Has finding a group of friends in college been a struggle? All that can change this year, this semester.
Whether you are unhappy with the group of friends you made last year, or you’re just looking to meet new people, the environment on campus can sometimes feel tricky when it comes to expanding your social circles. Although you’re encouraged to reach out to other new freshman on the first weeks of college, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there and talk to students you don’t know once your college career is more established.
Taking the plunge and connecting with others is a risk worth taking, and one that can be made easier by taking some of these steps.
New places means new people. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling far away, or participating in an activity that’s totally out of your comfort zone. A new place is any setting where you don’t usually make conversation with students. Something as simple as going up to someone and saying hi, or making conversation about something related to the place you are in can be the beginning to a new friendship.
Here are some places you can look for new friendships:
Before/after class: This fall semester means an entirely different batch of classes and classmates. If you arrive to class a few minutes early or stick around after class, you can connect with others over what you think about the course. Asking how people decided to take this class, whether they had trouble with the homework, if they thought lecture today was especially interesting, are all great ways to get a conversation going. Who knows? You may just feel comfortable enough to ask this person to study together next time a test rolls around.
New neighbors: If you moved to a new dorm room or building this year, that means you might find yourself surrounded by new neighbors. Around move-in time, knock on people’s doors and introduce yourself. You can offer to help put up a poster or even ask if you can get tips on how you can arrange your room so it looks more spacious. Your neighbors will be happy to be greeted by someone friendly who lives just down the hall.
Student activities: It’s a tried and true method to find other people you can connect with by participating in clubs that do something you are interested in. Joining a student group may feel like a big commitment, but remember, you can decide to just give it a trial run. Even if you decide that intramural volleyball, the newspaper, or a capella isn’t for you, you might find some cool people along the way.
If there is a person you’ve interacted with a few times and you want to forge a deeper connection with her, try asking her to do something outside of the environment you usually hang out in. This can mean going off campus, or just taking the conversation outside of the library or gym and to a nearby coffee shop.
Relationships feel different once they stop relying on happenstance or location. By making hang out time intentional through a different kind of plan, you prove that your friendship doesn’t need to be confined to a certain place. Doing something together that is out of your routine means building memories, which brings new closeness.
Colleges are full of all kinds of events that are meant to bring students together. From football games to lectures by visiting professors to student theater productions, all of these activities bring out people you may not be meeting in your classes or in your dorm. Plus, by participating in an event together, you have the bonus of using what you have just seen as a conversation starter. Bonding over how good that last scene was, or how crowded the event got towards the end, is an easy jumping off point when you are talking to someone new.
Your current friends probably know other people on campus who you’ve heard great things about in conversation but have yet to meet. If your roommate keeps bringing up that hilarious high school friend that lives the floor below, say you’d love to get to know this person. If your teammate says that she had a blast going out dancing with her friends from her department, let her know that you’d love to come along next time.
The fact that college is a cycle, where new students are constantly coming in to the process and older students are leaving, means that there is a lot of wisdom to be shared. Upperclassmen have gone through what you are going through now, and probably have tips and lessons they can share with you about how to make it easier. You can reach out to students you admire in your department, your dorm, your student group and ask them about their experiences. Chances are, this person will be flattered that you thought of him as someone who is knowledgeable enough to give advice.
Likewise, if you see a younger student struggling to figure out how to use the finicky washer, or nervous at an audition, you can offer some words of wisdom. As long as you address the younger student in a friendly way that isn’t condescending, he will probably appreciate your help.
If you are somewhat shy or are particularly struggling to make new connections in college, reaching out to residential staff can be helpful. Your RA is a great resource, there to help you feel truly comfortable in college. She might have some advice that is more specific to your college or dorm, or may even be able to introduce you to other residents. Maybe she’ll end up becoming a friend to you as you confide your feelings in her.
Putting yourself out there and taking initiatives to meet new people can be intimidating. It is helpful to remember that other students are in the same boat. College is a great place to meet people, and everyone is looking for new friends. Having this in mind will make approaching someone a little bit easier.
Looking for more ways to achieve the goals you set out for your fall semester? Check out the previous article in our series: This Fall I Want to Make Healthier Choices