By Ian Donnelly
Making friends in college can be scary. Most students feel a fair amount of pressure to find a friend group in college since it’s commonly considered a social experience as much as it is an educational one. But it’s important to shake that pressure off—no one wants to dread the idea of meeting new people, and putting yourself out there isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Here’s some useful tips to keep in mind for broadening your social circle:
You’re Not the Only New Kid
If you’re a first-year student, everyone in your class is new to school. All your peers are trying to meet people and are likely just as nervous about reaching out as you are. Even seniors in their last semester are met with new social situations, and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your search of like-minded individuals. New semesters, new classes, and new roommates mean that you’ll always have the opportunity to meet new people, and the more you put yourself out there, the easier it will be.
Leave Your Room
It may be the path of least resistance, but staying in your room is the absolute worst way to make friends. For starters, there’s no new people in there—it’s just you and your roommate. Try finding other, more public venues to incorporate into your daily schedule. You can do your homework in the campus coffee shop or out on the quad, write your next paper in the computer lab, or ask some classmates if they want to form a study group in the library together. These interactions will set you up for success and lead you down the road of some extracurricular off campus meet-ups.
Join the Club
Every college has club organizations and planned student activities. If there is a club based on something you like, join it! Doing something you love with other people gives you a fool-proof topic to start a conversation. It’s one of the easiest ways to find like-minded friends in college.
Expand Your Lunch Table
Remember how your important your lunch table was to your social circle in high school? It’s the same idea in college, but with one key difference: you can eat lunch with everyone. There’s no more popularity contests in college, and sitting down to chat with someone over lunch is an easy way to strike up a friendship. There’s a reason that people have been bonding at the dinner table since the beginning of time—it’s a great way to make new friends.
Don’t Sweat the Small Talk
Small talk can be hard to make with strangers. All the usual questions are so cliché that the thought of asking them is cringe-worthy. “Where are you from?”, “What’s your major?”, and “What classes are you taking?” may feel like lines from a script, but getting the ball rolling in a conversation will typically lead to a more meaningful topic. They’re cliché because they work and plenty of friendships start with small talk.
Reaching out through your social media channel of choice, whether you prefer Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever else is on the market, is a great, low-pressure way to spark a friendship. There’s no danger of face-to-face awkwardness with online conversations and friending or following people makes for an easy introduction. Plus, you can easily go online to search for student events and activities nearby and find gatherings you’d like to attend as you plan your first meet-and-greet.
Criticism is great for classroom debates, but it will only get you so far in making friends. It’s important to steer conversations in a positive direction and engage with what people are saying, not just what you find wrong with their point of view. Conversations are like a game of catch—if you don’t throw the ball back so that your partner can catch it, it’s no fun for anyone. If you’re critical and put down the thoughts of others, your peers will most likely mirror your attitude. You don’t have to swallow your beliefs just to please someone, but be tactful. If you are immediately defensive, it may give others the wrong first impression and prevent you from developing friendships.
It’s Never Too Late
College is all about your own personal growth. It’s a place that won’t fault you for figuring things out, trying new experiences, and following your own path. With so much freedom, people come in and out of social circles and friend groups all the time in college. Plenty of students decide to switch schools after a year, or change their major halfway through their studies so you’ll find new faces and friendship opportunities everywhere you look. There’s no need to worry that you’re missing out in college—as long as you’re open to making new friends, you’ll find them everywhere.
Always Be Yourself
No matter what school you go to, there will be people all around you who share your interests and hobbies. If you only take one thing away from this list of friendship-making tactics, staying true to yourself is the most important. It’s the golden rule when it comes to expanding your social circle. Let your personality shine through, and your friendships will develop naturally. The people drawn to your unique personality are the friends that will last a lifetime.