I suck at friend-making.
September 7, 2010 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Finding friends at college?

I'm twenty years old, in college, and, evidently, I have no idea how to make friends. (Yeah, I know, that seems impossible.) I've been at my current school for a year now, and the only people I know (there are five of them), I like less and less, but I'm not sure how to meet other people. I can't seem to make the jump from talking to someone in class to... well, anything else.

The weird thing is, I had plenty of friends in high school and at my first college. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong this time around, but apparently, I've been doing it wrong for a year.

Tell me what I'm missing! How do I befriend strangers?
posted by reductiondesign to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
At the beginning of the school year, there should be a lot of notifications about clubs and interest groups. Join them! Not only are you making friends, you're also networking for a job after college.
posted by pickypicky at 1:50 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

From what you say it's unlikely you've become socially inept overnight. Perhaps the friendmaking is being done elsewhere. The best advice is join a club or two. Not only will you find people into the same things you are but you've got a ready made platform for making friends.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:51 PM on September 7, 2010

Get into activities where you are doing some common task alongside other people. Theater (you can do backstage/tech work if you don't want to be on stage), intramural sports, the environmental club (clean up streams), hiking club, a singing group, etc. Show up to meetings, keep a positive attitude, become known as a nice person who's helpful/good to have around. Gradually this leads to "hey, we're going to the movies, wanna come?" or "I was going to go to [related event], are any of you guys going? we could go drive together" etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:53 PM on September 7, 2010

Common interests. Join a club, team, organization on campus (or perhaps off campus) that caters to something you are interested in.

For example, do you ride a bicycle? Find a local bicycle club (note there are differences between clubs and competitive teams if you're in it for recreation only). Do you like star gazing? There is probably an astronomy club. Do you want to help your fellow man? Volunteer at a soup kitchen (maybe organize a campus group to do this if it doesn't already exist). Or find a local Habitat for Humanity build that could use some help.

There is probably a list of campus clubs and organizations; search through them for something you might be interested in. Note that a lot of college clubs and organizations are for beginners, so don't be afraid to just show up at a meeting; they can lead you into it. (I knew nothing about building when I went to my first Habitat for Humanity build.)

Find an activity that interests you. Participate in it. You will meet people with similar interests which is a good foundation for friendship.
posted by Doohickie at 1:54 PM on September 7, 2010

I wouldn't worry at all about this. There were notable cases at college where there was someone who'd not been on our social radar to being the life and soul of the party.

I would suggest joining clubs, societies etc. - as random as you like, try some new stuff out. Then, throw a small gathering at yours. I find that the more you host groups, the more you're seen as part of that group.

Also, in your class/faculty, don't be afraid to just chat to people - especially if you've seen them in lectures. "Man, Prof. Smith seemed a bit cranky this morning" can lead into an entire conversation - easy going humour can go a long way. Once you've done that short breaking-the-ice conversation, always say hi to someone, even if you don't stop to chat properly. Even the 'up nod' in the hallway is a greeting.

Essentially, once you've made that initial connection, don't let it wear away. And be the person who's willing to do stuff and be spontaneous, who's helpful and friendly. If someone wants to borrow some notes because they missed a lecture - sure, why not? (but don't do this repeatedly for someone).

You have so much in common with everyone at college - you know the same people, do the same classes, live in the same area. Hell, you can strike up a conversation in the student admin place about how inept the staff are - whatever it is, you will have stuff in common. A wry observation, then introduce yourself, and then all of a sudden you have a new acquaintance.

In short: organise group things, get people together. Chat, listen, help.
posted by djgh at 1:59 PM on September 7, 2010

My college experience was kind of socially disastrous (at the time, like you, I think it was my fault, but I recognize now that there were a lot of other issues at play), and by the time I hit my junior year, I really made an effort to make friends off of campus. Are you in a city, or a town where this is possible? I volunteered at a place that didn't have a lot of students from my school, and also got an off-campus job (which is probably the best thing I did, socially).

For people you already know, and want to get closer with: send out invitations, and personalize them as much as possible. I learned this lesson: people are more likely to respond to a phone call ("Hey, wanna go to this event with me?") than a group e-mail also sent to a dozen people.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 2:00 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds from your question like you're a transfer student of some kind. If so, I know from experience that it gets a lot harder to make new friends and insert yourself into new social groups after the first year. I don't mean to be discouraging (and second what everyone else said about joining clubs, reaching out etc.), but don't think that you're necessarily doing anything wrong--it just takes a bit more effort to develop a social circle when other people have been around longer and already have their friend groups in place.
posted by sparrow89 at 2:36 PM on September 7, 2010

If you're the sort of person who likes clubs and groups, yes, it's a great way to meet people. Definitely. You already have the common thread - just show up, speak up, and be yourself. (Oh, man, that's totally Mom advice.)

That said, maybe you don't like clubs/groups. It can be really hard to meet people if you're not normally "a joiner". I'm that way; I'm not a big fan of clubs or groups or formal gatherings. This has often meant that I spent more time alone than I'd have preferred. Last year I returned to college as a mature student and have been reasonably successful at making some new friends.

My tips: bring snacks (seriously, there isn't a person alive who won't, at some point, accept a Tic Tac or a small pack of cookies in the middle of a really boring lecture); smile (even if you feel weird doing it) and say "hey!" to everyone you recognize; try to pay attention to other people who appear to be frequently alone, in class or elsewhere, and introduce yourself to them (people are usually quite grateful for that kind of thing if they're shy); ask to accompany people places ("Oh, you're going to the bookstore downtown? I've never been there - would you mind if I came along just to see where it is?").

I agree, too, with volunteering in your preferred field whenever possible. College doesn't last forever and it's good to make some contacts - and to get some "real life perspective" on things.
posted by VioletU at 2:54 PM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

How to be a better improviser. This is classic improv advice, but works for keeping any sort of conversation going.

Don't deny, provide lots of information, notice clues in the other person's words, attire, behavior, stated likes and dislikes, and run with it.
posted by Araucaria at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2010

Live in the dorms.
posted by thorny at 3:23 PM on September 7, 2010

Join some clubs. Don't worry if you're not interested in all the clubs you join. You can stop going once you make friends there.
posted by spaltavian at 3:55 PM on September 7, 2010

College radio? It's sort of sad looking back, but I guess not really, but pretty much all of my friends from college (and after) I met in some way through my volunteering at the college radio station. There might be some other groups (not necessarily clubs) like that on your campus that also give you practical work experience.
posted by kendrak at 4:19 PM on September 7, 2010

I just came in here to say basically the same thing that Kendrak ended up saying. I spent my entire college career in the basement of the Student Union spinning records and hanging out with other music nerds. It's where I met all my friends, and where all the cutest girls hung out, so my life was basically awesome. I did have a radio show from 1:30 - 3:30 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays for a year, which was brutal, but oh so worth it.
posted by orville sash at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2010

I was in your shoes in college and joined a sorority. For me, it was the best thing I ever did. Also college kids love booze. Why not throw a party and invite everyone on your dorm floor.
posted by bananafish at 8:14 PM on September 7, 2010

One HUGE tip that can make a big difference is to simply remember names.

Combined with tips above - you should try your best to remember the faces and names of people you meet in class, at the pub, at the library, at the meal hall, at the gym, at the club, at the sporting events, at chess club, etc.

Say hello to people you've met when you see them and use their names.
posted by stealabove at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2010

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