Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for has come — you’re headed off to college. Once summer ends, you’ll join throngs of other freshmen filing onto campus for the first time to experience life outside of the bubble of home. And while that’s obviously crazy exciting, it’s natural for a persistent worry to nag your brain: How do you make friends in college? Is it easy?
Back home, you lived in the comfort of your friend-circle. Maybe you’ve known your besties most of your life. Or maybe you met them in high school and hit it off. However they came into your world, though, it’s been better for having them there. So, you know you have them to fall back on (some of them might even be going to the same school as you). Still, you want to have the full college experience, and that means making new friends while you’re an undergrad.
But seriously, don’t let this whole college-friends thing stress you out too much. You’ll find it’s way easier than you’re hyping it up to be in your head. To get you off on the right foot, here are a few simple tips for making friends at college.
Attend orientation events
You may be tempted to skip out on orientation and other pre-semester events, and that’s probably because your parents are the ones pushing you to go… with them. Here’s the thing, though: Orientation events are designed to serve as icebreakers. They practically serve freshman friendships up on a silver platter. You might meet someone during a meet-and-greet (that you had totally written off as too nerdy to attend) who will be a friend all four years and beyond. I met my four best friends from freshman year at a dorm hall mixer, and we’re still super-tight all these years later.
Get involved in extracurriculars
Having shared interests with someone could make sparking a connection easier, right? College is full of clubs, activities, and organizations — find one centered on something that excites you and join! You’ll get the chance to spend time with others who have the same passion, meaning you’ve already got a built-in conversation starter. Plus, the fact that most campus extracurriculars are recurring translates into repeated interactions, upping the odds that you’ll build a solid friendship with someone.
Have an open-door dorm
When you live on campus, a ton of social interaction happens organically around the dorm halls. During the first few years, you’ll likely find that loads of people leave their doors open to encourage mingling. It goes without saying you should only do this if (a) your roommate is chill with it and (b) you feel safe doing so. If you do, it sends the signal that you’re approachable and ready to hang with, well, whoever.
Once you’ve met a few friendly faces, you can move from acquaintances to full-fledged friends by creating a weekly hangout opportunity in your dorm. My freshman year, we got takeout and gathered in my room every Thursday to watch our favorite sitcom. Although those nights were pretty low-key (half the time we wore our PJs), they’re some of my favorite memories. Laughing until our stomachs hurt, eating ice-pops out of the mini-fridge after dinner, making plans to meet up the rest of the week — real friendships were forged on those silly sitcom-watching nights.
Eat at the caf
Chowing down on takeout in your dorm is cool on occasion. And, granted, college cafeterias aren’t always known as a mecca for foodies. Having said that, eating in the caf puts you in close proximity to a ton of other students. You might see someone from class who didn’t have a chance to say hi during the lecture. You could bump into someone from your dorm hall who is also looking for someone to sit with. Or, hey, you could just go up to a table of people and ask if you can join them. Food and friendship just sort of go hand-in-hand, you know?
Make “yes” your mantra
Freshman year is full of invitations: to study groups, to parties, to grab a coffee, to hit the beach, to hang out. For real, every day carried the potential for countless invites of all different kinds. Some of these — maybe even many — will fall outside of your comfort zone, and you might be inclined to say “no.” Well, flip the script. Challenge yourself to say “yes” as much as possible during freshman year (within reason and only if you feel safe doing so, of course).
Not only is it totally possible that you’ll make new friends, but you might also discover a passion or skill you didn’t know you had. It’s a win-win! And even if you end up hating whatever activity you said “yes” to, that in and of itself could be something to bond with your new besties over.
Give it time
One of the worst things you can do going into your first year of college is to put a bunch of undue pressure on yourself. This is an adjustment. You’re leaving behind one world and diving headfirst into another. Cut yourself some damn slack. Just because you don’t find your BFF the first week of freshman year doesn’t mean you’re doomed to wander the collegiate earth (aka campus) alone forever.
It may sound like an absolute cliché but, you know, it’s the truth. You can probably tell when someone isn’t being genuine, yeah? So can other people. And if you try too hard or pretend to be someone you’re not, chances are that’s the read the people around you will get. Making true friends happens when you’re first true to yourself.