One of the most daunting things when coming into college is not necessarily the unfamiliar environment or the heavier workload—it’s making new friends. In your first year of college, you may be putting a lot of energy into hanging onto your high school friends, and that’s okay. But college is the hot spot for discovering and building new relationships, and these relationships may very well become the ones that truly last. Whether your campus is small or large, making friends (and the right ones) is not an easy task. So where and how can you possibly find these friends?
This is a no-brainer. Colleges usually have a plethora of clubs that cater to every interest you could think of. Joining a club with people passionate about the same things you’re passionate about can easily jumpstart friendships, especially since you already know that you have something in common. Most people who join clubs are also looking to start friendships as well, so don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a stranger. It doesn’t matter if a club isn’t specifically designed to be “social”—the goal of some clubs may be to promote culture, academics, religion, etc. Regardless, humans are social being and if they are put in the same space, they’re bound to start a conversation. And the nice thing about clubs are that they have activities set up for you, so there’s no need to sweat over planning social events. Just let everything fall into place naturally. When you go to club activities, there will always be someone to talk to, whether it be a new general member, old general member, or the club’s executive board.
When I was a freshman, I found the executive board of my club phenomenally friendly and decided to join myself, just for the people. As a result, I became much more social and ended up making the best friends I could ever ask for. My club was based on cultural and social events, so that helped a lot. But I noticed there was a wide variety of people joining the club, so even if you’re a shy person who has a hard time making friends, the club atmosphere, when done right, can really bring out the extrovert in you.
Class may be for furthering you’re academic education but it is also a popular conversation topic and certainly a place to find people with similar interests. Some classes may be extremely competitive, but for the most part, everyone is there for the same reason: to get a degree. Why not help each other along the way? Forming a study group or just partnering up in class may prove to be valuable for both your grade and your friend pool. Lecture halls may be intimidating, but most large classes have a discussion section where the class size is divided up for a more intimate atmosphere, which allows you to find the support you’ll need for those late night study sessions and all-nighters. I’ve certainly bonded with many classmates over the mutual struggle of working on projects, research papers, and finals. Furthermore, once you’ve found your field, you’re likely to have the same people in most of your classes throughout the year—you just need to look around!
Living in the dorms is something everyone should have the chance to experience. Not only do you usually have some sort of “mentor” or “RA” (residential assistant) that lives nearby who can answer all your questions and give advice, but you have a number of potential new friends living right down the hall. (A good chunk of my own floor during my stay in the dorms ended up becoming my first apartment mates and good friends.) The dorms are typically occupied by new students like you (first-years and perhaps junior transfers), and you could have a fantastic time navigating the college life together. Even if there are second, third, or even fourth years next door, this is even better because they may be able to guide you. Some dorms even have events specifically made for residents where you can mingle with others.
A surefire way to meet new people in the dorms is to keep your door open (and look for other open doors) in both a metaphorical and literal sense. About half my floor kept their doors propped open and anyone could pop in and chat with each other. People see an open door as a welcome sign, especially in the beginning of the year when everyone is eager to make friends. So, if you aren’t the type to start a conversation, leave the door open and let them come to you!
4. Campus and Off-Campus Events
If your campus is anything like mine, there will be campus-wide events (or simply events happening nearby) that happen every other week or so. Some events, like raves or concerts, are best gone with friends. However, networking or social events are better attended alone, as you are able to approach others without keeping to a clique. Pay attention to signs, posters, flyers, and message boards for these kinds of events. Perhaps you may even consider volunteering at an event to ensure social interaction with supervisors or other volunteers. Regardless, you should attend as many events that interest you as possible and enjoy them while you can, especially if you don’t have the luxury at home. And who knows what you’ll find? A new friend? Or a new passion?
5. Facebook Groups
Some campuses have class Facebook groups (i.e. Class of 2015) and most student organizations have them as well. There are other miscellaneous Facebook groups one can join focused on things like buying, selling, study guides and tips, etc. Just do a quick search! A lot of the time, people post inside the groups searching for roommates, and once in a while, someone posts searching for a friend or just a person to spend some time with. Regardless of the intent of a post, there is some worthwhile interaction in replying to them. One of my friends reached out to a girl looking for housing, helped her, and through their interaction they became very good friends.
Some people find it easier to talk to people through a computer screen than in real life, and making friends through Facebook is a good technique for those who are social online but the opposite offline (guilty as charged.) Once you’ve constructed a significant connection through a messaging system, it’s even easier to build a relationship in the real world, especially if you go to the same school and can meet up at any time. The more you post in Facebook groups, the more people will recognize your name. If you regularly give advice to other students in their respective group, chances are you’re going to make a friend (or at least a mentee to guide).
6. Listen. Really listen.
Entering college, you will meet hundreds and thousands of people. It may be impossible to meet them all, but everyone has a story to tell. No matter who you approach, he or she will appreciate someone who is able to listen to that story. In an environment where everyone is trying to get ahead and focus on their future, there are more people who would rather talk—to get their name out there—than listen. But everyone wants to be listened to. If you are the one person who is willing to listen, many people will approach you and will consider you a good friend to talk to. However, be careful not to become everybody’s therapist—you want to make friends, not “friends of convenience” that will take advantage of your kindness.
You have your own stories too, and you deserve to be heard. Many people choose not to speak for fear of offending someone, especially potential friends. However, real friends will listen to what you say and value it. How else would you know if the people want to be friends with are really worth being friends? If you and another person aren’t able to hold a conversation (or if one person does all the talking), you two probably aren’t very compatible. Once you start talking, other people will be able to get to know who you are and how you are, and they too will be able to judge if you’re a good match for friendship. Think about how you and your good, old friends behaved—you and your new friends should be no different. It just takes a few conversations and time together to get to that point for some. For others, things will flow naturally and you’ll hit it off right away. But none of that can happen unless you talk!
8. Be “down” for anything
Okay, maybe not everything, but most things. As you may know, college is all about the experience. However, you won’t make new experiences, memories, or friends if you hole yourself up in your room and study all day. Make it a priority to go out or do something new every week if you can. Being “down” does not necessarily mean being okay with drinking, partying, or whatever stereotypical college thing you may imagine. Being “down” could mean going on spontaneous trips to new places, eating new foods, or taking on new challenges. If new people invite you out to do something, seriously consider doing it and don’t decline just because you’re feeling lazy. If you continuously take up people on their offers to hang out, you’ll easily become friends and always be experiencing new things.
Early on in my first year of college, I was invited on a last-minute day trip to the beach by a few people I’d met a few weeks ago. I hadn’t talked to them much, but they seemed nice enough and I wanted to be more social, so I figured, why not? As it turns out, I was the only person who was “down” enough to come with them on such short notice, and they became three of my most valuable friends and guides during my freshman year. Aside from giving me advice and taking me to new places, they introduced me to a lot of other people who became good friends as well. I could’ve stayed home in the comfort of my dorm and studied, but because I decided to go out, I was given a life-changing experience.
We’re all here at college to get an education, but there’s more to it than that. I recently read a quote from John Adams, which I find very applicable: “There are two types of education…One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”
There’s nothing to this one, really. The more you smile, the more approachable you will appear (unless you pull a creepy Grinch/Joker smile. Then you might want to work on that.) I can’t count how many times people have said they wanted to talk just because I looked like a “nice person.” If your appearance and demeanor is friendly, people will want to be your friend, or at least see what kind of person you are and decide from there. It’s as simple as that.
There are many other ways to make friends in college, but these nine are certainly the simplest. There are so many people out there, and admittedly, not everyone will like you. However, you don’t need everyone to like you to make friends—you only need a few close and trustworthy friends to support you through college and later, through life. Among all those people are your future best friends, and it’s up to you to find them. You have the resources—the campus, the classes, the clubs, and your wonderful self. Utilize them. Be confident. Take the risk, and more likely than not, you will be rewarded!