In the past, it was much harder to track down an old friend from school than it is now. You had to take out a classified ad or check the phone directory, which, needless to say, was not online. The other possibility was running into them at a reunion or just randomly.
Data aggregators, search engines, and social networks have made it much easier to find people if you are looking to track down an old college buddy. They are also free to use or reasonably priced in the worst case.
Begin With Google
If your college friend has been in the news, you'll get the details through a Google search. Googling them is a great place to begin. It will be easy to find more information if they have an unusual name. In most cases, though, you'll need more details. Type the name along with additional keywords, like hobbies, interests, or their major in college. If you remember who they dated in college, type in that person's name as well. They might be a married couple now.
You can try a reverse image search on Google if you have an old picture of them. Google will search for similar photos and pull up links to where they've been published. While there's a possibility of finding a blog or personal site this way, it's slight. Google will retrieve tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of similar photos. You'll get pictures of people wearing similar clothes, with similar hair color, etc.
To find an old college friend on Facebook, try this: type their name in the search bar, go to "Education", then "Choose a School," then enter the name of the college and look for their name on the list of results. You can also try "Choose a City" under "Filter Results." If you don't find them, you might see the name of someone you both knew. Do a search on that person too. At least one mutual friend or acquaintance's friend list will be public, and you can look through it.
Facebook is worth a try because it has billions of users. You might find someone has tagged your old college buddy. Look at the photos and try details like their last workplace, any nicknames or aliases, location, mutual friends, or high school.
Just when you start feeling overwhelmed by all the information, a people finder can come to the rescue. You can search using your friend's full name, hometown, major, or anything else you can remember about them. The data aggregator might find an address or email, information about their relatives, or even a phone number.
If you decide to call this number, be polite and introduce yourself. Information from people finders isn't 100% reliable, and the number might not be theirs.
LinkedIn shouldn't be underestimated as a resource. Most profiles list where the person went to college. Start your search with the name of your school, not the person's name. LinkedIn links graduates of a college to other alumni automatically. It's also a good idea to search by location and job title. Make the most of the professional social network by adding other users, sending them messages, and editing your own profile to reflect recent events, especially anything related to your old school.
Alumni.net is also a college networking website and boasts quite an extensive history, which makes it worth trying. Registering is easy and costs nothing. After you register, you must join an organization. It doesn't have to be a college; it can be a high school or a company. You can search by country. If your college was a very big or well-known one, enter a term specific and associated with it, like a football team.
Your old college buddy might be associated with another school, a company, or another establishment. You could try a fraternity or sorority.
How to Look Offline
While getting results online is more likely, there's no harm in searching offline too. Start by making a list of everything you can remember about your friend, including any mutual friends with who you can get in touch.
If you're able to make contact, ask them when they last heard from your mutual friend or if there's any other information they can provide, such as a phone number, a home address, or a social media account. If you know any of their relatives, start with them.