For many college freshmen, leaving the security of home for a place where they don't know anyone can be overwhelming. That's why, to ease this transition, a growing number of today's students are turning to the web to make friends before they even arrive on campus.

When he decided to attend Duke University, Ross Goldstein was suddenly alone: He didn't know anyone else planning to attend the private college in North Carolina, several states away from his New Jersey home.

It's a circumstance freshman college students have faced for generations--having...

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