There's a certain expectation that many people go off to college with. But all you've known is high school- & college is a whole different world. Maybe you've been looking for articles with tips & tricks to find your best friends on a campus of 200,00+ people. If you just follow everyone's advice, then you'll make some good friends within the first week or so, right? Not necessarily...
Nobody has the same college experience, & I'm here to set the record straight. If you go into college with very specific expectations, you're probably going to end up disappointed. If there's one thing you can expect to experience in college, it's the unexpected.
1. Friendships Can't Be Forced
There's plenty of college advice out there that will tell you exactly how you need to act to increase your chances of making friends. Of course, stepping outside of your comfort zone is super important in college. But there's a difference between stepping outside of your comfort zone & being fake. One of the best ways to make friends that will last is simply being yourself. If you're not super outgoing, or if you have anxiety, you don't have to constantly force yourself to start conversations with strangers. It's not an excuse to avoid meeting people- it's just being honest with yourself.
For the first few weeks of my freshman year, I forced myself to have conversations with tons of people that I didn't really want to talk with. I was trying to follow the advice I had been given, to talk to everyone I could. Here's the thing: it was awkward, it didn't make me any friends, & I hated it. It's good to give people a chance, but it's also important to trust your intuition. If you can't see yourself being friends with that obnoxious LAX bro or the super nerdy engineering major who lives in your hall, there's no need to stress over it. You'll find your people eventually- & patience is key. You probably won't find your one best friend in the first week of college, maybe not even into the first year. Don't stress though, good things take time.
2. There's a Difference Between Acquaintances & Friends
Especially for your first few months at college, there's something far more important than making friends- & it's often seriously undervalued. Making acquaintances is what you should really be focusing on for the first couple of weeks. Need to borrow something from someone in your hall? Acquaintance. Slept through a class, & need the notes? Acquaintance. Got lost looking for a class? Acquaintance. Connections are important in college, & acquaintanceships are what's going to get you through the first few weeks.
An acquaintance is someone who you know, but you don't know. You don't have to feel super close to them, because that's not what they're in your life for. But don't worry, you won't be stuck with only acquaintances for the rest of the year. Acquaintanceship is the first step towards friendship. Becoming acquaintances with someone is like the dating part of looking for a partner. You're not going to like everyone you become acquaintances with, & they'll be stuck in the acquaintance-zone. But those people who make it past the acquaintance-zone are going to be your real friends, as time passes & you get to know each other better.
3. Extracurriculars Are Your Real Best Friend
You might think going out to parties is the best way to meet people, but extracurriculars are the real key to this. Colleges have plenty of events & clubs for students, all catered to different special interests. Extracurriculars are probably the best way to get out of the acquaintance-zone. Go to an extracurricular, & you'll be surrounded by people who have similar interests to you (& no, parties don't count- unless drinking is your only interest). Check out your school's event calendar, & go to events that sound interesting! Join clubs! Don't take on more than you can handle, but be adventurous.
If you find you don't like a club, there's no obligation to keep going. Think of the first few meetings as a test period. As you start seeing the same people around campus at different events, or in your classes, you'll be able to find who you have a lot in common with. See if people want to go grab dinner after a meeting. Again- there's no rush here. Most clubs only meet once a week, which isn't really enough time to get to know people really well. Give it time. When you really start to vibe with people, you'll be able to tell.
4. Don't Expect Too Much From Your Dorm
There's always the possibility that you'll make some great friends with the people in your hall. After all, you literally live with them. But chances are you won't be spending too much time in your dorm, especially with all those extracurriculars you'll be going to. Be friendly with everyone in your dorm. Since you're living there, it's not the place you want to make any enemies. But if you aren't feeling it, you don't have to be super good friends with anyone.
Think about it: there are (probably) thousands of people at your college. Out of those thousands, only a small portion live in your hall. The chances that those are going to be your perfect crowd aren't super high. So don't stress if you feel out of place in your dorm- there's plenty of other people out there you have yet to even meet.
5. Just Be Yourself
It's incredibly cliche advice, but it's also incredibly true. College is a time to discover who you really are, & explore the world around you. Don't let anyone stop you from being yourself- even if they mean well. If you want to try out something new- go for it! Want to get rid of a bad habit- great! The only person who gets to decide what you do & how you act is you, & you can be whoever you want to be.
If you do this, you will find people who become close friends. Don't rush it! Things will happen in time. When it's meant to be, it will. Keep an open mind, & just do your best. It's all you can do.
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- How to Make Friends - The New York Times ›