It’s Day 4 of the Freshman’s Guide to College! I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at back to school shopping, how to chose your courses and some tips and tricks for saving money when buying textbooks! Today, though, I want to change focus a little bit and make it more social. Today we’re talking making friends in college!
Making friends in college can be tough.
When you’re a kid, it’s easy. You just go over and ask “Do you want to play?” and then BAM! New best friend. In high school, everyone knows everyone, and you spend all day with the same people every day. In college, though, everything changes. You’re in classes with hundreds of people at once, in a new city, and it sometimes seems that you don’t have common ground with any of them.
Here’s some hope, though: I made friends. And I was a homeschooled, opinionated, nerdy, over-achieving, younger-than-everyone-else kid. My first day of school, my hair was big and frizzy, I couldn’t get my contacts in so I had my giant glasses on, and I spilled coffee on my shirt only 15 minutes into my first class. And you know what? I made some of my best friends on that day!
So although it may be intimidating, making friends is very possible. Of course, there are some things that make it easier, and some things that are definite no-nos.
Don’t be too early for class
You know what my number 1 trick is for making friends in class? Show up 7 minutes before the first class. No more. That way, you’re not so early that the classroom is empty, but not so late that there aren’t any spots left. You can look around, find someone who looks friendly, and sit next to them and you still have a good 5 or 6 minutes to strike up a conversation before class starts!
I’m very extraverted, and I found that when I showed up 15 minutes early for the first class I’d just sit there smiling at everyone who walked in, waiting expectantly for new friends to come and find me and feel very awkward and rejected when no one sat next to me because there were still 80 free seats in the room, and if they chose the one next to me that would just look strange. Showing up only a little bit before class is ideal. No awkward waiting. So go early, find where the classroom is, and then go somewhere else and go over the syllabus or organize your binder to make sure you can take notes effectively. Then head in at around 7 minutes before and find someone nice to sit next to!
Focus on quality over quantity
You have very little time as a student, let’s be honest. If you’re focused on having a whole group of buds in each class that’s just a lot of work.
Rather, be friendly with everyone, but make an effort to get to know only a few people. I have about 5 really good friends from my classes, but I know about 70% of the psychology students in my year. There’s a big difference. Remember that you want to have a few friends but many friendly acquaintances. Don’t burn yourself out trying to make everyone love you! Just be polite, and get to know a few people you click with. You’ll actually feel less lonely if you have a few good friends than if you know lots of people but don’t feel like you connect with any of them!
Get involved in groups
I have made amazing friends in my classes, but my best friends are from the Christian fellowship group I got involved with immediately after starting school. Staying involved in community is so important, and it’s important to not become a social hermit. I met my husband and all of our groomsmen through my Christian group, IVCF, and we have made so many lifelong friends through it. I know that in some schools there are actually Christian sororities, which sound amazing! Check out Gina Alyse’s blog for information on them!
The other great thing about groups is that they are self-selected peer groups. Are you into languages? Join a Spanish study group! Do you like to run? Join a track group! Getting the picture? There’s a club for everything! Find something that excites you so that you have a break throughout your crazy week where you can go and just have fun.
Be respectful of boundaries
Be respectful. Don’t overwhelm people with affection and bids for attention and friendship. You don’t need to go out for coffee with all of your friends the day after you meet them. You don’t need to text them all the funny thing that just happened to you. Let the closeness grow organically–don’t force yourself on your new friends.
If you allow the friendship to grow over time, you’ll end up with close friendships that last for a long time rather than burning out the relationship in the first two weeks. College students are busy, and I know that I appreciate that there are no expectations for me to constantly text or message my school friends, but that it’s OK if I do. That’s what I mean by not crossing boundaries–keep the communication open, but don’t freak out if it closes for a few days.
Related: How to Talk to Friends about God
Don’t jump to conclusions
I’m not going to lie: there was one guy I’m friends with now that I thought I would never get along with when at first sight. He was wearing a sweatshirt with a death metal band logo on the front, had a bunch of tattoos, and piercings. I’m a blonde girl with curly hair who wears purples and pinks on a daily basis. But you know what? We actually hit it off! Now if I see him in class I sit with him and it’s a great time. He’s brilliant at psychology, and is the kind of guy you want on a group project! And I’m really glad that I didn’t limit that friendship opportunity based on my first impression.
That’s the great thing about university–you get to make friends from all different walks of life. Different cultures, religions, upbringings, etc. Take advantage of it!
Challenge: talk to one person in class you normally wouldn’t! You may make a new friend!
Find non-invasive ways to hang out
Just do things that you would want to go to. Nothing crazy, just something that will help refresh everyone! Host a snacks potluck and movie night sometime, or start a study group. My house loves hosting tea parties where everyone comes over and we get to wear pretty dresses and eat scones.
Grab coffee after class sometime, and before assignments or tests are due why not get together with some kids in your class and study together?
Try to avoid inviting yourself over to their place, or making it very inconvenient for the other person. I lived off campus for the last two years (20 minutes by bus), so if I hung out with people it was generally at a Timmies near school or in a coffee shop on campus. Low-key, casual, and quick. This generally isn’t the time for 3 hour hangouts. If it turns into that, that’s wonderful! But often the 45 minute coffee break is exactly what the both of you need in the middle of a busy week.
Remember that making friends in college doesn’t happen immediately
Sometimes you just sit next to someone you plain don’t click with. And that’s OK! Try again at the next class! Not everyone in the same class has the same interests, the same academic goals, etc. So just talk to people until you find some you click with.
Don’t let yourself get disheartened. Just have fun getting to know people, and you’ll find some friends.
Believe that you are worth it!
Trust me–you are your own worst critic. We see our flaws magnetized 20x their actual size. You may think you have an annoying laugh, but odds are others don’t even notice, and probably even think it’s cute! You are an amazing person–remember that! You are not defined by how much success you have had in the past at making friends, by how you feel about yourself, or by how you compare to other people. You are defined by who you are, and by your identity in Christ! So believe it! Even if you can’t truly understand it, tell it to yourself every day.
Moving out and going to school is scary. Friends can really help with that, and can help you feel more at home with your new life. It may seem like you’ll be alone forever, or that you are having zero luck with finding friends, but I promise you–just keep looking, change up your activities, and you’ll find some.
Enjoy this post? Check out the rest of The Freshman’s Guide to College:
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 1: Back-to-School Shopping
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 2: Choosing your Course Schedule
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 3: Saving on Textbooks
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 4: Making Friends
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 5: Roommates
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 6: Exams
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 7: Packing for College
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 8: Staying Healthy in School
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 9: Time Management
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 10: Staying in Touch with Family and Friends