Starting college is great! You’re free from the rules of high school, and you can study exactly what you want.
But it’s also a big change from what you’re used to, with some big associated challenges. You’re put into a new environment, and you need to regulate your own life.
In most cases, you’ll also have to make new friends. This can be one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of starting college. If you’re a current or future college student and you’re at all concerned about this, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
It’s difficult to imagine any student who hasn’t thought about this. As a college student myself, I’ve been through it, too.
Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to help you meet new people and develop genuine friendships. Admittedly, you will need to take the initiative and get outside your comfort zone. This doesn’t come naturally for everyone, particularly for those who are more introverted, like me. But you’ll see that there is nothing to be afraid of, and you should be excited about all of the great people out there who want to meet you!
#1: How to meet new people in college
Attend your classes (if possible)
Your classes are where you get to see other students taking the same courses as you. This gives you a chance to interact with like-minded individuals and you may even be required to work together. Being in the same course as someone else means you automatically have something in common, which can help you develop a connection.
It can be tempting to skip classes and study off-campus, particularly if there are lecture recordings available and you have a nice study space at home. But if you don’t go onto campus for your classes, you probably won’t go there at all. If you don’t visit your campus in person, you’re limiting your opportunities to get to know fellow students.
I’ve found joining clubs to be one of the best ways to make new friends. They allow you to meet people who share your interests and provide a reason for you to be together (that isn’t studying). In fact, many people who join clubs are looking to meet others, and they’ll be genuinely interested in getting to know you.
Most educational institutions have a range of student groups to choose from. Whether you’re into sports, social causes or a niche interest like anime, there is sure to be something that suits you! Extracurricular activities like this are also great ways to enjoy yourself and reduce stress.
Having a shared passion for a social or environmental cause can be a great way to bond with others. On the other hand, even if you’re not passionate about an issue, you can still attend a volunteering event and show your support. In these situations, people will be united by a common goal which immediately provides something to collaborate on.
Volunteering opportunities can involve anything from collecting donations or raising awareness to planting trees or business consultancy. You can join proper volunteer groups and commit to regular sessions or attend one-off events that you hear about.
#2: Where to make new friends in college
The lecture theatre
While it’s not exactly an obvious place to socialise, I have become friends with fellow students that I met in lectures. The beginning and end of lectures can be good opportunities to start a conversation with the person next to you and introduce yourself (more on conversation starters later). When choosing your seat in a lecture theatre, avoid leaving large gaps between you and others. If you have a quick question during the lecture or you don’t know what page of your textbook to turn to, feel free to ask another student. You’d be surprised at how willing they are to help.
A lot of courses offer a combination of lectures and other timetabled learning sessions. These include tutorials, workshops and lab sessions which actually provide better opportunities to get to know your classmates. With fewer students and smaller rooms, it is easier to develop close connections with others.
In lectures, there is the expectation that everyone is paying attention to the lecturer and silently taking notes. But in smaller group sessions, the emphasis tends to be on doing practice problems, discussing material and asking questions. Make sure you attend these sessions, and try to sit near other individuals or groups rather than at empty tables.
If you take the bus or train into college every day, you may recognise fellow students making the same regular journey. It’s good to make friends with these people as you’ll probably be seeing them often. You may also live in a similar location, so you can meet up outside of college pretty easily (if you want to). The journey on the bus or train is a great opportunity to talk and get to know someone.
There’s no better way to get to know someone than by living with them. I have personally never lived on campus, but I’ve heard that the sense of community and shared belonging can lead to very close-knit friendships.
This is not guaranteed, though. Different places have different cultures and atmospheres. It also takes some work and initiative to introduce yourself, get to know others and organise hangout events.
If you check your institution’s calendar, you’ll probably find heaps of events organised throughout the year. These might be theatrical performances, sports matches, workshops, guest speakers or expos. If anything piques your interest, make sure to head along and get involved. These are particularly good opportunities to meet people from different departments of your college.
College life can be hectic on its own, but if you think you can spare the time, consider looking for part-time work while studying. This could be a job related to your studies (like tutoring younger students), a separate job on campus, or something completely unrelated to college. Places that often hire students include retailers, coffee shops, fast food outlets, restaurants and recreation centres. You’d be surprised at how close you can become to the people you work with, and others you meet while on the job.
#3: What to do when meeting people
Be interested in others and try to find out more about them. If you’re ever looking to start a conversation with someone or you’re already talking to them, here are some questions you could ask any student:
- “What degree/major are you studying? How are you finding it?”
- “What year of study are you in?”
- “Are you from this area or did you have to move here for college?”
- “Do you live on-campus?”
- “Are you part of any clubs? “
Be sure to reciprocate by sharing some information about you. It is not necessary to share anything personal or to go into too much detail, but at least revealing your degree and areas of interest can help others understand you.
Connect to them on social media
Sometimes, you might meet someone and absolutely hit it off. Unfortunately, if you don’t get another opportunity to see them, the connection could wane, and you might forget about each other entirely. Ask them what social media platform they use most often and connect to them on there. At least this way you’ll be able to contact them in the future, which is particularly important if your institution has a complicated student email system. On social media, you can also find out a bit more about them.
Maintain and build the connection
A single interaction with someone can make them an acquaintance, but it won’t be enough to build a friendship. You’ll need to actively build the relationship, which can require some initiative.
If you’re walking through campus and you see someone who you’ve met before, don’t ignore them. Instead, go up to them and say hi. If you’re in a rush, simply acknowledge them by smiling or nodding your head.
Feel free to make plans for the future if you’re interested. Ask them if they’d like to study together sometime, have a meal, join a club you’re part of or attend a future campus event you’re going to.
#4: Some final things to keep in mind
- All students want to make friends. In fact, they will probably appreciate it if you’re the one that approaches them
- People generally like meeting others and will be genuinely interested in you
- A lot of other people will be nervous and shy when it comes to social interaction
- Be careful not to overthink the actions of other people. For example, just because they haven’t approached you doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested in getting to know you.
- Unfortunately, you can’t just wait for others to approach you. If you want to meet new people and make new friends, you need to take initiative and put yourself out there
- Finally, remember to be yourself. Don’t pretend to be anyone else.