If you’re reading this, you’re not alone. Being away from home surrounded by thousands of strangers can be intimidating. The issue of how to make friends often lingers in the back of minds of most college students. They don't want just a casual friend to say, “Hi” to in passing, but a real friend with a meaningful connection that can last for years.
How the heck can I make that happen in college??
You may be wondering this right now. After all, the best friendships, from your experience, seem to happen naturally and without any effort. It’s easy to make friends in elementary, middle, and high school when you sit with the same people every day!
The goal of this post is to help you make friends naturally without forcing friendships. Keep in mind, that making friends can be a slow process, but the rewards will be priceless!
Keep That Dorm Door Open
Freshmen are at an advantage. When everyone else is in the same boat (i.e. completely new to college, away from home for the first time, no immediate friends), making friends is a lot easier. It’s much more common for everyone to introduce themselves without it coming across as strange during your freshman year.
The first place where friendships happen is in the dorm. Your roommate will, more than likely, be the first friend you make. Start there and spread out to the rest of your hall. Keep your dorm door open during the first few weeks, and eventually a neighbor will pop their head in and introduce themselves. Don’t be afraid to be that neighbor popping your own head in your hallmates’ dorms! You’ll be seeing these people a lot, so be friendly and smile often!
It’s understandable for this to be a difficult task for more introverted people. But don’t forget – you’re a freshman! Everything from classes to socializing is easier. Each baby step you convince yourself to take will result in a lot of personal growth.
Find a Job
Don’t be discouraged if you’re a sophomore, junior, or senior. Just because that “freshman window” is closed, it doesn’t mean you’ll struggle making friends! Your approach will just have to be slightly modified to allow for more natural connections develop. Where’s a place that that can easily happen? A part-time job!
Whether you work at a dining hall, front desk, recreation center, or as a tutor, you’re sure to make some friends from seeing the same people almost every day. During your first day on the job, make a point to introduce yourself to your co-workers and ask them questions like: What’s your major? Where are you from? What are your hobbies?
These questions may seem cliché and overdone, but they sure help in getting to know a person! The tasks you do at your job are great connecting points with your co-workers because you’ll share the same struggles and complaints. To be perfectly truthful, it’s much easier to complain about your job with your co-workers than with anyone else. Why? Because they get it. They understand what you’re dealing with because they’ve been there too. Sharing an adversity, even if it’s as simple as the work at a part-time job, is a great way to easily connect with someone else.
Before you know it, you’ll be having more conversations about what you’ve done this past weekend or how college classes are going. From there, exchanging phone numbers and, eventually, hanging out outside of work will come naturally.
Join Clubs and Programs
Search your university’s club directory or simply look down on the sidewalk to find clubs that are looking for new members to join. Most colleges have plenty of clubs to suite a wide array of interests.
Much like a part-time job, you’ll be seeing the same people every time your club meets up. One big difference is that you are more likely to connect with the other club members on passions that you each share. These interests could be chess at a chess club, movies at a film club, or even a love for foreign cultures at an international business club. Bottom line is that there’s always a club for everyone!
Outside of clubs, colleges offer many other programs for students. Intramural sports, student unions, and even study abroad programs are great catalysts for friendships. It’s obvious how sports can forge long-lasting relationships, but studying abroad can do just the same. Study abroad or any program that lets groups of students travel somewhere is a big one because nothing bonds people together like struggling at an airport and adjusting to foreign cultures together! Consider studying abroad at least one time during your college career and try everything else that even slightly piques your interest.
Connect with Classmates
The classroom is one of the most difficult places to make friends because most people want the 75 minutes to go by fast to get out as quickly as possible. Plus, there’s no talking while the lecture is going on. Don’t let these minuses phase you because there is always a possibility of friendship anywhere on a college campus!
Before class starts, try sitting next to a classmate and striking up a simple conversation with them. It could be about class-related material to get the ball rolling into the whole “What’s your major?” spiel. These simple, friendly conversations with the same people each day is a great way to build a friendship.
One tip that always gets you on a person’s good side is to call them by their name often. People love the sound of their own names, so acknowledging them like “Hi, Bill! How was your weekend?” is a subtle way to spark a friendship. You’ll eventually find them doing the same thing to you!
Group projects and any other class activity where students have to work together is a wonderful way to make friends with others. Many people dread having to work with other classmates, especially if they don’t do their fair share of work, but the main point of group projects is to improve your interpersonal communication skills.
During group meetings, take breaks and talk about things unrelated to school work whenever it’s appropriate. Ask you groupmates questions like how their weekend was. You can’t go wrong with asking a question that gives someone else the opportunity to talk about themselves! Just make sure you’re actively listening and absorbing what they say. They will appreciate the attention you’re giving them.
Leverage Mutual Friends
Once you have made one or two friends, you can make A LOT more without nearly as much effort as before (but it doesn’t hurt to continue to put in the effort of making new friends). That’s because your friends’ friends are more likely to be your friend because you share the same friend! Does that all make sense?
Here’s another – much simpler – way of looking at it: because you share a mutual friend with someone else, you’re more likely to share interests and the same sense of humor with them. This situation is perfect because you can hang out all together without it being too uncomfortable because the mutual friend will be there, making the scene feel much more relaxed and fun. The more times you hang out with your friend and his or her friends, the more likely they will become your friends too. That’s what social networking originally used to mean!
Say “Yes” More Often
So, you’re on a first-name basis with people from your dorm, job, etc. How can you pump some energy into these friendships? It’s as easy as opening your eyes and looking around! Events are constantly being advertised on college campuses. Concerts? Yup. Stand-up comedy nights? Mhm. Karaoke? You bet. Super Smash Bros. tournaments? Of course! Step out of your comfort zone and consider attending an event that you would have never dreamed of participating in (that karaoke stage is calling your name)!
These college events are great for inviting acquaintances that you make in your dorm, job, class, or club. Those budding friendships grow each time you hang out. They will appreciate that you thought of them when thinking of going to an event.
Even if you have to go alone, don’t let the stigma of being alone bother you. Everyone in attendance is there to have a good time, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to some new, friendly faces. You’ll never know who you could meet if you don’t go! Give yourself a motivational pep talk, if you have to. Don’t forget to make sure that you’re having fun at the event, too. You’ll be more likable if you’re happy and having fun.