How to Make Friends in College: A Comprehensive Guide
The first person I consciously remember calling my “friend” (and later, “best friend”) was someone I met in preschool. I was probably four years old. We had similar interests, and complementary personalities (he was the big picture idea guy, I was the detail-oriented do-er).
As I’ve continued through life, my friendships have shifted. I’ve made new friends along the way, deepened my relationship with existing friends, and fallen out of touch with others. When you look at it this way, it seems like friendship is something that just “happens.” You can’t control it, it would seem, and maybe it’s better not to. After all, you can’t force friendship.
Yet, what I’ve come to realize in the past couple years is that while you can’t force or manufacture friendship, you can seek and cultivate it. It isn’t completely out of your control. In fact, since it’s such an important part of living a happy life, it’s something that you put on autopilot at your peril.
One of the best things about college is all the opportunities it gives you to start fresh. This is especially the case with friends. You’re in a new place surrounded by literally thousands of people you’ve never met before. All of these people are potential friends. You just have to seek them out.
That’s why I put this article together. I want to help you turn your feeling of overwhelm into a feeling of opportunity and excitement. Excitement at the insane number of opportunities you have to make new friends while in college. Whether it’s your first semester or your final semester, this article will show you how to make new friends and deepen existing friendships in college and beyond.
What do these two areas have in common? They’re where you spent most of your time as a kid. So the reason you had the friends you had was quite simply that you spent lots of time repeatedly interacting with them.
Now, there are some important caveats. I’m not saying that geography determines all. Shared interests and personality play a very important role as well. You were obviously drawn more to some people than others. Perhaps you admired how outgoing the other person was, while they were drawn to your calmness. Perhaps you both liked trading Pokémon cards, or both preferred recess over story time.
Once more, the key factor was spending lots of time together doing shared activities, activities that reflected at least some sort of shared interest or value. People join marching band for lots of different reasons, for instance, but most of them are bound to share at least a couple of those reasons in common.
Now that we’ve covered why we have the friends we do, let’s go out and find some. I know this may seem kind of weird. After all, friendship is one of those things society tells us should just happen naturally. Actively seeking friendship can seem unnatural.
I think, however, that being intentional about your relationships is one of the keys to a happy life. Unlike your family, you have control over who your friends are. It makes sense, then, to be deliberate in choosing friends. Actively seeking out friends means you’re more likely to have people around you who energize you, make you laugh, and support you during difficult times.
Now that we’ve established the importance of being intentional about who your friends are, we can move on to the how part. I’ve broken this next part into three sections to make it easier to navigate and review later.
Part 1: 9 Places to Find Friends in College
Something that I’ve struggled with in the past is where exactly I should go to meet potential friends. This might seem obvious to some people. But if you’re an introvert like me, it can be helpful to have a defined list of places, as it takes some of the mystery and worry out of potential interactions.
Even if you’re a very social person, you may not have realized all the possible places that you can go to meet people in college. It’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it, especially if you go to a larger school.
So here are nine places to find friends in college. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a great place to get started. If you think of other places I missed, please share them in the comments.
1. Campus Events
Thomas is fond of saying that college is a lot like a four year TED or SXSW conference. Nowhere is this clearer than in campus events. Here are just a few of the types of events that were common at my college:
How to Connect With People
When you first arrive in the United States, you might be self-conscious about your English language skills. But speak English anyway. The more you speak, the stronger your English will become. Starting conversations with your classmates and fellow college students will help you make friends and improve your social skills.
Where are you from? Asking where someone is from shows that you are interested in learning more about them. It starts a conversation with many follow-up topics. You might ask what their home state is like or what they miss most about high school. The United States is a large and diverse country, so you can learn a lot from this simple question.
Have you seen any good movies lately? or Have you heard any good songs lately? The answers can help you learn more about your conversation partner and about American culture at the same time. You might also discover new movies and music.
Excuse me, what does [word or phrase] mean? This is a great way to improve your English. Most people like sharing their knowledge, so they will be happy to help. You can tell them that you are an international student, which may lead them to ask where you are from or how to say the same phrase in your native language.
What is your major? Why did you choose it? This is a common opening line for students who are meeting each other for the first time, even if neither of them are international students. Everyone in college is studying something and can help you get to know them better.
What do you think of the food here? This is a perfect way to start a conversation in the dining hall. Most people love talking about food. They might encourage you to try something new or compare the dining hall meals to the foods they ate when they were growing up. (Just remember not to talk with your mouth full. Many Americans consider it rude.)
To keep a conversation going, avoid questions that lead to a yes or no answer. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you like about it?” or “Why did you choose that one?” These types of questions naturally lead to longer conversations.
How to Meet People in College
Check your college events calendar. You can find campus events to match your preferences, from performances to special lectures to parties. Attend anything that sounds like fun so you can meet people with similar interests who may become your friends.
Attend sporting events. Sports are an important part of American culture, especially on college campuses. Seek out sporting events throughout the school year. Whether you invite people to join you or start chatting with people sitting nearby, you can get to know sports lovers of all kinds. You can even join a sports club on campus (often called an intramural sports team).
Explore your new home. Organize a trip to visit local tourist sites, museums, or events. You can invite neighbors, classmates, and other people you meet so you can all discover fun places together.
Consider campus jobs. A campus job can help you earn some extra money while also getting to know different people on campus. Talk to your international student advisor about campus jobs that will boost your resume — and your social relationships.
Start a study group. Whether you need a little extra help in class or just prefer learning with friends, a study group can help you get to know people in your classes better.
Join a fraternity or sorority. These social and academic organizations can help you meet lots of people and build a group of friends. Do your research before pledging so that you can find one that seems like a good fit.
Find a club. Most college campuses have clubs for just about everything. Joining a campus club is a great way to meet fellow college students with similar interests. If there is not already a club for what you enjoy, start one!
You can also meet potential friends by just talking to people in your classes. Strike up a conversation and remember to smile. When you seem open and interested in meeting people, they will be happy to meet you.
I played basketball in China for the past 10 years and wanted to continue here as it’s my favorite sport. Last year, I played on the intramural basketball team. We made it to the quarter finals! I also made a lot of friends by joining the team.” – Isaac from China, Florida International University