you'll need a support structure bound by something more concrete than half-remembered, beer-soaked nights. You'll need true friends from dependable relationships .