The 7 stages of friendship with a new potential bestie

Maybe it’s just because I’m awkward, but I don’t find developing friendships effortless. Just like when navigating the jellyfish-and-stingray-infested waters of the Talking to a Guy (and/or Girl, depending on your preference!) Sea, finding your path in the Let’s Be Friends Forest is a difficult, confusing, sometimes tragic affair. We—or at least, I—need a road map, so let’s delve deep into the seven stages of becoming friends with someone.

The “I Think You’re Cool” Stage

You’re sitting next to a girl in your lecture or discussion group, and she seems like she could potentially be your kindred spirit. Her outfit game is strong, she laughs at the professor’s jokes (but only the funny ones), and when the obnoxious student in the corner starts boasting about how he’s Sparknoted every book he’s ever read, she rolls her eyes. Bingo! You’ve found a candidate for friendship.

The “Does She Return My Feelings?” Stage

However, it takes two to tango—or in this case, to text funny pictures of Leslie Knope to each other. Your friendship with this chick will only work if she thinks you’re cool, as well. How to tell? When you guys leave the lecture, does she make an effort to continue your conversation, or is she out of there like Zac Efron is handing out donuts, shirtless, outside? When someone asks a question that makes no sense—like, “Are proteins a carb?”—do you automatically look at each other and make a face? Does she ask for your number so you can “study together”? If yes, you’re so in.

The “Let’s Hang Out” Stage

While the previous two stages are tough, wait until you get to this bad boy. Finally, after days or weeks of circling each other, the topic of hanging out is broached. Maybe you both want to see the latest Jennifer Lawrence movie, and one of you says spontaneously, “Let’s go together!” Or you’re discussing the new coffee shop that opened downtown, and you agree to have a cram session over cappuccinos. The important thing is to pick an activity that doesn’t last too long—no more than two or three hours. Although your chemistry in class may be excellent, you don’t know how it will be “in the real world.” There’s nothing worse than running out of witty banter on the very first friend-date.

The “You Should Meet My Posse” Stage

However, upon successful completion of the first scheduled hang-out, the time comes to hang out again. This time, it’s less spontaneous and more, “Hey, want to grab lunch on Friday?” Or, things get more serious still. One or both of you decides to—drumroll—bring along some other friends. This is big. This means not only does she enjoy your company, but she thinks her friends will, too (or vice versa). It’s the social equivalent of an enormous You’re funny and nice and cool! stamp.

Be prepared for both of you to act differently around other people, which is totally normal. They will have shared memories and inside jokes that you’re not a part of, and so will you and your friends. Just remember that if your groups are meant to meld, they will, and if not, it’s all for the best, anyways.

The “OK, We’re Officially Buds” Stage

At this point, you hang out regularly. You have inside jokes and you share articles on each other’s Facebook pages. You’ve taken at least one selfie together, and you probably posted that selfie on Instagram (or at least your Snapchat story). She’s up-to-date on not only your love life, but the love lives of your roommates and cat. You would most certainly feel comfortable watching New Girl with her in your ugliest pajamas. True friendship is glorious.

The “Can We Survive This Separation” Stage

This is where “They lived happily ever after” would go in a fairytale friendship. Unfortunately, even after you’ve had a laughing session together so intense you swallowed your gum, that doesn’t mean your bond is going to last. The real challenge comes during your first time apart. If you’re in college, that could be returning home for the summer. Or maybe your shared class ends so you’re not seeing each other for an hour every single day. Or maybe one of you goes to South Africa for study abroad. Whatever the separation, you’re going to have to exert some effort to stay in contact with this girl.

The “We Made It” Stage

Congrats! You passed the ultimate test of friendship. If you can stay connected through a major change, your relationship can conquer anything. It’s kind of weird to look back from this point and realize that there was a time the only thing you and this girl shared was the same class—now you’re united by shared memories and a fierce friend-love. Grades and tests may be forgotten, but true friends are forever.

Aja Frost is a college journalist and freelance writer who spends all of her spare time (and a lot of her non-spare time) typing furiously on her laptop. In other words, she’s a total word nerd. Follow her on Twitter @ajavuu.

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