It should be easier than ever these days to meet new people and connect with social media, texting, and cell phones, but that isn’t necessarily true. In college, you’re surrounded by people your own age, but it can still be difficult to make friends and you might feel bored or lonely at times, especially the first year. My first recommendation will be to put down your phone and look up. Smile and say hi to people you pass on the way to class, talk to the people you sit next to, and ban all electronic device use during meals.
There is plenty of advice out there on “getting involved” and most of it is about joining organizations related to hobbies, your major, sports, service, or religion, so I’m not going to discuss becoming a part of a group.
Instead I want to talk about putting yourself out there, branching out, and really making an effort to turn your college social experience into what you dreamed it would be or perhaps what you never imagined would happen.
College is all about learning, not just in class, but trying things, going to places you’ve never been, eating different foods, and meeting new people. Maybe an organization is going on an outing, sign up and go. Within the first couple of weeks of starting college, I noticed that Campus Crusade for Christ was going to do a ropes course. Even though I knew no one else going, I went and I had fun. I didn’t make any lifelong friends that day and I didn’t even end up belonging to Campus Crusade for long, but, not long after that, I recognized Mark from calculus at one of their meetings and decided to go up and talk to him and we’ve been friends ever since.
If someone invites you to do something, take them up on their offer. At worst you could be bored or discover you’re not good at something. At least you learned something about yourself. At best you could gain a new interest or a new friend. My friend, Jeff, invited me to watch some Monty Python movies with him and his dorm mates. I wasn’t really into those movies, but went anyway and met one of his friends who I ended up dating. You never know what might come from one chance meeting. My parents met in college because my mom fell down the steps and my dad asked her if she was alright. Your uncle and I started hanging out after he invited me to go with him and some other guys to buy a new refrigerator for our research group in grad school. Talk about a boring sounding outing, but we had a good time joking and goofing around in the store.
It’s good to stay linked to friends from high school. They are having the same experiences where ever they went to college and can offer support, but you may already notice that you don’t feel as close as you did when you saw them every day. You might feel jealous when they tell you about the fun they’re having with new friends. Why not go visit them for a weekend and meet these new friends or invite them to visit you and conquer your new world together? I took my sophomore year roommate to visit my best friend from high school and it was awesome. I got to see my friend, bond with my new roommate, meet my friend’s roommates, and my best friend and my roommate really hit it off.
Most importantly, you need to talk to people. Actually talk, not chat or text. I’m not the most social person in the world and I absolutely hate small talk and forced, awkward conversations. My freshman year I decided was going to become more outgoing and made myself start conversations, like the one with Mark. It’s a useful skill to be able to talk to strangers and the more you practice, the better you get. I’ve found that I can usually find common ground with anyone after talking with them for a while. The best way to get there is to ask questions, questions about family, hobbies, pets, TV, sports, music or the easiest college conversation starter question, “What’s your major?”
I hope that my advice and stories give you ideas and hope, if you’re still searching for good friends and a place to belong. The main thing is to be patient and keep trying because it takes time and effort to develop real friendships and begin to feel at home in a new place.