Confession: I thought socializing and making friends in college was going to be easy. I went from elementary to high school with basically the same people, therefore everyone knew everything about me, from my best to my worst moments.
I became the only student from my high school attending Brandeis University -- a place where no one knew who I was. There was no one to spread rumors about my embarrassing middle school stories, and there, I thought, people would (hopefully) be significantly more mature than in high school.
I was wrong. Well, not completely. Brandeis is an incredibly welcoming place, and I now know many circles of amazing people whom I'm lucky to call some of my best friends. But I didn't find the people who I still consider my friends right off the bat. It took time. What made it hard for me, however, was that I constantly worried that it had something to do with me -- when in reality, everyone was experiencing these feelings. Here are some helpful tips I picked up during my freshman year in terms of making friends and getting the most out of my social life:
1. The hard truth
Not a tip, but just a valuable piece of information you need to know: You’re not going to please everyone. Yes, you will find some of your best friends for life, but there are still going to be those people just like in high school whom you can’t seem to please no matter how hard you try. But here's the important part: It says nothing about you or your personality. Remember, life isn’t perfect, and you’re not going to please everyone in life; college isn’t any different.
Don't waste your time stressing out too much over why specific people don't want to be friends with you when there are so many others out there who will appreciate you.
2. Don’t freak out over first-week friendships
It may seem like every college guidebook, every “things I wish I knew before coming to college” article, and every person you ask for college advice on will give you this piece of information -- but I’m going to repeat it anyway: Your friends during the first week, month, or even semester of college are not necessarily going to be your friends for the rest of your time there. That doesn’t mean that you won’t remain friends with any of them -- I still see my first-week friends as some of my most valuable. But, with all the new people you meet and activities you join throughout the year, some of your friendships are bound to change, and that’s completely normal. In addition, don’t stress out during the first week of school when it seems like everyone except you has already formed a group of best friends. Most likely, they’re friends because they haven’t met many people yet, and when they start to expand their social circle, don’t be surprised to see their friendships change, too.
3. Join a club — or two, or 100!
Another thing you may seem to hear a lot in the ways of college advice, but oh-so important -- joining a club is possibly the most beneficial thing you can do in terms of making friends in college. The best way to bond with people is over a common interest -- whether it be Disney, pole-dancing, or anime, Brandeis is sure to have a club where you can meet people who share all of your pleasures. And, not only will you be making friends, but you’re helping other people make friends, too! By showing up to a club meeting, you become a person to be friends with. You’re equally as important to the people in the clubs as they are to you, so please join a club!
4. Eat meals with new people
I’m serious: do not hesitate to go up to a random table in the dining hall and ask the students if you can sit with them. I know I sound crazy -- I can’t just sit down with a group of people I don’t know! They’re already like best friends!
This is not like high school with silently assigned lunch tables ("Mean Girls"). NO ONE knows each other. Maybe a few people who went to the same high school or summer camp, but even those people are not going to college together to continue to be friends with each other. They want to meet new friends as much as you do! I’ve met so many people using this method. Your meal buddies may end up being some of the best friends you make in college -- I mean, what’s a better way to bond than to complain about Sodexo food together? Just kidding, the food is actually fine, but anyway, the dining hall is a fantastic place where friendships can form.
5. Take advantage of social opportunities
If you want to be social in college, one of the worst things you can do is sit in your room surfing the web while there are plenty of social events going on around campus. Not only are you going to have serious FOMO when you look and see all the Facebook pics of these events (especially WHILE they’re going on), but you’re missing out on the perfect opportunity to broaden your social horizons. Definitely take advantage of orientation events -- literally an entire week’s worth of events specifically planned FOR you to meet other people (and you won’t have started classes yet, so no pulling the too-much-homework card)! And beyond that, there are tons of mixers, shows, and all campus social events like Springfest. Of course, there is this important thing in college called homework (big shocker: the point of college is to actually get an education), so if you’re struggling to finish a project due in two hours, you can miss out on an event -- there are always plenty of people who have to miss out on events because of work and other commitments. But if there’s something huge going on, you’re not doing anything productive, and you really want to be around other people -- then get out of your room.
5. …but also value alone time
Although I just said that it’s important to take advantage of social opportunities, that absolutely does not mean that you have to spend every waking second with other people. You’re going to want alone time at some points -- you’re a human being, and you deserve a Netflix binge every once in a while. Believe me, there are going to be days on campus when it seems like none of your friends want to do anything, and it’s not a good idea to disturb them when they just want to be alone. As much as you love your college friends, you’re going to want a break from them sometimes, too. Alone time is valuable -- it helps you find out more about yourself, gives you a sense of independence, and makes you feel more grown-up. I love being around people, but there are still days when I just want to go get my nails done by myself, catch up on some studying at a cafe, or just stay in bed and watch movies all day. By all means take advantage of big events on campus, but don’t constantly worry that by being alone for a few hours there’s going to be some huge event happening that you’re going to miss and hear people talking about for weeks afterward. On days when you don’t feel like doing anything, everyone else most likely feels that way, too.
7. Remember basic social skills
I know this sounds really dumb -- we’re not in kindergarten anymore, right? But going to college is actually kind of a similar concept. Most likely, you’ve gone to school with the same people for the past 13 years, and now you’re going to spend the next four years at a completely new place where you most likely don’t know anyone -- when was the last time you were required to practice your social skills? You’ve probably spent most of your time with friends you’ve known forever and are used to talking to on a daily basis -- now, all of a sudden, you’re placed in a situation where most of your social skills for the first month or so are going to be based around introducing yourself to others, small talk, and making a good impression. Not to mention that, with the geographic diversity of students, there are many different social perceptions and methods or ways of socializing. However, regardless of where you’re from, basic manners never fail to impress -- be polite (obviously), go with the flow of the conversation, and as much as you may be eager to talk about yourself, remember to ask other people questions as well -- everyone is new to each other and equally as anxious to know new people, so they’ll genuinely appreciate it if you show an interest in their life. I know by now I’ve probably started to sound like an elementary school teacher, but honestly, to get close to people, you may have to start by going back to the basics. Follow these steps, and before you know it, you may have found people who you can communicate with like they’re your best friends from home. And remember -- it’s easy to overthink your social actions when you’re trying so hard to impress people, but virtually everyone has the same feelings.
8. Be yourself
Another super obvious one, but this is the most important -- just be yourself. Brandeis is a diverse community full of amazing students of many personalities, and you contribute to that. People want to be friends with you for who you are -- there’s no point in trying to act like someone else, because many people are already friends with that someone else. Do what you want to do, and spend time with people you feel comfortable around. Just be yourself, and eventually you’ll find a group of people who appreciate you for who you are.