How to Make Friends at College: 30 Tips for Meeting People & Overcoming Shyness
Last Updated February 12, 2020
Many students just like you want to know how to make friends at college. After all, having no friends in college is often one of the biggest worries related to going to school. You are taking a step into the unknown, and you want to be sure that you can find some good friends along the way. A lot of people will tell you that college can be an easy place to meet people. But it's not always that simple, especially if you are a bit shy or feel a little socially awkward.
The reality is that college can actually offer a lot of opportunities for meeting people. You may need to work on certain skills and step outside of your comfort zone, but, in doing so, you could end up making friends in college that become friends for life. So figuring out how to meet people in college could certainly be worth the effort.
During the first few weeks after school starts, a lot of students feel nervous, overwhelmed, and even a little awkward. So you can rest assured that you are not alone with those feelings. They give you something in common with many of your peers. You are all transitioning into this new phase of your lives together, and the fact is that finding college friends will likely be a lot easier than you realize. You probably have better social skills and more lovable traits than you give yourself credit for, and college gives you an opportunity to bring those traits and skills forward to let them shine.
Once you get through the first month or so of school, you will probably look back and wonder why you worried so much about how to meet new people in college. To start easing some of that anxiety right now, check out the 18 tips below that can help you develop an impressive social life. And check out 12 additional tips for overcoming shyness. Even if you feel that high school was a struggle, you don't have to go from saying, "I have no friends in high school" to "I have no friends in college."
1. Get a head start before school even begins. Check with your school and find out if there are orientation or information sessions taking place before classes start. If there are, then make sure you attend them. You could meet other students who are taking the same program or some of the same classes as you. You might end up meeting people in college before school is even in session.
2. Visit the campus before classes start. If you don't attend an orientation or on-campus information session, then make arrangements to self-tour the campus prior to your program starting. You can become familiar with the campus' layout, find out where your classes are being held, and discover gathering spots and social spaces. Doing so can help alleviate your overall anxiety of starting something new. And it may give you opportunities to help other students who are not familiar with the campus.
3. Check Facebook for any school-related groups. Many schools, along with their program departments, have Facebook pages or groups that you can join, which means that you could start connecting with future classmates online before school starts. There could even be conversations about upcoming events or student gatherings that you could attend.
4. Participate in all of the freshmen events that you can. A lot of colleges and universities offer events during the first week that are geared toward first-year students, also known as freshmen. Despite what you may have learned from the movies, not all freshmen events involve parties and drinking. Regardless of the focus of the event, they can all be helpful for meeting new people and reducing your worries about how you will make friends in college. You may have to attend events that you would not normally go to, but doing so can be well worth it and can provide you with experiences that you will only have once in your life.
5. Meet people in residence. You may not realize that the answer to how you can make friends in college lies within your dorm room, or at least within your residence hall. You should make an effort to get to know the people who are staying on the same floor as you. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to your fellow college students as you bump into them in the halls. And be sure to spend some time hanging out in the common areas and even checking out what is happening on other floors.
6. Hang out on campus regularly if you do not live in residence. If you don't live on campus, or your campus does not offer housing, then spend some of your free time mingling on campus instead. Hang out in common areas and busy public spaces. Look for people that you recognize from your classes and ask to sit with them. Some people experience trouble making friends in college when they do not live on campus, but you can easily address that concern by maintaining a presence when your classes are not in session.
7. Study and do your homework in common areas and public spaces, at least some of the time. You will, of course, have times when you need to retreat to your dorm room or the library in order to study hard and complete projects. But other times, you can turn the process into a bit of a social event and create opportunities to develop some college friendships.
8. Get involved. If you are concerned that you are going to be the one saying, "I don't have friends in college," then reduce your chances of that happening by getting involved in activities around the campus. Check out what kinds of clubs, groups, sports teams, and volunteer opportunities are available. Pick something that relates to your current talents or opt for an activity that you have always been interested in but have never done. You will enjoy yourself and probably find some new friends in the meantime.
9. Attend as many school-related events as you can. Even if there is an event going on that you are not particularly interested in, you could still go and end up having a great time making friends. You may not think that attending a football game or going to open mic night is something that you would enjoy, but, more often than not, those kinds of events have a strong social aspect to them.
10. Arrange a study group. If you are wondering how to make more friends in college, then you may want to consider starting a study group, or even a couple, depending on how many different courses you are taking. It is a great way to connect with other like-minded students while strengthening your learning.
11. Organize a student event. Talk to your school's students' association and find out if you can organize a student event like a bake sale, clothing swap, or arts and crafts fair. You can help out your classmates while getting to know them. Plus, you could gain some valuable organizational and leadership skills.
12. Join a fraternity or sorority. If your school has fraternities and sororities (and you have the time and interest), then you may want to consider becoming a member. By getting accepted into a fraternity or sorority, you are almost instantly welcomed into a large group of people that often become your companions.
13. Find an on-campus job. Working at a place like the bookstore or coffee shop can be a great way to start making new friends in college. An on-campus job can offer you the opportunity to meet people almost daily, and those same people may recognize and approach you in other settings around campus.
14. Work as a teacher's assistant or tutor. When you work as a teacher's assistant or as a tutor, you get to meet with students one-on-one or in small group settings to help them with their studies. And as you get to know them, you could develop new friendships.
15. Pick socially geared electives. If your program includes electives (which are typically general interest courses not directly related to your studies), then you should consider choosing classes that provide more social interaction with your peers. Courses like art, dance, music, philosophy, psychology, and theater can all provide the potential to build relationships and develop friendships.
16. Use the school's gym. If you are curious about how to make new friends in college, then you may want to spend some time using your school's gym. Not only can you meet people, but you can also take care of your own health and improve how you feel overall.
17. Make yourself approachable. This is an important one. The more approachable you appear, the more likely people are to take the time to stop and talk to you. Instead of rushing around between classes, take a moment to slow down and relax a little. Put your phone down, smile, and make eye contact with people. And always do your best to be friendly and helpful. These small things can help send out a positive vibe that attracts people to you.
18. Strike up a conversation any chance you get. In any setting where it is appropriate to do so, start a conversation with the person next to you. Whether you are waiting for class to start, standing in line at the cafeteria, or standing in the elevator, you should take every opportunity possible to talk to other people. Of course, you are not going to make friends with every single person you meet or talk to, but the more that you interact, the more likely you are to find a handful of people who will turn into good friends.
Tips for Overcoming Shyness
Wondering if it can be easy to make friends in college can be stressful for those who are shy. Your shy nature can mean that it takes you some time to open up. You may even feel some level of social anxiety when it comes to facing new people and experiences. But if you focus on letting your personality shine, you can easily make friends in college classes. You certainly don't have to end up in a situation of having no friends in college simply because you are shy!
A big part of overcoming shyness and social anxiety is building your confidence and believing in yourself. Below are 12 tips that can help you feel less shy so that you can start making college friends a little more easily.
1. Believe in yourself. This is an important step in reducing shyness. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies, and we let the negative voices take over in our heads. Instead, focus on giving yourself positive self-talk and pushing out the negative thoughts. Continually tell yourself that you are confident, friendly, and likeable.
2. Stop worrying about what others think. Along with believing in yourself, you also likely need to stop worrying about what other people might be thinking of you. Because odds are that they are not thinking those things at all. We often tend to worry about things that are not even on other people's minds.
3. Identify your strengths and remind yourself of them often. Sit down and write a list of all of your positive qualities. You can even enlist the help of a close friend or family member to help come up with those traits that you may not be thinking of or may not even be aware of. Then keep that list and review it often. Reminding yourself about all of the great things that you have to offer can really help you build up your confidence.
4. Visualize yourself being confident in situations where you would normally retreat into shyness. Visualization is a powerful tool. Close your eyes and picture yourself in a scenario where you would not engage due to feeling shy. Then, in your mind, picture yourself acting confident instead. Doing this often can help you be confident when you are in one of those situations.
5. Act confident. You have probably heard the expression "fake it until you make it." Well, that rings true when it comes to acting confident. Even if you feel like you want to run away and hide in a certain social situation, you should always act confident. Practice good posture and positive body language. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders, smile, make eye contact, and don't cross your arms in front of you. And avoid things like checking the time, tapping your feet, sitting on the edge of your chair, or looking at the ground. By acting confidently, people will likely become more interested in you. As a result, you will naturally start to feel more confident on the inside.
6. Practice speaking clearly. This point is almost as important as acting confidently. If you are shy, then you may not realize that you are mumbling or speaking too quietly when someone is talking to you. That can result in people having to ask you to repeat yourself, or they may give up on talking to you altogether. So when you have time to yourself, practice talking clearly, loudly, and at a good pace that is not too fast. You can show others that you are thoughtful and well-spoken, both of which are great qualities to have when trying to make friends in college.
7. Think up several ways to start and end conversations. When you are shy, beginning and ending conversations can feel extremely awkward. So it can be really helpful if you start preparing for those situations in advance. Even write your ideas down and make a list that you can refer to before heading out into a social setting. Some tips for starting conversations include asking people for their opinions, recommendations, or advice. Try to ask them open-ended questions that can keep the conversation going. And have some good exit strategies for ending conversations as well. It can be as simple as saying, "It was great meeting you. I hope that you have a good night." Or try something like, "I see my friend Jane has arrived. I am going to go say hi. It was great talking to you."
8. Brush up on current events and some talking points prior to going out. This relates back to the previous point of thinking up ways to start conversations. Before you go on an outing, check out the top news stories, the latest current events, new movies and music, and any other happenings that are on the lighter side. Having some basic knowledge of what's going on in the world around you can provide you with talking points when you are out interacting with new people.
9. Enlist backup from an outgoing friend. This is the same idea as having a wingman or wingwoman on the dating scene. If you have an outgoing friend who has no problem meeting other people, then ask for his or her help. Your friend can introduce you to other people, start conversations, and even save you if you end up in a situation that starts to feel awkward.
10. Set small goals every day. Overcoming shyness is not something that you can just do in a day or two. It will take some work and commitment, and it can be helpful if you set small goals to achieve every day. If you struggle to smile and make eye contact with strangers, then set a goal to do that at least three times every day. If you commute on public transportation, then set a goal of striking up a conversation with at least one person every time you ride. Doing so can really help you build your confidence and combat your feelings of shyness.
11. Make a list of specific situations that make you feel overly shy. You can likely think of a number of situations that bring out your shyness or social anxiety. Sit down and make a list of all of those moments. Then, order that list from the least stressful to the most stressful. Once you have done that, start working through the list one item at a time, starting with the least stressful. For example, if you avoid getting to class too early so that you don't have to talk to the people beside you, then challenge yourself to arrive a couple of minutes early and talk to your classmates.
12. Let it go. Whether you feel shy or are one of the most confident people out there, you are going to have bad moments where you say the wrong thing or drop food on your shirt in front of a room full of people. Those moments happen to everyone, and the best thing you can learn to do is let it go. Shake it off, move on, and don't let it make you retreat back into your shyness.
Expand Your Personal and Professional Talents
College is all about fulfilling your potential. By learning how to make friends at college, you can also learn a lot about yourself, bring out the most positive parts of your personality, and build an amazing social circle—all while obtaining a quality education.
Now that you're likely feeling less concerned about how to meet people in college, it's a great time to figure out which school to attend and what program to take. The good news is that finding a school can be stress-free. You can enter your zip code into the school finder at the top of the page to generate a customized list of programs that are offered in your area right now. It really is that easy!