How To Make Friends in College

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’m one of those people that are so outgoing in college it might weird a few folks out. During my time in school, I have realized that a fair amount of people are not naturally this way. That is in respect to meeting new friends just for the heck of it. This has been progressively discovered by the fact that around 90% of the time I will ask one friend if they know another person. Then they will shake their head and remind me that not everyone is me and constantly trying to meet new people. I was not motivated to write this because I want other people to be exactly like me either, that would be crazy. Sometimes I even drive myself nuts. I wrote this because you never know where you will meet that really good friend or group of really good friends unless you throw yourself out there. So for everyone still looking for their niche of people or gung-ho on doing it when you get to college, this is for you.

There are three important categories for getting into good ol’ human interaction, and they are showing up, talking, and engaging. It sounds simple enough, but sometimes a few suggestions on where to start and carry out the sub-categories can help, so hopefully what I have here will suffice for your needs. Now a few of these items might violate your internal “be yourself” mentality at some points, and I would not encourage you not to be. However, try weighing how important it is to be part of a group of people versus a lone wolf and you will quickly answer your own question. A strong network of friends is almost crucial to succeeding unless you’re a super maverick or something. The beauty of there being multiple ways to make friends, though, is that if one group of people is not working out, you are not automatically outta luck.

 

  • Show Up: They say 80% of success is showing up, and here it’s, er, more like 33% across the board for each major bullet. But in certain instances, just throwing yourself in a room does help if there is a nut job like me in it who is gonna try talking to you whether the shy meter reads 0 or 100. We have thrown together a list of all of the locations which you can use to make a presence and get to know a few people in college, followed by breakdowns of how to talk and act with each place to fit in.
  • Dorm room everyone hangs out in
    • Where’s the first place they slap all the freshman together in for the first week of college? THE DORM! You have just been aggregated (big ol’ fancy word, I know) in a building with a bunch of other people who are as nervous as you are. Don’t hesitate to convince your roommate that the two of you should keep your door open. As well as that, just roaming around looking for other open doors is a great thing to do in the first week of school as a freshman. Back in my day, we were lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you put it) enough to be living in the only quad our building had. As a result of this, we pretty much had our door open 24/7 as long as someone was there, and we never had a scarcity of people. I can tell ya that. Ours was not the only room, though, and there was typically one “hangout room” per floor that everyone would congregate to. Bear in mind these rooms are not big, considering all but ours and one triple were only doubles. It worked, though, and I imagine it will not be much different for your college either.
  • Campus Event: There are so many different types of these I could not just say generically that going to a campus event is a great thing to do. So we got some sub-sub groupings here, yea!
    • Convo hour
      • The hour of conversation, as they say. At my school this was always on Tuesdays and Thursdays from, I wanna remember, 11:00 am to 1:30 pm. This may be called something else where you go, but basically, it is a time when classes do not take place and a lot of the clubs around campus get together to do their thing. Chances are if you live and breathe, you also have some interests. That being said, it is a perfect time to float around campus looking for a club or meeting that peaks those interests. If you can track one down, you can bet your ass that there will be a handful of people there to bond with over the common subject matter.
    • Night time events
      • College social coordinators love to host ice-breaker events at night. Mixers, movies, and trivia nights have been common where we were, and each was pretty enjoyable once in awhile. The trivia was a little boring but hey, a lot of free food would be given away at those. Fortunately, there was never a rule that you had to stay after taking some.
    • Sporting events
      • At most every college I can think of with an inkling of fun in their student body, sports are big. Typically, football games have the best fan sections it seems like. Unless you go to a D1 school, in which case hockey games might be the most fun. Gonna go with football for my final answer, though. I talked to a guy once at an internship I did, probably in his late 40’s, who told me a great bonding experience story about a D1 college game he attended. In short, they enrolled the help of a student’s wheelchair bound mother and hid a keg under her chair covered in blankets to sneak it in. If shenanigans like that did not bring people closer together as friends, I don’t know what would. Go to the games, they’re worth it.
  • Eating
    • Last I checked people do need to eat, right? Sooo when it’s chow time, go find the R.A. and convince them that you wish the entire floor could go and eat together. It’s a sure fire way to start great traditions with the people you live near. If that plan doesn’t pan out, and this is really a “you need to be insane to do this” one, but you should take a look around the building at dinner and just see if you can tag along into groups on their way to the cafeteria already.
  • Exercising
    • Most schools have gyms that get very underused. That might be a little too aggressive to say, but in my experience it is true. Plenty of people sporadically go, so try to catch others on your floor on their way there and have a workout group. I don’t know about outright approaching someone at the gym and asking if they want to lift with you, but I do know that the majority of people in there are friendly. Nervous about going alone for the first time? You shouldn’t be. Most people in there are trying to better themselves, and if you are clearly a beginner, someone might even reach out and give advice.
  • Church events
    • If you go to a school with some religious identity, there will probably be weekly church related activities. The only reason I decided to make this one separate from all campus events is because not every school has these things. The one I went to did have that stuff, and I explored a weekly activity a small bit my freshman year. It was a fun time, had a good message, and I met a person or two who I still hang around with even today.
  • Class
    • What was the reason you even came to college again? Oh yea, to learn! Through all the crazy extracurriculars, you better get to class. Too much skipping, and no matter how many friends you have, they can’t save you from the enrollment chopping block. With the various group-based work you will have opportunities to do, you will for sure meet a few people through this avenue.
  • Work
    • In the beginning of college, I needed to take a campus call center job that on paper looked pretty crappy. By doing so, it would be easier to get shifts where I actually wanted to work since I would be in the payroll system already. What wasn’t on the signup sheet for this was the people. They were awesome! Employing about 50 callers in this group, we also saw a high turnover. This meant that there would typically be a handful of new faces every semester or even every couple weeks to make the phone calls. I made more friends there than I could count, and after leaving for the job I wanted, continued to hang out with a lot of them too. A college job is not just about the money, remember that now.
  • Party
    • This is easily the most difficult place to put yourself without knowing anyone beforehand. If you are able to meet someone via one of the other options listed, attending a party with them will definitely enhance your friendship. Just don’t be dumb and end up in trouble with the law when out on the booze cruise at a party. Although that might make you more famous among peers, who knows.
  • Talk: Look, to be honest, a fair amount of what I am about to say here might just be common sense. On the other hand, if you really do not know what to say in any of the aforementioned social situations, you REALLY don’t want to be that creepy person floating around in the corner. If you that, you may carve out a reputation for yourself which can spread very quickly. Just know, you need to be able to interact with others in whatever setting you find yourself. Otherwise, you might as well not be there.

Don’t be a quiet Cole from the Sixth Sense.

  • Dorm room everyone hangs out in
    • Sense the tone. This is key. Try not to be easily offended. This is where the lewdest of the lewd things could be said. Not always, but sometimes. Don’t make a face and walk out, unless you really can’t take it whatever the topic of conversation may be. In a guys dorm, expect sports and women. That may sound cliche, but it’s more than likely. Just try talking the talk as best as possible. If you really have trouble at first, give your neighbors at least a few weeks before deciding you hate them. Chances are you won’t.
  • Campus Event: Convo Hour
    • Depending on what you do with that time of the day, you will probably find yourself at a meeting of some kind. Just make sure it is one you care about and know the subject matter of, or at least want to. I’ve gotten the glare from people a time or two when I’m just there to scrounge for free food. The old glare stare.
  • Campus Event: Night Time and Sports
    • Common sense ahead. Look, if you go to the trivia night or whatever, talk about what is happening there and now. At a game, even if sports aren’t necessarily your thing, cheer your butt off. Unless everyone is super, super, plastered already. Then I suppose you can get away with standing there motionless in a student section. Ya still shouldn’t.
  • Eating
    • So eating can be interesting. Lately, from what I have observed, there will be three scenarios. Everyone talking, no one talking or a mixture. If you happen to live around people who value good meal conversation, then for God’s sake do not pull a cell phone out and start playing Clash of Clans or Rock of Ages whatever craze is taking smart phones by storm at the moment. Unless everyone you want to be friends with is more on the introverted side and all pull their smart phones out to start messing around while eating. If it is a mixture, I would highly advise keeping it in your pocket and doing your best to be part of what small bit of conversation there is. Bring some interesting story with you or talk about some crazy thing you saw on the internet. That may lead to a phone or two out, but only briefly to see it and facilitate more talking.
  • Exercising 
    • Some people love to talk in the gym, and some absolutely hate it. I am personally on the latter end, although once in a while I don’t mind getting sucked into a 15-minute conversation if I am not crunched for time. My rule of thumb is that if someone has headphones in and unless you really need a spot, they are probably very zoned in and would rather not be talked to. This could still be the case if they don’t have ear buds in as well, though. To play it safe, the gym should not be a place to make random conversation with people.
  • Church Events
    • The great thing about these is they are typically very well structured and it doesn’t take much to pick up on the right thing to say. The one I went to for a bit in college mainly consisted of us hearing a talk, then getting in small groups to discuss our interpretations of Bible passages and what not. As long as you are honest and say something to the extent of how whatever it is you’re talking about brings you closer to God/strengthens your faith/ personal struggles that the subject in question relates to, you will fit in pretty well.
  • Class
    • This one’s older than dirt, but answering questions will get you noticed by people. Just make sure not to go overboard and field too many questions, or you will be that know-it-all in class that no one likes. You really need to push it for that, though. If you have a lot of classes like I have had in college where hardly anyone talks, this would probably never be a realistic concern. Be observant, though.
  • Work
    • What you can talk about at an on-campus (or really most minimum wage jobs) really comes with the territory. Always wait for your higher-up to breach a certain threshold of subject matter before you do. Either that or just observe them for awhile and see if their interests indicate that they would not be put off by certain things that may be questionable. A great example is a student-manager I had one time where they were always watching a showing on their laptop. This show was the crass and hilarious (to guys) Trailer Park Boys. Knowing he liked watching a show with excessive language and lewd behavior gave me the go-ahead to talk about that show with other employees and drop the occasional dirty joke. Once you know you are in the clear with your boss, I would say it is safe to test the waters when speaking with co-workers. Depending on how open people are, you should be able to find out quickly which people you can say whatever with and which you really can’t. The campus work positions I have done almost always end up being very social, which is fantastic. Hopefully, yours are too.
  • Party
    • Tough to get there, but once you are in a party, making conversation is easier than most places. The majority of people will be drinking, and because of that you can literally walk up and speaking total gibberish to a person then mutter something about the booze getting to you. Don’t do that. But do feel comfortable, because you can more or less turn and just start talking to someone if you want and write off anything awkward that is said as the booze’s fault. Try not to be too weird about hitting on women.
  • Engage: The final piece of the puzzle for making friends wherever you are. Here are some basic but important tips on what to do once you’re in a place and interacting with those around you instead of getting sucked into your phone.

Get jiggy wit it.

  • Dorm room everyone hangs out in
    • Play the game or whatever is being done to pass the time. Using a phone is acceptable if everyone else is, but remember it should not always be out with your eyes glued. Even if it’s a movie, be present and pay attention. You would hate to be in any number of situations after a movie and when it comes up in conversation not being able to discuss it at all.
  • Convo Hour, Night Events, and Sports Events
    • Going to something you know you will enjoy is paramount here. Whether it is a club, trivia, or being part of a fan section, you will need to be able to follow along with what is happening. To do that, you need to have interest. Unless of course, you are willing the manufacture fake interest in the name of making friends there. Even if you just pretend at first, you may begin to enjoy the subject matter gradually. Give new things a chance.
  • Eating
    • Manners. It probably sounds silly, but make sure you are eating properly while with a new group of people or even just one person. The last thing you want is a reputation as a messy eater. It is doubtful that something like that would socially sink you, but it won’t help. No elbows on the table, take manageable bites, no phone unless circumstances permit, and don’t take way more food than you can actually eat.
  • Exercising 
    • Before going to work out, know what you will be doing. You can get away with standing around on your phone for a little while, but the regulars will eventually start to notice. Plus, you might even start to get in shape a little bit, which is nice. Although I do recommend leaving people alone in there, politely asking someone for advice when appropriate will pay dividends for learning to do stuff. You wanna do stuff.
  • Church Events
    • Being respectful here is a big one. It can be very easy for some people to make fun of church stuff, although in the moment I have heard it is pretty uncomfortable. Some guys I knew in high school decided to go jokingly take one of those Scientology personality tests once. It was all fun and games until they were actually in there. Then it was like alright, these folks take what they do very seriously, let’s not be jerks. They promptly high-tailed it outta there. If what you decide to try isn’t for you, just be as polite as possible if asked to come back and hope for the best.
  • Class
    • Take notes, pay attention, and people will want to work on group projects with you in college. This will in-turn lead to a few out of class friendships, or at least a party invite in some cases. Build on it from there.
  • Work
    • Be able to do the job, basically. I have had a handful of people at both jobs I did in college who show up and literally couldn’t do the damn job correctly. Whether it is lacking initiative or what, I have seen plenty of people mope through or not pay attention enough at shifts for easy jobs and it makes me wanna throw up. Not only does that damage your reputation with the boss there who might know others around campus, people will remember you as “that person”. If you really cannot do a job, have an honest conversation with the boss and tell them your feelings and why. Trust me, they will be professional about it. If they’re a dick just report them to their boss after quitting, but don’t drag yourself out doing a terrible job until it’s firing time. You don’t want that.
  • Party
    • Careful with underage drinking, getting caught will slow your life down. Not end it by any means, but still. If you make a new friend who is looking to hookup, try your best to refrain. About 100% of drunk hookups I have heard of (except one that lead to a marriage, lol) end badly. You’ll find yourself looking the other way when you see those people around campus. Don’t believe me? Just wait. Don’t get belligerently drunk either. It might earn you a few friends for the night, but if you can’t remember their names and faces then what the hell’s the point?

If you want the “too long didn’t read version,” be aware of your surroundings and constantly be wary of the type of person you intend to form a bond with. Throw yourself out there and you’ll do alright with friends in college, but you gotta throw yourself into the wild first.

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About the Author

Buck
College knowledge and stuff.