How To Make Friends In College

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For a lot of us who might not have had the easiest time making friends in high school, there’s often the hope that making friends in college will be easier.

Others might not have had difficulty making friends in high school, but still feel anxious about leaving behind childhood friends and developing a completely new social circle in a new town.

Yes, It Is A Fresh Start, But..

In many ways college is a fresh start. You’re no longer seeing the same faces over and over again like you did in high school. In many cases, you’re living on your own for the very first time as well — the world is suddenly a much bigger place.

But there are a lot of factors that can make it seem more difficult to make friends in college. For example, if you commute to school from your parents home or from off campus, it can actually be more difficult making friends in college than in high school. Giant lecture halls and a constant rotation of new faces can also make it difficult to form long term friendships unless you make an effort.

Here are a few factors that will automatically make it easier to make friends at college, assuming you don’t have crippling social anxiety:

  • Living on-campus vs. commuting.
  • Being in a program where you share smaller classes with cohorts.

Still, if you’re living on campus or you’re in a program where its easy to get to know your classmates, the tips below will still be beneficial if you’re looking to form new social circles.

“I made better friends in one year of college than I did in four years of high school.” – Unknown

The Easiest You’ll Ever Have It

You’ll never have it easier than the college environment when it comes to making friends. Every day you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of other students from your age group, many who also want to make friends and meet new people.

I realize that all of the above will sound a bit like a slap in the face if you’re struggling with making friends and meeting people. The thing is, if you’re a bit shy or less socially outgoing and/or you also live off campus, and/or you’re in a program where you don’t really see the same faces day in and day out, you will definitely need to make a bit of an effort to make friends in college.

However, whether you’re shy or socially outgoing, just the sheer number of peers you’ll be around and the stage of your life will make it much easier to make friends in college than any other period in your life. It doesn’t get easier, so you might as well make an effort now.

Basic Structure

The basic structure for how to make friends in college is the same as it is at any other point in your life, except it’ll be much easier to act on these steps. The 3 steps you need to take in order to make friends in college is to:

  1. You need to put yourself in situations where you can meet potential friends.
  2. You need to talk to people and take some initiative to hang out with people you gel with.
  3. You need to continue to interact with the people you click with. This should come naturally if you share a lot in common, but in some cases you still need to make an effort.
“College education should equip one to entertain three things: a friend, an idea, and oneself.” – Thomas Ehrlich

Putting Yourself Where Potential Friends Are

This is the most important step. While there are a lot of opportunities to meet new people in university, a lot of people still find it difficult to get a social life going, mostly because they don’t take the initiative to put themselves in places where they can meet potential friends. If you’re not meeting anyone through your current routine of showing up to class and bolting for the door the second you hear “that’s all for this week”, here are some ways to meet potential friends in college:

  • Residence. If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective) to be placed in residence, this is a good chance to meet friends that is unavailable to those off-campus. You don’t have to befriend everyone on your floor (and chances are very good that you won’t), but since these are people you will see everyday, you have the chance to build some strong friendships.
  • People in your classes. This can be a bit more difficult if you have an undergrad program with huge classes and lots of electives – meaning you don’t see the same faces day in and day out. But this just means you have to take a bit more initiative to talk to those around you. Its easy to just get lost in the sea of faces if your classes have hundreds of people, but just starting a short conversation with someone next to you every once in awhile can help you discover new friendships you’d miss if you just go to class, zone out, and head out at the bell.
  • Join student clubs and associations. University campuses are bustling with student clubs that cater to students from all different walks of life, with a variety of interests. Chances are at least a few of them will attract the kind of people you share similar interests with. Joining a club or association is also a chance to try something new that you might not have done in your regular life. Check your university website for a list of student clubs and head over to a meeting. Many clubs also usually have mixers and icebreaker sessions at the beginning of the year to get new members acquainted, so if just showing up to a club mid-semester seems intimidating to you, make sure to show up to the first few meetings where there will be plenty of newbies like yourself.
  • Attend social events – It can definitely be intimidating showing up to a social event alone, but there are plenty of events on campus that are designed for people to get acquainted with each other.
  • Join off-campus activities. Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean that you can only do school stuff. You can also take up hobbies or attend a class off-campus.
  • Volunteer. If joining a hobby oriented club or social organization doesn’t appeal to you, you can always get involved by volunteering and getting involved. Perhaps its a student newsletter or radio station, perhaps its an activist group for a specific cause – whatever you choose, you can lend your skills towards something meaningful and meet like-minded students.
“The friends you make in college are friends you’ll have for life, even if you don’t take for years at a time.” – Jessica Park

Don’t Hole Yourself Up

If you haven’t really found your social circle yet, it can be difficult to get the ball rolling. If you’re a natural introvert, the temptation might be to just hole yourself up and concentrate on school or your solo hobbies.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on yourself and schoolwork, but don’t use that as an excuse to stay inside your comfort zone. Everyone wants to make friends, but if its not happening for you, you do have to take some action. Hopefully the ideas above make it a bit easier for you.

Did you or do you have trouble making new friends in college? Please feel free to comment or share your experiences below.

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Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's lead editor and content writer, and has invested in online properties since 2009. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.