How to Make Friends in College: 18 Tips for Making Friends in College

Apply to college. CHECK. Get into college .CHECK. Make new friends in college…

This is a box most students want to check, but there are lots of unknowns. Unless you already have friends in college, it’s tricky to know when, where, and how to make new friends in college. Most students get a little panicked when the topic comes up. And most parents don’t know how to respond when they get the “I’m lonely” text or call. Friends in the past have magically just happened. It was a teammate, a classmate, a lab partner, a neighbor, someone in a club or org, a coworker, a friend of a friend, a random kid who you went to school with your entire life. A lot of these friendships formed over five, ten, or fifteen years.

College is different. It’s thousands of new people in a new place going through new experiences. If you’re unsure how friends happen, there is a formula. If you were taking a class titled “Making Friends in College 101”, this would be the equation:

SHARED EXPERIENCES + TIME = NEW FRIENDS

This is the formula you’ve applied to make friends in the past. It’s how you will make friends in the future. The challenge is that you don’t have 15 years of shared experiences. It’s more like 16 semesters or 4 years. But it can be hard to get out and get involved. You have to be willing to get uncomfortable at times. As one student shared with me, first semester he hung out in his dorm room watching Game of Thrones and playing games. The next semester, he was intentional about finding friends. He then played intramural basketball, joined a fraternity, and started to say hi to more people. And he made friends.

What’s your plan for making new friends in college? What’s your child’s plan? What experiences do you want to share with other students? Minimize the risk by finding the kindest, most friendly people. Find groups and organizations that are open access. Find experiences that don’t require applying, auditioning, or being selected. To help you put together a plan, I asked current and recent students the best way to make friends. Using their tips and advice, I’ve put together a list of the best tips for making friends in college

1) Pre-College Programs: Spend time on campus before everyone else arrives. Some schools will offer camping trips,
wilderness adventures, summer workshops, and other activities built around building relationships.

2) Orientation Programs: Go to all of them (even the terrible ones). Talk about how good or bad they are with new potential friends.

3) Living and Learning Communities: Your residence hall is a great way to meet new people that you’ll be around all the time. Find people in your building who may be in some of your classes and make it a point to walk to class together, study together, and eat meals together.

4) Intramurals: Most schools offer a range of sports and activities. If you want to play a team sport, and you don’t have a team, you can ask to be put on one.

5) Gym/Rec Center: If you go to the gym at the same time and the same place, you’ll see the same people over time and can become friends with them. You can also attend on-campus workout classes like cycling or bootcamp classes to meet people with the same fitness interests. Bonus: get a part-time job working the front desk. You will see tons of people.

6) Part-Time Jobs: Work in a high-traffic area like the tutoring center. Become a Resident assistant, work in a coffee shop, be an usher at the performing arts center, work the help desk, or be a campus tour guide. All of these are great ways to make new friends in college and great ways to make money in college, too.

7) Spiritual Groups: Many campuses have spiritual groups that are a great way to meet people with similar beliefs and values as you. Attending one of their events is a low-stakes way to meet new friends.

8) Greek Life: There are fraternities and sororities on many college campuses. They can be social, service, professional, religious, ethnic and honor societies. You typically need to be invited to join, and there are usually membership costs associated.

9) Do homework on campus: Study on campus in open spaces. Keep a regular schedule and you will see some of the same people.

10) Study Groups: Form a group with people from your class. Set up a regular time and meeting place to get together. Make it an open-ended invitation.

11) Clubs and organizations: Try out at least a couple clubs and organizations. Go to meetings for a couple of months. Volunteer or take on a leadership role. Find organizations and clubs with open access.

12) Group Projects & Lab Partners: Look for smaller classes, classes with small groups, and labs. You can meet new friends studying and working together.

13) Sporting Events: Go as part of an organization or group. Report on an event as part of the campus newspaper. Ask your RA to help put a group together. Volunteer and be part of a group that’s involved in events.

14) Stay on campus over the weekends: It’s hard to meet people when you’re not around new people. If you are always at home, you will miss out on meeting new people.

15) Invite Other People to Hangout: If you already have a friend, make it a rule that you will always invite someone new to go with you.

16) Ask friends,parents and family to help you connect with other students: The people you meet will also be looking for friends.

17) Volunteer: Find a campus group or local organization (religious, non-profit, etc.) and volunteer to do some type of service. You will meet other like-minded people while participating in activities.

18) Social media: Tell people what you’re doing and what you want to do. Ask if someone wants to go to the movies, or a play, or to an activity. Just make it open-ended and see what happens next.

The reality of going to college is that the overwhelming majority of students are looking to make new friends. They want to meet you as much as you want to meet them. . If you’re a parent, encourage your child to be patient and get involved. If you’re a student, get involved, be interested, be intentional, and put yourself in places where people can find you and get to know you.