I had a close group of friends and we all stuck together. I think one of the things you come to understand is that everyone should be encouraged to be confident about their own abilities and realise that we are all good at different things. Being popular isn’t the most important thing. You can become respected for being confident about being you AND respecting that about other people too. That’s much cooler!
I would not say I was popular, but I had a surprising number of friends considering I am so odd and liked to do my own thing. I made some really great friends in school who I still talk to, one of them just got married! : )