Growing up, making friends isn’t necessarily a conscious decision. For many, friends were the people who lived next door or the kid who happened to sit next you in Maths.
Suddenly, you’re at university or college and feeling like you’ve got to start fresh. Even if you come to study with friends, this is the best time to branch out and meet new people and make some lifelong friendships along the way.
At the same time, there’s so much pressure to meet those 'forever' friends at uni or college. And while this can happen, it’s important to remember that meaningful relationships can take time to develop. 🧑🏻🤝🧑🏽
So, what do you do? Do you go up to someone and ask if they can be your friend? Probably not the best strategy.
Here are 10 ways to make meaningful friendships at uni or college:
Note: If you’re a mature student, the challenges of making friends while studying might be slightly different, but these tips may still apply depending on your situation.
Societies are one of the best and easiest ways to make friends at uni or college. Generally, there will be society fairs or booths during Freshers Week where you can check out all the societies on campus. But, if Freshers Week has already passed, societies should be listed on your Students' Union website.
Whether you’re into sports, photography, wine tasting or something else, there’s a society for pretty much all interests which means they’ll lead you to meeting like-minded people!
Hot tip: taking on a role within a society can be an easier way to make friends. You have an ‘excuse’ to chat with the other members since you’ll have a particular role within the society. Also, try to go to as many of the meetings or events as possible early on - the first meet-ups are when people are more likely to form friendships.
Go to the same places often (aka ‘frequency friendships’)
According to Psychology Today, the ‘the friendship formula’ is as follows: Friendship = Proximity x (Frequency + Duration) x Intensity. (Kind of like sitting next to a kid in Maths.) So, park yourself up in a common area, coffee shop, library, rinse and repeat. 🚿
The more often you go to the same places, the more likely you are to bump into the same people. And while it might not be easy to approach someone out of the blue, you might find you naturally begin to strike up a conversation.
Join Facebook groups
Many unis and colleges have Facebook groups for students in your program or year. Join these groups to find out what’s happening on campus and more. You can even say hello with an ‘intro’ post (who you are, what you’re studying, what kinds of things you’re interested in) and put it out there that you’re looking to meet people!
Facebook groups are a great way to ask questions, plan meet-ups or just get to know potential friends. You can usually find them by searching your university or college’s name in the search bar, or check on your Students’ Union website.
Take charge of organising social events / study groups
Taking the initiative to organise social events is one of the most surefire ways to make friends at uni or college. While this option might be for the more extroverted types, introverts can also take charge for different types of events. For example, you could organise a study group, book club or writing group. These are often easier to initiate because you’ve got a topic to chat about - then, it can lead to socialising afterwards.
If you’ve joined Facebook groups, you can post about your event there to get people involved. Or consider creating a WhatsApp group chat for your program, uni or college.
Find sober (ish) activities
One of the biggest parts of uni and college life can be the drinking culture - and while a few shots of tequila might make you bond faster, boozing doesn’t always lead to lasting and meaningful friendships.
Look also for non-drinking related activities to do on campus. These could be sports or societies for hobbies like crochet, painting or coding. If you find people with something in common, it can be much easier to strike up a conversation and bond. Connecting over food - like a potluck where everyone brings their own dish to the meal - is also a fun, sober (ish) activity to do - and it gives people the chance to share food from a diversity of cultures. 🥘
Talk to someone in your lecture
Lectures are a natural place to form friendships. As the ‘friendship formula’ states: Proximity x (Frequency + Duration) x Intensity = Friendship. The people in your lectures are the ones you’re likely to see the most often.
So, why not go a few minutes early and start a conversation with the person sitting next to you? If you’ve got a study group, this can be a great way to invite people to join since you’re doing the same course.
(Plus, if you can’t make it to a lecture one day, it always helps to have a friend who can lend you their notes - it’s a win-win.)
Keep your door open
If you live in halls, leave your door open when you're in your room. Maybe turn on Spotify to give people a reason to pop in for a chat. If someone else has their door open, you can go in and say hello too - it’s often a sign that they’re open to socialising.
Of course, safety is key. So, if you don’t feel super comfortable with your neighbours (or it’s nighttime 😴), close up and lock up.
Go outside your comfort zone
Making friends often requires stepping outside the comfort zone. While this can be hard - especially if it’s not in your nature - the more you do it, the better you get at it. It's kind of like taking a cold shower in the morning (but hopefully slightly less painful).
And getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be radical - it can be attending a new event or doing an activity you wouldn't typically consider. You never know where you might meet someone when you try something new.
Plus, people are drawn to openness and confidence. Simply taking a risk may show others you’re someone they’d like to be around.
Be an engaging conversationalist
Great friendships start with great conversations. It’s one thing to make the move and approach someone, but it’s another to make a good impression and solidify the relationship. Conversation skills don’t stop at the first interaction - knowing how to actively listen, share and be open and vulnerable are the keys to lasting friendships.
Here are a few tips for effective communication:
Skip the small talk: At uni and college especially, it’s easy to have the same conversations over and over. Try asking unique questions that make the other person feel seen and heard.
Be open: Be willing to share your thoughts and feelings.
Be authentic: Be yourself; authenticity is the key to genuine connections (often, people can tell right away when you’re being disingenuous).
Ask lots of questions: Show interest in others by asking open-ended questions - they will feel like you are genuinely interested in them as a person.
Body language: Maintain good eye contact, smile and use body language to show you’re open and engaged.
Remember names: When you remember someone’s name, it shows that you were listening. It’s those small acts that help build relationships over time.
Remember specific details: Take note of people's interests, birthdays, or other personal details. It shows that you genuinely care.
Lastly, be kind (to others & yourself!)
Kindness always goes a long way. Whether that’s as simple as opening the door for someone or making a coffee for your neighbour - it can have a lasting impact. ☕
While it’s important to be kind to others, it’s almost just as important to be kind to yourself. Making friends at uni or college can take time. It doesn’t always happen right away for a lot of people. Have compassion for yourself and acknowledge there’s a lot going on in your life when you’re starting this journey.
And remember that most students are in the same situation as you - so they are (likely) wanting to meet new people, too.
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