The Wallflower’s Guide to Making Friends in College
Making friends is hard. Anyone who says differently is either lying or something of a unicorn in the friendship realm. Even for people who attended the same school since kindergarten find themselves drifting apart from their high school buddies after graduation. When college starts, it really doesn’t matter how big your social circle was before, because you’re starting from scratch now. If you’re a commuter or if you transferred to your school after two years at community college, I’m sorry to say, it’s going to be even harder. But all hope is NOT lost!
First, let’s look at why making friends has gotten so much harder than it used to be…
1. Technology & Social Media: This one is fairly obvious. Everyone is sitting around with their faces in their iPhones and not engaging with real people in the real world. Also, if you make someone mad (even accidentally) it’s all too easy for them to block you…and vice versa. So your friend pool can shrink rather quickly depending on how vocal you are with your opinions. Before social media, friends who disagreed would work it out in person over the next couple of days, or maybe with a phone call. But now, one click and you can block someone from your life forever.
2. Proximity: As young kids, we pretty much befriended whoever sat next to us in class or the other kids on our street. We were always in a sport or some organized activity where peers abounded. The older we get, the more we find ourselves in solitary situations…or at the very least, in groups of total strangers (think public transportation vs. school bus).
3. Romantic Relationships: Once we get a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, or our closest friends do the same, the amount of time spent hanging out drastically reduces down to almost nothing. Then if your girlfriend doesn’t like your buddies, fuhgeddaboudit!
4. Personal Growth: People change. We change…or so we certainly hope we do! I mean, it would be weird if we still had the same obsessions at nineteen that we did at ten, right? So the friends you had in grade school or even high school might now have taken seriously different roads than you. It’s hard to maintain the relationships when you’re all on such diverse trajectories.
So, we now understand some of the BIG reasons it’s harder to make friends by the time we’re in college. Now what?
Here are 7 Ways for Introverts to Make Friends in College
1. STUDY IN COMMON AREAS: It’s tempting as an introvert to hole up in your dorm and study, but if you really want to make friends you shouldn’t do that. Think “bigger picture.” Go to public places on campus (not just the library, either), and go at various times of the day and evening to gauge when the coolest people show up.
2. MAKE CONVERSATIONS, DON’T JUST GIVE ONE-WORD ANSWERS: When someone asks you a question, try not to simply reply, “yes” or “no.” Toss back another question so they’ll be able to engage with you. For example, if someone approaches you and says, “Do you know where the library is at?” Don’t just point them in the right direction. Try something like, “It’s that way, but I’ll show you. I’m actually heading there now.” Then you can chat along the way. If this seems too weird or if it’s someone you can’t see connecting with, then answer their question politely and wait for someone more suitable to come along. But the point is, try to make eye contact, throw in some of your own questions, and be open to possibilities.
3. BE APPROACHABLE: In order for someone to ask you for directions (or anything else), they need to feel like you’re willing to engage. Take off the headphones whenever possible. Stay off your phone for periods of time. Look around. Smile. Think about walking up to someone who has in ear buds, has their hoodie up over their head, and is texting. I guarantee you that is way too intimidating to approach that guy. Look like someone who is ready for a conversation, and I promise you that one will come to you. This works!
4. SAY YES!: This is so much harder than it sounds! I do know that. But, if practiced regularly, has a high success rate in making new connections. If your roommate asks you to go get wings, go to a party, go for a walk, or the gym, say yes! Try this for 30 days. Whatever you get asked to do, simply say yes. You don’t have to love the person doing the inviting. The point is, they know people that you do not. Through him or her, you will inevitably meet others. The easiest thing in the world is to sit and binge Netfix or take a nap rather than be social. I know this firsthand. But it won’t get you what you ultimately want: Great college friends.
5. ATTEND INTEREST EVENTS: You knew I was going to include this. I mean, it’s a no-brainer! It’s probably the single best way to meet like-minded people. So consider joining that club, showing up for that concert, or volunteering for the cause you’re passionate about. This is likely the most effective point on the list because you’re almost guaranteed to meet people you’ll click with, since these are events and organizations you’re excited to attend or join.
6. SOCIAL MEDIA: I know, I knocked it before, but hear me out. If you don’t lose yourself in it, but rather use it as a tool to meet people at your school then it can be very useful. Following new acquaintances and friends will only serve to expand your social circle. Like, comment, and be engaged in conversations to grow your friendships more quickly.
7. MAKE THE FIRST MOVE: I know, I know. This is the introvert’s nightmare. But this is an exciting chapter in your life! Sometimes you need to be bold! It’s totally reactive (Read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey to see why this is a bad thing) to sit alone in your room and expect epic friends to come and knock at your door. Introduce yourself to the people in your dorm or apartment. Strike up a conversation in class. Ask your neighbor to go get nachos or to play a video game. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no? So what! Move on if that happens. It’s definitely not terminal. This is college now, not high school. You’re not a little kid waiting to be picked for dodgeball. You’re a young adult embarking on one of the greatest adventures of your life! Be bold, be brave, be amazing.
P.S. Kudos to you if you knew the featured pictures are from an 80s Brat Pack film called, "St. Elmo's Fire!" Watch if you haven't already.