SOME OF THE best relationships are forged at college. Your new buddies may become those with whom you enjoy the most thrilling experiences. You will laugh together, party together, argue together and may be even sleep together.

On the other hand, there will be people with whom you will wish you had never said "hi" to on your first day of term. They will trail after you like lost puppies for weeks. The more you try to shake them off, the more hurt they will be and the worse you will feel.

College life, particularly campus life, can seem a bit like being let loose in a sweet shop only to find you only like one or two chocolate bars. You'll be surrounded by hundreds of people who could all, potentially, share your sense of humour. But it could take a lot of searching before you find them.

To save a lot of time and potential unhappiness, seek out friends on your course and in the clubs that you join as at least you will have something in common. You don't have to be exactly alike - differences can make friendships more rewarding - but it helps if you have a natural empathy and understanding.

This does not preclude being matey with your next-door neighbours in your halls of residence, but be aware that circumstance has pushed you all together and that, apart from a shared dislike for the headbanger in room 19, you wouldn't otherwise be friends.

You will probably end up with two or three really close friends whom you feel you can trust and depend upon, and a wider circle of about 20 people with whom you feel comfortable.

When it comes to striking up relationships with those to whom you are physically attracted, be careful before declaring your undying love. Those early weeks at college can be blissful and heady and you may find it difficult to control your emotions. But, unless you really have found your soul partner, it's unlikely that your first few relationships will become long term. You may find yourself falling in love for the first time, only to be followed a few weeks later by having your fragile heart broken. It happens and you will recover, even though it feels totally devastating at the time.

On the subject of lovers, this may also coincide with your first sexual experience. Be sensible. If you have to have sex (and there is no reason why you should just to prove that you are "grown up") practise safer sex. Ensure that one of you uses a condom. And if you are worried about pregnancy talk to your university or college health centre.

The staff there will have considerable experience in dealing with this kind of issue. Be aware of the risks of becomining pregnant and of sexually transmitted diseases, such as Aids. There is lots of advice available about contraceptives. The college health centre is the place to visit for condoms and the Pill.

The "NatWest Student Book '99" published by Trotman & Co Ltd (pounds 10.99) contains a lot of useful information about the topics covered in this week's supplement.