Making Friends in College: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Looking back on my freshman year, one of the things I did not anticipate was how much effort it would take to make good friends. I didn’t know anyone on my first day in high school, but I made great friends right away. I expected new-friend acquisition to be just as easy in college.  That was not the case.

I ended up with a wonderful group of college friends, many of whom I expect to be life-long friends. But finding them took time, energy, and strategy.  Here are my suggestions to help with making friends in college.

Be prepared to JUMP OUT of your comfort zone! I am shy in new situations, so I had to force myself to get out there. The results are worth the effort. Remember that you are not alone in this new experience. Everyone is feeling the same anxiety—adjusting to living away from home, more freedom, and rigorous academics. Reaching out will help you make friends, and adapt to your new, fantastic life in college.

  1. Join a team or club right away. Most colleges offer a ton of extracurricular activities. Pick 2 or 3 clubs or teams and go to their meetings. Make your final selection(s) based on three factors: your interest level, what fits with your schedule and course load, and if the activity affords opportunities to meet a lot of new people. In my case, I loved speech and debate, so I auditioned and made a team at my college that practices 2-3 times every week and travels to competitions at other colleges. It was a wonderful experience, and I made some fabulous friends.
  2. Mix it up at meals. Surprisingly, one of the most stressful parts of college is finding people to eat with. Everyone has a different daily schedule, so you can’t plan on eating with the same people at every meal. Use this as an opportunity to ask different people to eat with you. One day, I’d ask one of my debate teammates, and another I’d ask some kids who lived on my dorm hall. Other days, I would ask kids in class that I had met who seemed nice. By spreading out your meal partners, you meet their friends and expand your social circle. Everyone is feeling the same uncertainty, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  3. Put out your hand. Introduce yourself first in groups. I greet people by saying my name and where I’m from, which is a way to start a conversation. In college, you meet interesting people from all over the U.S. and the world.
  4. Change seats. Statistics show that people tend to sit in the same desk or seat in every class session, which really limits your potential to make new friends. So mix it up and sit in different places. This is a good way to find friends and study partners.