Friends. They seem like the focal point of our social lives in high school. We are with them during classes all day in a regulated setting and then maybe hang out for a while after school. But what about in college? Friendships in college are different, but in my opinion, way better and more meaningful.
In high school, a lot of your life is based around your family and obligations, and your friendships were likely the result of wherever you were and what you were involved in. But in college, it’s a whole different ball game. You have a much bigger pool of people to choose from, which is amazing! But you also have to choose carefully and trust selectively. It can seem incredibly lonely and overwhelming to step onto a university campus and not know a soul. I moved to a new state where I had no friends, family, or connections for college. I was equal parts panicked and excited about the fresh start.
My first semester, I bonded with a girl in my tour group. We hung out constantly, were thoroughly similar, and had a great time hanging out together. I thought we’d be friends for life by the time the semester drew to a close, but she had other ideas, choosing to completely ignore me and blow me off when I tried to connect over the summer and when school returned. I was crushed that my first attempt at solidifying college friends had fractured into a failure before my eyes.
But, retrospectively, I’m really glad that happened. I joined a Harry Potter class for fun and to indulge my nerdy side, and I met the most amazing group of friends I’ve ever had. It was a complete coincidence, really. But we’ve bonded and formed a family within ourselves. I’ve met their parents, taken trips, pulled all nighters, cried, laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and felt more myself with them than I have in a long time.
Now, how does one go about finding people to make friends with in college?
- Classes – This is a great place to kick up a conversation with a neighbor. Maybe you’re just annoyed with the lecture or had a thought about the last essay, but there is usually an easy-to-navigate conversation topic within reach. I have made quite a few friends and acquaintances this way. You automatically have something in common!
- Dorms – I will say that this personally didn’t work very well because I started school in the spring so I missed the initial bonding period, didn’t click with my roommate, and was not yet adjusted to college life. But plenty of my friends swear that their roommates were the best way to meet other people if they clicked. Other people in your hall or on your floor are a great option! You’re nearby all the time, so there are tons of opportunities to hang out. Try to be patient and avoid being stalker-ish and weird because if you repeatedly knock on their door in the middle of the night, they may be off-put.
- Cafés and dining halls – These are the perfect places to socialize! Ask to share a table or how the lattes are or if they are still serving chicken after 9pm! Ask anything! People, especially people sitting alone, are usually really receptive to company while eating, and this is a fantastic way to meet a few nice individuals who frequent the same places as you.
- Be yourself – Clichéd. I know. I felt like high school was a lot about building and perpetuating a persona of myself with the people around me that just wasn’t true. I wanted to be liked, so I altered my sense of humor and the way I dressed and what I was interested to fit the inescapable social norms, but college doesn’t have the same rigidity! You are absolutely free to let your freak flag fly and be yourself. I made friends with my girls from my Harry Potter class by bonding over our mutual sense of savage humor, our love of books, our interests in academics, our love of politics, and a million other facets of ourselves, and myself, that I wouldn’t have willingly displayed in high school. Maybe it’s just me, but I regret that now because I felt like I was hiding for fear of judgment when I really just shouldn’t have cared what everyone thought about me. There is such a vast diversity of people in college that there is truly a group for everyone that will accept you, your flaws, and your personality.
- Clubs and activities – I’m serious. Mutual interests are the easiest way to find people you click with! Clubs and activities are a huge part of college life, and I really encourage involvement! I’m not personally into Greek life, but if that’s your thing, fraternities and sororities are a fantastic way to network and meet new people too!
- Realize that college friendships are different – You rely on your friends in a totally different way in college. Your life transitions to being very independent and self-regulated, and you can’t rely on your family in same way you used to for daily support. Your university friends become a family. You hang out, study, eat, nap, watch movies, etc. together to shrug off loneliness and stay balanced. My friends have become my greatest entertainment and my best confidantes, but it was an awkward shift that took a little time to figure out.
- Be consistent – If you say you’re going to hang out, follow through. If you make plans, show up. Text back, check-in, show you care! It takes a while longer to trust people on a personal level when you’re feeling like a fish out of water. Be sure to create a mutual, healthy, fun-filled relationships.
- Avoid toxicity – Let’s face it. People suck. And some people suck more than others. You should take care to keep those difficult, exhausting, toxic people out of your life. It sounds a little harsh, but when you have so many people to choose from, why select those who don’t make you happy and drag you down? Avoid people who cancel constantly, only care about themselves, don’t show interest in your life, want too much from you, are inflexible, who create drama, etc. You don’t need them!
- Be brave – People are just as nervous and terrified of you as you are of them! They aren’t going to judge a casual attempt at conversation, and most people are really just pleased to be engaged in conversation with another human being with a pulse! Take advantage of that and strike up conversations wherever possible. Being a little brave and bold — saying hello and offering to grab a cup of coffee — pays dividends!
I hope this advice helps you to make friends in college, and let me know what college-related topics you want me to tackle next!