“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold,” - Author Unknown.
The old children’s song puts words to what many of us feel. A good friend, especially a long-time friend, is worth their weight in gold. But going to college represents a new season of life, and is an opportunity to make new friends.
Even if you attend college near your hometown, your experience will be very different than high school, and making new friends will be critical to enjoying this new stage of life. You may even find that the friendships you make during college are as valuable as the degree you earn. In this article, we offer a few tips on how to make friends in college.
Timeless Tips For Making Friends
Since the advent of social media, much about the world of friendship has changed. It's easier than ever to connect with people across the country or even across the world. You may even consider a person you met through gaming or a Public Discord to be one of your best friends, even if you haven’t met in real life.
But age-old methods of making friends still work, even in today’s day and age.
- Look up from your phone. It’s easy to be glued to your phone everywhere you go. But you can make basic connections by exchanging pleasantries with people you see in your daily life. Say hello to people in the hall, ask your coworkers about their pets or their kids or their crazy neighbors, or introduce yourself to people in your seminar class. You might be surprised how many people will look up from their phones to get to know you a bit better.
- Feel free to initiate. Unless you’re house-hacking during college, you probably don’t have a lovely home where you can invite people for dinner. But that doesn’t mean you can’t initiate a get-together. Take advantage of free and low-cost resources available to you. Invite people to the library to study or to meet in the Rec Center to play basketball or to your dingy apartment to order pizza before you go to an improv performance at your school. A simple text with a time and a place is typically enough to initiate a friendship.
- Follow through. If you agree to do something with your friends, follow through with it. Sometimes, a friend will need a shoulder to cry on, and sometimes it's hitting the dance floor. Your couch may sound more appealing than 18 holes of Disc Golf, but you’ll get more laughs out on the course. You’ll rarely regret following through on a commitment to your friends.
- Don’t rely on one person to meet all your friendship needs. Most people don’t need dozens of close friends, but you probably need more than one or two. Your friend from the school choir may love belting out classic Broadway hits in the car with you, but they probably aren’t the same friend who will get up before sunrise to hike a local trail on a Saturday. Build friendships with as many people as seems reasonable to you. You may be surprised how much you have to offer to the people that you meet.
Find People With Shared Interests
Some of the easiest friends to make are people who share an interest with you. For example, it can be easy to form friendships with people you work with (if only due to the shared craziness of customer service, or the mind-numbing boredom of stocking shelves all day). These work friends give you a reason, aside from the paycheck, to show up at your part-time job.
In college, study buddies make good friend candidates. During your first or second week of class, you may notice that you and a classmate always leave your seminar and head straight to the Dining Commons. If you work up a few moments of courage, you could ask to eat with this person and share notes from the lecture. Or you can invite a few people from the class to the library for an evening study session. Get their phone numbers, and send out a reminder text a few hours before the study session. In the worst case, you’ll be more prepared for your next quiz or test. But more likely, you’ll share some late-night laughs while getting dirty looks from other library patrons.
If you’ve got fitness or health goals, finding a workout buddy is another way to make a friend. When you notice someone from your hall coming in from a workout or working up a sweat at your school’s rec center, you can ask them if they would like to join you for a workout a day or two later. Assuming they agree, follow up with a text, and enjoy a new workout.
Teams and clubs are another great way to make friends for a reason. You and everyone in the organization should share a common interest or a common coal. College campuses (including community colleges) tend to have dozens of campus organizations that allow you to enjoy a range of activities on a budget.
The purpose of the club matters less than the fact that you’ll meet with people who have a shared interest with you. If you’re not sure what you like to do, try a few clubs. Test out a cooking club, an outdoor club, intramural sports teams, a political organization, or a campus religious group.
No matter what type of club you join, be sure to build in time to linger after club meetings or practices, so you can get to know club members a bit better. If a few members seem like fun, arrange a social opportunity before or after your next meeting. You may be surprised how quickly a shared interest and a shared sense of fun grow into meaningful friendships.
Friends for a reason will likely come and go throughout your college career. Your class schedule, fitness goals, and interests will change and your friends will change too. An injury may put a stop to your marathon training, and your Saturday morning runs with your school’s running club. Your Spanish 101 study group will break up once the semester ends. Although these friendships may be temporary, they add an important element of fun and enjoyment to your daily life.
Cultivate Your Active Friendships
Between work, classes, studying, and applying for scholarships you won't always have time to invest in your friendships. But college friendships are valuable. Your friends may become your social safety net. You’ll help them when they are at their lowest, and they will be there when you need it most.
While joining clubs, initiating shared study schedules, or regular workouts are great ways to meet more people, you’re unlikely to develop close friendships with all of your “friends for a reason.” Cultivating lasting friendships takes time.
Often, close friendships develop through months or years of regular gatherings. Standing “friend dates” can be a great way to cultivate deeper friendships. Cooking and eating together once per week can be a great frugal way to enjoy time with a few friends. Walking or hiking together is another great way to meet up regularly.
These mundane get-togethers can lead to plans for more memorable fun. You might forget Tuesday’s chicken teriyaki, but you’ll never forget the “three-mile hike” that turned into 14 miles, or the time you managed to find the world's best hot dog stand.
Don't Be Afraid To Reach Out
Making new friends can be hard. The most outgoing people often feel nervous around people they don't know. When it comes to making friends in college, don’t worry about becoming friends with every person you meet.
Try to make a few connections. Find ways to spend time around people every day. As you get to know people a little bit, proposing a get-together won’t be as daunting. And remember, very few people have too many friends and no room for one more.
Hannah is a wife, mom, and described personal finance geek. She excels with spreadsheets (and puns)! She regularly explores in-depth financial topics and enjoys looking at the latest tools and trends with money.