For many people, college is the time when you meet the people who are going to be your best friends forever. The type of people that you can call any time of day and they will always pick up. The kind of people that will be there on your best days and your worst. But what happens if that isn’t how your experience at college is turning out? For some people, college may not be the best four years of your (social) life and that is totally okay. There are actually benefits of not having a best friend in college. Here are just a few.
1. You learn more about yourself
When you get to college, there is this belief that you will meet your best friend for life within the first few weeks. For some that is true, but for others it just doesn’t work out that way. But not having a single best friend to always hang out with does give you some room to jump around and see what type of people you want to surround yourself with. Many times when you stick to a single person, you only show them one side of you, but if you explore your interests, you may find out some surprising things about yourself.
Jenny, a junior at Florida State University, found herself jumping around a lot trying to find the people she really enjoyed. “Because I didn’t have any super close best friends I was able to try new clubs and go to events without anything holding me back," she says. "Doing this helped me realize that I am not a fan of the people who like to party all the time.” She realized that she outgrew that scene when she was in high school. Jenny also said that being independent was not easy. “It took a lot of courage to go to events and school functions by myself,” she says, especially because of how big her school is.
2. You’re forced to face your fears and step out of your comfort zone
Learning more about yourself also really forces you to step out of your comfort zone. If there’s a party going on and you really want to go, what do you do if you don’t have a wingwoman? You show up alone. This can be completely terrifying and exhilarating at the same time for someone who is used to constantly having someone to attend events with. When you don’t have a best friend, you really have to push yourself to do things that would typically be seen as pair activities—like going to dinner alone, for instance.
Dr. Brad Landsman, a psychologist that specializes in adolescent counseling in upstate New York, says that going out alone to a restaurant can actually make you easier to get along with. “When you eat by yourself, you spend a lot of time watching the people around you and observing their actions,” he says. This helps widen your perspective of the world and the people you interact with. So besides the fact that being alone can make you stronger and braver, it can also make you a better person. You would be surprised by how many people actually come up to you when you are sitting at a table alone, too! It can oftentimes be a great way to meet new people and do something that you love without distractions.
3. You learn how to think on your feet
As with anything in life, there are ups and downs in college. There are some really amazing experiences and some, to be frank, really crappy days, too. Emily, a senior at the City College of New York, had one particular experience that made her grateful she didn’t have a best friend to rely on. “I remember there was one night I was walking home from a show I went to alone and I noticed there was a young guy passed out on the sidewalk. If this had happened to me freshman year when I had a super close friend, I would have had help trying to figure out what exactly to do first, like call 911 or deal with it together. But because I was alone, I really had to think for myself on what to do in that moment.”
Although Emily’s experience is one of the extremes, there is an important message there. When you have a best friend that you spend most of your time with, you start to depend on him or her for a lot of things and when a situation arises that you need to deal with, it can be difficult to figure it out alone. Dr. Landsman says that this phenomenon is because of “Generation X’s issue with being dependent. Because of technology, everyone born after 1994 is always connected, always talking, always depending on each other.” When you take that dependence away, there is so much that we can learn.
4. You re-evaluate your interests
Are you academically focused or more career focused? These are the kinds of questions that you ask yourself when you are learning to build new relationships. Not having a best friend allows you to really think about things like how you are spending your Saturday. If you only went to brunch because your high school best friend wanted to, but now that you don’t have a go-to person, you rarely go, this shows you a bit about what you actually like. When you are the one creating your schedule and don’t have to worry about accommodating anyone else’s needs, you get to look deep within yourself and examine where you want your future to go and how you want to spend your time.
Karen, a senior at the University of Alabama, agrees. She says that when she was in high school her best friend “hated, I mean absolutely hated going to comedy shows even though my town had so many. So when I got to college I went to my first comedy show without her and I absolutely loved it. I realized that I had wasted so much of my high school career missing out on something that was a passion of mine just because my best friend didn’t want to go and I didn’t want to go alone.” When Karen got to college, she was able to experience things without anyone holding her back and it changed her as a person. Now she is graduating from UA with a degree in creative writing with a focus on comedy. All of this happened because she didn’t have a best friend to steer her interests.
5. You have plenty of time to build new relationships
When Lucy, a sophomore at Barnard, got to college, she found it very difficult to build close relationships. She found acquaintances that she enjoyed spending time with but there wasn’t that single person for her. Although it was difficult at times for her to get through the first two years without that person, she believes that it has made her experience better. “Not having my person, you know, the Meredith to my Cristina, has made me realize how many just regular friends I have made. Instead of spending all of my time with one person, I am able to bounce around and have certain friends for certain things.” For example, Lucy has a friend just for when she wants a relaxing night of staying in and watching Netflix and another friend who also loves coffee shops as much as she does!
Allia, a graduating senior from Vanderbilt University, says that it is important to understand that college is only four years of your life, not forever. “Having best friends throughout college does not make or break your experience," she says. "College is about growing and learning about who YOU are as a person, not spending all your time on other people.” The point that Allia makes is extremely important in understanding how your college experience is going to impact the rest of your life. The only person that will be a constant for most people is yourself, and if that relationship is not great then you won’t have a solid foundation for building other relationships.
Overall, college is a time to learn about yourself. If that means finding people like a best friend to do that with you, then great. But for many people, that just doesn’t happen and that is okay. Your college experience is not hindered because you don’t constantly have plans every Friday night or you aren’t texting someone 24/7. Every person has a different college experience and as long as you are learning something from that, then that is fantastic. Don’t think that just because your experience is different than someone else’s that there is something wrong with you or your college because at the end of the day, the university experience is about leaving those four years having learned something important about yourself.