Making friends in college is a lot like catching Pokémon: some freshmen choose friends based on how they look, others by what talents and powers they possess. Most of us would like to believe that we make friends based on how they compliment our own personal weaknesses. And in a world with so many good people all around us, who wouldn't want to meet 'em all?
Regardless of the reasons why we choose to make friends, the way in which we go about it is its own subtle art form. It's one which I, certainly, have yet to perfect. But judging by the outcome of my first week at college (I moved in early thanks to Freshman Connection - shout out to everyone involved in that amazing program), I would say that I've done alright so far. I've met a lot of great people who I can see being friends with for a long time, and I'm meeting more every day.
How? you may ask. Tara, you're not that nice, and you're also not that personable. Believe me, it shocked me too. It's simple really. I just avoided these 10 pitfalls that people often encounter when meeting others for the first time. These are the top 10 ways NOT to make friends as a freshman in college-- from my own personal experience.
1. Hang out in your dorm all day with the door closed.
This should be an obvious no-no, but people still end up doing it. They don't know what to do, so they do... nothing. You may be feeling alone, or not know who to hang out with at an event that your college is hosting. But if you don't go at all, you'll never meet anybody. "Out" is where the rest of the people are. Holing up and watching Netflix for hours on end is one of those things that feels good in the moment, but will ultimately just isolate you and make you feel worse about things. Just go to the activities.
2. Expect people to talk to you / make plans to hang out first.
A lot of people that I know from high school seem to be having problems making friends in college because they don't want to initiate any sort of relationship with anyone. Honestly, a smile or even just eye contact can let others know that you are open and willing to talk. And look, someone's gotta make the first move. If someone seems cool or nice, or even if they're just in your close proximity, it's okay to shoot them a "Hey, my name is _________." That's how you get to know people.
3. Latch onto someone else.
Whether it be your new roommate or a friend from home, it's not good to just leech socialization off of the closest immediate individual. If your style of friend-making involves being friends with one person, then being pity-included when that person makes new and other friends, you will get left behind-- and fast. It's okay to have the same friends as your roommate or high school friend, but they should genuinely be your own friends as well. Not just friends-by-proxy.
4. Act as though you're better than other people in the college / be standoffish.
If you see people going to a frat party and you personally don't want to go, don't judge them. If you see people staying in and playing cards, that's fine too. You're not better than anyone else. We're all in college. We're all adults. If the immediate vibe that you're sending off is one of sanctimonious arrogance, then people will immediately think-- and rightfully so-- that you are an ass. Don't have a superiority complex. This isn't high school anymore; we're all starting college on a level playing field.
5. Close yourself off from different people and experiences.
This goes along with the above point. Just because you like X, and someone else enjoys Y, it doesn't mean that you can't be friends. Yes, common interests and shared experiences make it easier to immediately connect with someone, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be compatible as people. Some of my lifelong best friends are completely different from myself in terms of our tastes, interests, cultures, and hobbies. Making a real connection with someone extends further than surface-level traits.
6. Think that you don't need to make any new friends.
Even if you made a lot of friends during orientation, or met your 8 new bffs during move-in weekend, you should still be open to meeting new people. One, you can never have too many positive relationships with people. Two, as depressing as this sounds, these 4-day friendships are probably not as strong as they currently feel. So, if they end up disintegrating, it's good to have some backup. And three, someone else who you don't already know may end up being your friendship soulmate, but you'll never know unless you give other people a chance.
7. Be rude.
Somehow, this requires explicit mention. If you're rude and a jerk, people will not like you. If that is the first impression that you make, then they will probably never like you. If you do this often enough, people will hate you, and you will have no friends. The end.
8. Refuse to open up to others.
I know this one may be hard for a lot of people. Dropping your guard around people you don't know is really difficult, especially when you may not want to open up. But presenting myself as open and honest is probably what has been most crucial to making and maintaining my current friendships. Nobody wants to be friends with someone who never speaks their mind, or who isn't being genuine. No matter how awful you may think your true self is, I can promise you that there is someone out there who loves it.
9. Talk only about yourself... all the time.
Take this point with a grain of salt. I love talking about myself, and I love hearing other people talk about themselves... at appropriate times. This will sound cliche, but active listening? It's actually pretty effective. If someone says something about themselves, it is more than fine to follow up with something related about yourself. But discussing/comparative ideas, formative events, or unusual anecdotes is way more interesting than just recounting some average experience, or talking about something that nobody can logically follow up. It really is a matter of how you spin it. There is just a difference between a discussion involving two people, and one person talking at another. One leads to genuine connection, while the other leaves someone never wanting to talk to you again.
10. Think you're above small talk.
Who do you think you are, Stephen Hawking? Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the world who actually enjoys small talk. I like getting to know people. How people engage in small talk is, I think, one of the most telling things about someone. It shows who they are when they're at their most basic - how they speak, how friendly they are, the level of interest they display, what you can expect from them when you speak again. If someone sucks at small talk, they'll probably suck at more involved conversations, too. And honestly? If someone is going to be a good match as a friend for me, I don't need them to be interesting only when they talk about politics. If they can be fun and interesting while talking about the weather, then they can be fun at any time, too.