The best way to adjust to a new environment is with the help of a support network. If you’re away from home and on your own starting college, you’ll probably need to build that network from scratch. Making friends in college can be intimidating, but I promise, it’s not as hard as you think.
Stay in a dorm
As a freshman, it’s a good idea to stay in a college dorm on campus if you can afford to. They’re a great way to meet new people who probably feel like a fish out of water. My first month at college was tough. I had never felt so alone before and honestly, wasn’t coping well with all the changes.
Thankfully I had an awesome RA (aka Resident Advisor) who was super friendly and very eager to pull all of us awkward 18/19-year-olds out of our shells. She dragged us to all sorts of new student events and encouraged us to play board and card games as a group. Board games by the way, are a fantastic way to socialize and get more comfortable around people you don’t know.
My amazing RA even hooked me up with an on-campus job to further help me avoid isolating myself in my room. We also became genuine friends thanks to her bubbly personality, and she always made everyone feel welcome. It’s hard to doubt whether or not people want you around when they’re grinning ear to ear whenever you’re around and constantly inviting you to midnight bubble tea runs.
Being around so many new friends, having fun experiencing a new place and entirely new culture (I’d never lived in a big city before) made it a lot harder to feel lonely and scared. I’ll be honest, I’ve drifted away from some of the friends that I made in college. However, the ones I still have a strong bond with are all people I met in that college dorm.
Join a club
Joining a club is an easy way to find people who have common interests. Even if you don’t stay in the club, you can still meet some cool people and continue befriending them outside the club.
Colleges typically have tons of clubs, from martial arts clubs to writing clubs, clubs supporting environmentalism, and even cultural clubs if you’re studying abroad and feeling homesick. Having something in common makes it easier to strike up conversations with strangers too.
If you’re having a hard time finding the right club to join, you can always make your own too. Put up some flyers about what you want it to be with some contact info and the odds of attracting at least a few other club members are pretty high. Being super involved with the club also means being involved with the other club members and forming close friendships with them.
Strike up a conversation in class
Having a class with friends makes any class a lot more enjoyable. It’s much easier to vent about topics you’re having a hard time understanding or what your crummy professors did this week to someone experiencing the same thing. Venting can also be a bonding experience.
Making friends in college can start with something small. You don’t have to bond immediately. Having something in common and being around other people is a great way to build the foundations of friendship. If you keep talking and take the initiative, you’re sure to meet and make tons of friends.
If you’re nervous about just trying to talk in the middle of class to a random student, you can wait a few weeks to see who tends to sit around you. Wait until the professor is busy passing out class materials or announces a quick break and just try talking to them about anything that comes to mind. It may feel awkward, but weird topics are more memorable than bland pleasantries.
(Even if there aren’t assigned seats, you can’t tell me there aren’t unofficially assigned seats. And if you’re someone who takes other people’s unofficial assigned seats, then you deserve to die alone.)
Group projects are a mixed bag. If I’m honest, you’ll be lucky if things go smoothly, and you don’t end up wanting to stab someone in the neck for not doing their work or completely ghosting the group. Or maybe I’m just jaded because I was very unlucky with my group projects.
Even if things do go that way, you can usually find one or two people who feel the same way you do, and you can bond over the frustrations of having to pull someone else’s dead weight. If you ever encounter someone like that in a group project, exchange contact information and get friendly with them.
Once the work is done, there aren’t any rules that say you have to lose contact with your group members. Plus, being in the same class could even mean you share majors and will have more classes together in the future.
Study groups are a good way to meet other students in a less formal setting if your classes are short or your professor is a stickler for no talking in class. You can goof off but still learn with other people, and depending on the class, you may even have a study group with people you’ll see in later classes on the same subject.
If you’re proactive enough, you can also start your own study group if there aren’t any already. Most professors will be happy to let you make a quick announcement about it at the end of class, letting everyone know when and where you’ll be meeting. After that, you just need to show up and give some loose directions as other students join.
If your professor has multiple classes, they may even forward an email to every class so you can maximize the number of people who hear about your study group.
If you do decide to organize study groups yourself, make sure you arrange a meeting place! For small groups, you can commandeer tables at a cafe for an hour or two, but if you’ve got a lot of people, you’ll probably want to sign up for a conference/study room at your school’s library.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to make new friends, balancing a new student life, and maybe even a job, check out our blog on balancing school and a social life. You’re not weird for feeling like it’s too much. Life is a lot sometimes.
If you still want to make new friends and are having a hard time with any of my suggestions for whatever reason (cultural differences, distance learning, covid restrictions, etc.) you can always try friending apps. They’re like dating apps but specifically for platonic friendships.
MeetUp, for instance, has over 50 million users. With that many people also looking for new friends, you’re sure to find at least a few people you can really click with.
How did you meet your best friend?