Whether you are just entering college or in your final year, making friends is crucial to your survival and happiness. But in truth, everyone is a little different. Some of us are bold, sociable, and talkative and others of us are shy, prefer more intimate gatherings, and are naturally quieter. There’s no right or wrong way to be, but if you’re nervous about starting a new school or striking up a conversation in a new class, consider a few pieces of advice on how to best make friends in college.
What Kind of Friends are You Looking for?
We all want to have great friendships but keep in mind that there are often different kinds of friendships to consider. You might have deep, super close relationships with a handful of people and others might be more acquaintances or classroom friends. And that’s totally fine! Honestly, do you really have the mental energy or time to manage 15+ close, deep friendships? Probably not.
If you’re new to a school or just looking to expand your circle, remember that there are different types of friends, and starting small and letting them grow (or not) is often the best way to approach things.
Are You an Extrovert or Introvert? (Pick what you are most likely)
Wildly overused and misunderstood terms, after all, most people are not just “one thing” or another, but the understanding of extrovert vs introvert personalities can be useful in a broad sense. So, consider what you are most likely to be comfortable with:
Extroverts: Typically extroverts like to talk things out with others, dive in immediately in social settings, and get energized by being with others. They often enjoy surprises, like public acknowledgment or the spotlight, enjoy working within a group, and can be great speakers.
Introverts: According to Introvert, Dear, introverts are usually those “who prefer calm, minimally stimulating environments." In many cases they prefer to be alone with their thoughts, think things through before they speak, and get energized by being alone. They often prefer advance notice of changes, like to get feedback in private, work better alone, and are often great writers.
A Bit of Both: Keep in mind that rarely is anyone just an introvert or just an extrovert. Most people are a mix of both traits. But consider which elements or groups you might favor the most, especially within the context of social settings.
Making Friends as an Extrovert
- For those who live on campus:
Use your dorms to your advantage, especially in the beginning! It's more common/expected to be meeting others and introducing yourself at the beginning rather than 3 weeks after moving in. So seek out new friends and make introductions early and often – it's just easier that way.
- Join Organizations/Clubs:
Organizations use the beginning of the year to recruit students (some of them are even PAID)! If you enjoy being a team player or working in groups, my advice is to pick an academic organization and a fun one. Look for things that spark your interest one way or another. Trying to look for that thing you’ve always wanted to try or explore.
- Introduce Yourself to Others – Especially the Studious Ones:
Here's a little secret: most “smart” people never stop studying. People go to college for all different kinds of reasons but those who are really serious about their grades can often be found in the first rows in class, studying in the library, or even in quiet study. These aren’t exactly “happening” places but if you’re similarly interested in finding friends who take their schoolwork seriously, take notice of whom you see around you in these study zones.
For example, last semester of my junior year, I went to the library every day after class because I was taking calculus and accounting in the same semester. Every day I saw the same girl sitting in the same place every time. I went and walked up to her, and just broke the ice by saying “ I see that you’re in the library every day, why is that”? She said, “Well, I am a teaching assistant for almost all of the calculus department here at FAU, so I have to get ahead of the lessons before professors teach in the lectures”. I joined her every day in the library and I passed calculus with a B+. If you’re an extrovert use your powers to introduce yourself and chat, even in the “quieter” settings.
Making Friends as an Introvert
- Begin with Your Teaching Assistants:
People who identify as more introverted often favor advance notices of changes and prefer feedback in private. So, take advantage of a ready-made resource – your TA’s. For some, the idea of “TA” conjures up the idea of graduate students or professors themselves. Not always the case. Many TAs are simply students who took the class before and did very well. If you’re looking for a comfortable place to start making potential friends, check out who your TAs might be. It’s a smart decision regardless, to get to know people who have the ability to help you pass your classes and you might find out you have more in common than just the class material.
- Seek out Group Gatherings and Events
For introverts, groups can sometimes feel like a big headache, but they can make it easier to speak to others or be spoken to. Try participating in events like breakfast at midnight or marathons or other group events with a specific or regular meeting. Since most events have a theme or purpose it’s easier to break the ice since you have something to talk about.
- Patience & Make an Effort
Making friends can be frustrating when you’re not naturally outgoing, but, be patient. Remember college is a pretty new place for everyone and we’re all just trying to fit in and make friends. People are naturally awkward and cautious in new situations, so you might need to put in a little more effort when someone tries to connect with you, especially in the first few days. Even if you find yourself needing to take a break and relax, make sure to reach back out to people. Often, introverts can be mistaken as “aloof” or uninterested in further interactions. Take their numbers down and proactively reach back out or seek out communal activities people are attending – even if it’s a little tiring.
Keep in mind, people rarely fit neatly into one category or another. Many of us fall somewhere in between extrovert and introvert. So, take a long look at what types of interactions you’re most comfortable with and the advice that makes sense for your personality. Find out who you are and once you understand that, you will know what you are willing to tolerate and what level of interaction serves you best to make new friends. Now that you know yourself, be yourself. No matter which college you go to, there will be people who share your interests and personality.