I don't know anyone at my college; I want friends, parties, and hookups
April 15, 2013 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm finally realizing that even though I'm at a huge school, people won't just magically come to me, so I'm trying to make new friends, go new places, and enjoy myself. I want to be the guy that everyone knows, who is always busy. Problem is, I don't understand how to start since I don't know anyone, and since I've been in this situation for two years now, I can't play the "new in town" card anymore. Help?

There are a few things that I can't wrap my head around.

How do I make friends in my classes? I'm friendly, I talk to everyone I sit near, but I don't understand how to actually do things with them. I can't invite them to lunch right then and there since I normally have other classes right afterwards; I can't invite them to any parties because I don't know of any. I don't consider myself shy, but it seems really strange to jump from "we sit next to each other in Spanish" to "know of any parties this weekend?"--or am I overthinking this?

How do I meet people in bars and clubs? Most people seem to go in groups, and I'd do that if I could, but right now it would just be me, alone. Do people really just go to bars are start talking to strangers? What do I say?

Details: I'm male, 24 years old, and go to a large school well-known for partying.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
"Hey, Spanish class buddy. I'm trying to break out of my shell a little and have more of a social life here at Party U. Know of anything going on this weekend?"
posted by Rock Steady at 6:35 AM on April 15, 2013

I was in the same position until I got a job at the University cafeteria. Seriously. The constant social interaction with schoolmates at the job. Since it was a job where your shift was 95% working with fellow students & it was the kind of job that lended itself towards talking with your coworkers, it worked well. While my first 1.5 years at college was rather meh- with your description being very similar to mine- I only started making friends once I got a job.
posted by jmd82 at 6:35 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your motivation is a little off. Being "that guy" won't come to you if you don't genuinely like people for who they are and are just trying to cast people in a lifestyle that supports some vision in your head.

Stop trying so hard, and go out there to join clubs that interest you, take classes you find interesting, do activities you like, etc. Stop trying to be "that guy" and be yourself.

The guy who everyone likes and is always busy doesn't have to try. He is being himself, liked himself, likes other people because he just likes people, and that's why people like him. He's comfortable with himself. That's why everything falls into his lap.
posted by discopolo at 6:36 AM on April 15, 2013 [14 favorites]

I was essentially in the same boat during college - I felt awkward going out to bars by myself, but couldn't figure out how to bridge the gap in class from friendly-acquaintance to friends. I didn't start making friends until I joined two of the campus choirs - I already liked singing and music, and since the other members of the group also liked singing and music, we automatically had something to talk about and bond over. So, if there are any clubs on campus that interest you, that may be something to try.

Also, it may help for others to make suggestions if can let us know if you live on-campus in a dorm, off-campus but really close, or commute.

Good luck!
posted by firei at 6:36 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you work? Having a part time job will help with this, especially if you can get a job in a restaurant or bar. Most of the people I partied with in college were people I met through working at a restaurant (with a bar) on campus. If you can't get a job doing that, become friends with someone else who works there. How? By sitting at the bar, maybe . . . People in the service industry generally have very busy social lives. That's the side effect of ending a shift with a pocket full of cash in a place where there's already a bar or five. Throw that into a college town and you have a recipe for knowing about 5 different parties every night. Boy, was that a fun time.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:38 AM on April 15, 2013

Do you do anything else on campus? Sports, intramurals, clubs, student government....? Most of the friends I made in college stemmed from my involvement in those kinds of activities, which lead to deeper friendships afterwards (because we already had interests in common.) Since you're in Spanish, study group? And yes, when I lived in a dorm that was basically off-campus, it really impacted my ability to get involved with people outside of more structured activities.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:39 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Join organizations - whatever grabs you. There are undoubtedly intramural sports teams, film societies, volunteer groups, religious groups - pretty much anything you could want to do, there will be some relevant group on campus. Here is what I would expect:

1. Join a couple of groups; first couple of meetings/events go by and you feel awkward, have no parties to go to.
2. You start to make friends within the group and meetings and events become fun activities in themselves, but still no parties.
3. You click with one or two people from the groups and either get invited to hang out or invite them to hang out - "hey, want to grab a beer/coffee after the meeting" is a lot easier than "after class".
4. Those friendships will turn into larger friendship circles and parties. You may possibly encounter parties at points 2 or 3, but don't be disappointed if not.
posted by Frowner at 6:40 AM on April 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Join student groups, like a sports group, media club, or even *retch* the poetry society.

Then at the end of a meeting, say loudly "Hey everyone, I'm thinking of heading to (name of nearby bar): who's up for getting a drink?"

(On preview, what Frowner said.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I went to ASU too!

1. Buy season tickets to football games. They used to have a deal for students for like...$18 for the season (I'm VERY old.) You'll get to know the other folks who are also students, sitting in the cheap seats, and you can agree to tailgate, etc.

2. Get into a group living situation. You know the kind, 10 guys living in a 5 bedroom house. You have to have a high tolerance for hijinx, but the party will never end.

3. Start weekly poker game. Start asking likely folks if they want in. Boys and girls (I love playing poker.) Low stakes, Carling beer (remember when they had little sayings on the pull-tabs...I'm OLD.)

4. Join a club. Or a band, or whatever. My sister did intramural football.

5. Get a job like bartending, serving, etc. I worked in a boiler room. I made a ton of friends through work.

6. Offer to form a study group. I'm still friends with my study group from grad school...shit, has it been 20 years????

7. Throw a TV party, pick a popular show or a big game, or even pay for a fight (WWE, Boxing, whatever). Invite folks to watch it with you.

You get the idea. Be friendly, it's a numbers game. Once you click with one thing, you'll click on a lot of levels.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

This answer to the question "I have practically zero friends." is on the Reddit front page right now. (some usernames may be NSFW. It's Reddit. Sorry.)

The meat of the answer is a quote from one of his friends:
when have you ever invited me to play golf? I get invites from xxxxx and yyyyy and zzzzz and all of the others and they all make a point of arranging a game and inviting people to play. From there we end up arranging more games and the invited become circular. You're a great guy, and a lovely fella but you have never once arranged a game of golf and invited anyone to play.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:46 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

How about throwing a party yourself? Or any sort of gathering. At college, I had people over for tea a few times. When I moved to Montreal, I started instigating parties at bars for anyone in showbiz.

You give, you get.
posted by musofire at 7:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, when at a huge school, you have to work hard to find a small corner -- that is, to get the community size down to where you can re-encounter people and get to know them. Sometimes that's a dorm, sometimes it's a particularly intense class (especially where you critique each other's work), sometimes it's a choir or an intramural team or anything that you enjoy extracurricularly. But you need to get a smaller group going, or it's sort of like showing up in New York City and wondering why you're not passively meeting folks...
posted by acm at 7:16 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Throw a party! Invite people to the movies! Cook people some dinner! Tell people about an amazing restaurant you want to try with them!

Ask people to hang out.
posted by rhythm_queen at 7:23 AM on April 15, 2013

Are you at all religious or otherwise feel strongly about religion?

There are always churches, synygoges, mosques, gurdwara, secular clubs ext of just about every concievable flavor on college campuses and especially at large schools. Among other things they are pretty much an active friends group in a box.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:23 AM on April 15, 2013

Ninety percent of my college friends did NOT come from my classes or my dorm or bars. They came from clubs, specifically a theater club and a student-run magazine. You're working together to produce something fun, and then, why, after all that hard work you gotta blow off steam by having a ton of parties.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:23 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should also tell you that the partying-hookup lifestyle gets old and stale--fast, if you're smart.

It may seem fun for a few months, but the meaningless of binge drinking and one night stands will start to suck you dry.

Focus on making friends by asking the people you like to hang out. Focus on self-improvement and self-discovery. The party lifestyle is so "been there done that" that you don't even need to do it. Just my honest opinion
posted by rhythm_queen at 7:26 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're going to find yourself in this sort of situation many times in your life. Every time you start a new job, every time you move to a new town or new neighborhood, and so on. You've gotta learn to put yourself out there, and you've gotta be cool with the fact that many times nothing will come of your efforts.

In your situation, like others have said, finding a part time job somewhere is probably your best bet. Or a club/activity/whatever that interests you. Short of that, just find a bar where you can be comfortable hanging out by yourself, and spend enough time there to become a regular. Don't try to force anything - just be cool and patient and eventually you'll meet some like-minded folks.
posted by spilon at 7:26 AM on April 15, 2013

The best friendships I have in school formed from a) people I worked with, b) people in my clubs, c) people I lived with, d) people in my classes (roughly in that order).

a) Any job where you see other students lends itself to making friends, and you can always be "hey, want to grab a drink after work?"

b) Clubs are great because you're meeting people with similar interests, and you have something in common to help you get to know others. It's generally a bit awkward for the first meeting or two, but then you start to get to know the people who have been in the group and it's more natural. I've made many more friends, and done many more social activities, with the people from my student organizations.

c) I live off campus now, but when I was a freshman and lived in dorms it was natural to befriend the people on your hall. If you're still in student housing, meet the people in your hall, hang out in common areas, etc.

d) Chat with people before class starts. Organize study groups. It's the little ways that you get to know people, not an awkward "hey let's get lunch" when you barely know someone. Also, I didn't really find "my people" on campus until I chose my major. Part of this is because I'm in a small department, but part of it is because I see these people each semester, I run into them in our building, they are my future professional network, etc. When you start to get into the advanced classes of your major, presumably you'll start seeing the same people more often and it's easier to get to know them. The people I see most around campus and know best are the ones in my in-major classes. Also my department hosts social events -- if yours does, go to those.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:46 AM on April 15, 2013

I've always had trouble making friendships, but I did manage it a few times over the years. I can only tell you how I've ended up making friends so here's my friendship resume:

My freshman year of college I bonded with my roommate over Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and through him I became friends with his now wife (who helped me get a job at the library). I made friends with a girl I met in my sophomore year in marching band although that fell through a few years later. Also that year I joined a men's music fraternity. I can't speak for all fraternities which mostly seem awful, but this group was pretty awesome and inclusive. I'm still friendly with the guys I met in that group, but due to time and distance we don't get in touch very often except occassionally via facebook. I made another friend after we became lab partners in a physics class and we ended up having a lot of classes together cause we had majors that shared a lot of courses. Despite living in different states for the last 5 years we chat every day and hang out once or twice a year during holidays when we visit family. In my last year of college I made a few more friends because we did a senior design project together.

After college a few of us on that senior design project ended up getting jobs at the same place in Florida and we started hanging out with each other and some of the existing employees after work. Then I moved up north and struggled for a few years to make any new friends at all. It wasn't until I joined a dance studio that I started to make friends again although that took awhile since most of the regulars there are older than I am in a way that's hard to relate to at this point in my life. They're nice people though so I don't mind hanging out and dancing with them. I don't go out to clubs and bars to dance as I have serious anxiety about meeting people that way.

I've also tried going to the regular Metafilter meetups in Chicago, but I live too far to make that a viable method of becoming friends with anyone there, but it was still a fun activity without actually being friends with them. Unlike going to a random bar to meet total strangers, everyone being Mefites makes it much easier to fit in and all you need to do is listen to others if you want.

As you can tell, basically all of my friends came about through the circumstances I was in. The more circumstances you have to be in regular contact with the same group of people, the more likely it is you'll become friends with them. This is why it's a good idea to join clubs and groups and have shared interests. It doesn't even have to be an existing interest you can always cultivate new ones.
posted by Green With You at 8:01 AM on April 15, 2013

People are never going to just walk up and have sex with you.

That guy who knows everybody is busy because he's busy. He's got a job, he's running the projector for the film society, he's a lab assistant, and on Friday afternoons he's out handing out flyers for his band's gig that night. People know him because they see his face all the time in multiple contexts. He chooses to do those things; he didn't just wake up in a band one day. He applied for the job.

Nobody really makes friends in class; instead you see them somewhere else and say hey, aren't you in my history class, now we have something in common to talk about for a minute until we find something more interesting to talk about.

If all you do is go to class and sit around on your ass waiting for someone to spontaneously hand you a drink, you will have nothing more interesting to talk about. You don't get invited to parties and hookups by being boring.

This will be the last time in your life that groups and clubs and social activities will be begging for your time and attention like this, at least until you hit the nursing home. Go build sets for the theater department, go to the international students' open house, take a first aid course. Find the bulletin board, real or virtual, with all the club stuff on it and pick one. Go be interesting.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Talk to people. Find out what interests you have in common. If you know that the person next to you in History class likes Michael Buble, and you later find out that he's giving a concert in your town, you can suggest going. If you like tennis and they like tennis, there you go. If you don't have any obvious interests in common, but they are into something that sounds cool, let them know that you might be interested in trying that some time.

A lot of these offers won't turn into anything much, but some of them will.

You could also take on an organizing role - look for activities that relate to your classes and suggest them. For Spanish class, this might be a Spanish-language film.
posted by bunderful at 9:00 AM on April 15, 2013

Seconding (thirding?) the suggestion to get a part-time job thru your school. I worked for a few years in Housekeeping at the student union - - great job! It was easy (vacuuming, changing trash cans, mopping) and we were largely unsupervised, so there was a lot of time for informal socializing with my fellow students janitors. Fun-loving people! Some were into art, some into sports, music, the whole range. Many were sort of outcasts. Working third shift was always interesting and provided lots of opportunities for mischief. : )

As for "how to meet people in bars?" - - you got me. I always go with a group, and only rarely ever meet new people. Sometimes two groups will start hanging out together via common friendships. But this is usually gonna happen in a lower-key bar where you can actually carry on conversations, vs. a loud club or concert where the music/volume will limit the amount of communication you can do.
posted by see_change at 9:19 AM on April 15, 2013

In classes: study groups, snarky comments on lecture breaks, getting coffee afterwards under the pretext of one of those two things...

Outside of classes: Meetups! Whether MetaFilter or some other interest of yours, find the social group/excuse that hits your favorite things. Those usually are in bars. I've found having some of that groundwork laid-- knowing I have at least one thing in common with a person-- helps alleviate some of that inability to meet people in bars.
posted by RainyJay at 9:32 AM on April 15, 2013

If your school is anything like any of the schools I've attended or worked for, the bulletin boards will be covered with signs for MAKE EASY MONEY THIS SUMMER and CAMPAIGN JOBS!! Don't beat yourself up if you don't find anything interesting on bulletin boards around campus.

Does your school have an office of student involvement? Get in touch with them to find a social outlet for your interests.

Does the department that houses your major have an undergraduate lounge? On my current campus, math, physics, some engineering programs, and many others, for all I know, have them, and they're both social and intimate, in the sense of having a set of regular attendees.

Are you learning a foreign language? On my campus there's a weekly language partner meetup that's pretty well-attended and social in a low-stress way.

Also, you are 24. This almost certainly doesn't need saying, but don't become the guy who buys the alcohol for house parties.

Also also, a lot of students are poor. Saying "let's go to the bar" or "let's get coffee after class" might get rebuffed because people may simply have no money for small luxuries, and may be self-conscious about accepting a gift from a casual acquaintance.
posted by Nomyte at 9:41 AM on April 15, 2013

When I look back on how I made my friends, it seems that there are three ways it happened (most of the time):

1. I've made friends through activities. I met my best friends in college working at the college radio station, and I made other good friends in a political activist group that I was involved in, as well.
2. I met someone through a mutual friend. (This is how I've met most of my friends post-college)
3. Some completely unpredictable circumstance threw me together with someone, and we ended up becoming friends. In college, this usually means living in close proximity to or working with someone.

No. 3 is hard to control, but re: no 1. - get involved! Re: No. 2 - Work your connections.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:42 AM on April 15, 2013

It is so easy to make friends in college. I used to be that person that people knew that was always busy. So how to do it? Be busy.

- Join clubs. I volunteered to be an officer for a few different clubs and attended several more. At a big school there are more interest clubs than you could shake hundred sticks at from the super nerdy (sci fi / gaming club) to average (professional org for your major, i was in an engineering society) to sporty (basketball club). Sometimes there are easy events and parties to attend, things to do, and even icebreakers to help facilitate meeting people in your interest group. There are typically so many that even if you don't feel you are comfortable in 2-3 of them there are 50 more to try out.

- Part time work. Usually work study is involved in this where you can work as front desk at a building to cafeteria or shelving work at the library. Maybe the newspaper or radio station needs volunteers.

- Living situation. YMMV, sometimes you enter the situation where you are in the house with 10 other people and have great friends in the moment and amazing house parties, but eventually there will be drama of some sort. And likely is having drama without making friends or going out to parties. Usually recommended is to find minimum one person you get along with to roommate with.

- Classes. It was easiest to make friends in smaller classes. If you have the time, take an extra elective that may or may not have anything to do with your major. Usually they ended up as liberal arts like weird languages or musical instruments. You tend to pair up with group work or play together as an ensemble, which helps facilitate socializing.

- Volunteer. There are probably many student programs and resources that may need more students involved. Women's center, LGBT, politics, ethnicities, government, etc.

But above all else, relax and be yourself. Be interested in people because you are actually interested in them. You don't need to fake friendship because in a big school there are so many students that eventually you will find niches or spaces in which you can make friends.

When does the sex happen? Unless you go to some crazy frat party in which you are preying upon the lowered inhibitions of girls... it does take a little bit of time and investment in beginning your friend network. Once you know a lot of people, of course you'll know many more women during that process. It'll happen naturally once you start trying to ask girls out or be at a party in which they reciprocate any signals you give off.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by xtine at 11:57 AM on April 15, 2013

Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. BUT: don't do anything he suggests until you've finished reading it and spent some time observing how "people person" people actually behave. Compare! Then- slowly- incorporate.

This is important because you don't want to come off like some creepy sycophant, which you very well may, if you try to magically embody these skills overnight. I have a couple colleagues who must have gone overboard on this type of advice, and they sort of ooze desperation at times. (Sidenote- it's OK if you feel like you ooze desperation at times! Everybody gets that.)

Don't try to be friends with everyone at once. Start with people with whom you share obvious common interests and hobbies. Even if you don't really care about sports, now would be a good time to start taking interest- it's a super icebreaker, especially on campus. This isnt about being disingenuous, it's about finding some common ground to get into a conversation with.

As others have said, it takes true passion for other people to make this come off genuinely, and you've got to discover that organically. I once had a similar aspiration to you, and after 3 or so years of REALLY working on it, I find myself in a place where I'm happy with how social I am. I am still somewhat less than the social butterfly I always imagined I'd be, but you wouldn't believe how much energy and patience other people can take- even for a total extrovert. Someday you will find your level and be happy there.
posted by ista at 1:22 PM on April 15, 2013

Definitely join clubs! My friends in college came from two groups: either we met in the freshman dorm, or we did college radio together. I still feel a connection to my college radio friends, even though I'm not close with a ton of them anymore. Then again, I'm engaged to one of them!
posted by radioamy at 1:39 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the college radio thing. It opens the gate to other community events. Volunteer at the local food co-op for a discount on good food. Be friendly and learn people's names and before long they'll know yours too. Put yourself out there and be interesting.
posted by Kale Slayer at 5:59 PM on April 15, 2013

Clubs clubs clubs clubs clubs. Also just ask people! "La la la, class chit chat. Hey man, anything going on this weekend?" Either you will get "no dude, I haven't heard of anything," in which case you respond "let's go to a movie / build a potato gun and shoot it at the baseball diamond backstop / [literally anything]" or that person will say, "yes, there is this party, do you want to come?" EVERYONE is in your boat — it just takes one of you being a tiny bit brave for five seconds.
posted by Charity Garfein at 8:52 PM on April 15, 2013

Keep an eye out for a gregarious but kind person in your classes. Approach them and say, "Hey, you look like you know what's goin' on. Can I tag along with you sometime?"
posted by nosila at 10:17 AM on April 16, 2013

I went to LSU and didn't make new friends (outside of the ones I already, you know, had) until I joined the school paper. And that was 5 years in (I was on the 6 year plan.) So nthing the above - find something you like and join!
posted by pyjammy at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2013

When is rush? Would you be comfortable rushing a frat? I joined a sorority and it was exactly that built-in structure, a group fo people who it's not weird to hang out with closely right away, and a commitment to be friends, as well as an automatic in to some sort of party any night I want to but also people to hang out with if I don't want to. And we had juniors join ours, not a ton, but it's not unusual. I have a friend who joined his frat last fall (he's a junior) for similar reasons and LOVES it.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:40 PM on April 16, 2013

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