How to Make Friends in College

Every fall, hordes of new college students step onto college campuses for the first time in their lives. It's a season of new beginnings: new classes, new books, and new everything. While it is an exciting time filled with endless possibilities, it's also a little overwhelming.

In fact, college life can seem a bit daunting those first few months. From getting acclimated on campus, to adjusting to new roommates and absorbing college-level material, there is a lot to take in. But perhaps the biggest stressor for college freshmen is the idea of making new friends. After all, you are leaving behind friendships that you took a lifetime to build. The thought of finding new friends to spend your time with can seem like an impossible task.

The good thing is that nearly every college freshman is in the same boat that you are in. You are all new to campus, and you are all looking for friends. What's more, you are still growing and learning who you are at the core of your being. So, as you continue to grow and change, so will your friend group. With that in mind, here are some simple tips for making friends at college.

Keys to Making New Friends

It's easy to arrive at college and feel like you will never find a group of friends to pal around with. Fortunately, you are not alone. Everyone feels the same way. What's more, it is natural to cycle through a couple of different friendship circles before you find people with whom you feel happy, comfortable, and safe. Here are some additional tips that will help the friend-making process go more smoothly.

Set Reasonable Friendship Goals

It is highly unlikely that you will move onto campus and become best friends with your roommate overnight. Likewise, you will not have a set friend group right away either. Be patient and allow yourself some time to get to know people on campus. Remember, you spent years building your friendships from home, so you are not going to bond with other people overnight.

When you have reasonable expectations about making friends, you will be much more successful and less stressed about making quality friendships.

Also, college is a time when you come to better understand who you are as a person. As a result, you will come to know what you look for in a healthy friendship.

Accept Being Uncomfortable

There is nothing easy about entering a new campus, new classes, and new living arrangements. They are all definitely uncomfortable situations at first. So, when you find yourself feeling a little uncomfortable, remind yourself that feeling is a good thing. Likewise, learn how to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, like introducing yourself to new people or asking someone in class to meet later for coffee.

Sure, those things make you feel uncomfortable, but they also help bridge the gap toward friendships. More importantly, they stretch you and allow you to grow as a person. After all, isn't that what college is all about?

Be Authentic

Although it is tempting to wonder, "What am I doing wrong?" (especially if you are having trouble making friends), it is important to be true to who you are. Pretending to be someone you are not is exhausting. Never fall into the trap of being a fake friend. You should always be yourself. It is okay if not everyone wants to be your friend. You will eventually find people who value you for who you are.

Make Sure You Strive for Balance

Even though making friends is a priority and enriches your time on campus, you also need to remember that you are there for an education. For this reason, you need to find a balance between getting involved on campus and making sure you are not only attending classes but also completing your assignments and projects on time. If you struggle to manage your time, set up a schedule that includes time for classes, studying, eating, sleeping and socializing.

Keep It Simple

Sometimes people make the process of becoming friends more difficult than it needs to be. After all, college campuses are one of the easiest places to make friends. Remember, you are surrounded by thousands of people your age, most of whom are interested in meeting other people. So, do not overthink it. Just be willing to put yourself out there where potential friends are. If you are open and friendly, it is likely that you are going to meet people that you click with.

Where to Find Friends

While there are a number of places to meet new people while on campus, one place you definitely won't find new friends is holed up in your dorm room. If you want to meet new people and make lasting friendships, you are going to have to leave your room. Here are some places where you might find future friends.


If your college or university offers an orientation or freshman weekend, do everything you can to get there. This event, even though it might sound a little boring, is the ideal place to strike up conversations and get to know people before college move-in day. Then, when it does come time to move into your dorm, you will at least know a few people. In fact, it can be really exciting to arrive at the weekend before classes and reconnect with the friendly faces you met orientation weekend.

Campus Events

The beauty of a college campus is that there is always something going on. Whether it is a guest speaker on social justice or karaoke night, there is usually something to do. Pick a few things that you like and then get out of your dorm and go.

You do not have to go with someone in order to attend. Just show up. You never know who you might meet.

Campus Organizations

Whether it is running club, fellowship group, professional group, intramural team, a debate team, or another extracurricular, look into campus organizations that sound interesting. Sometimes the best friends are those who share the same interests and passions that you do. It doesn't matter what it is, just be sure you join a group or two. Not only does it combat loneliness, but it also paves the way for future friendships.

Your Dorm

Aside from your roommate, there are a lot of people your age living close by. As a result, it is a good idea to attend any residence hall mixers or events. And if your dorm has dinner together, try not to skip. Having a meal with other people is a great way to make connections. It's also a good idea to keep your door open when you are home. Doing so invites people to peek their head in and say hello. It also is a very open and welcoming gesture that signals to others that you want to meet new people.

Around Campus

This may seem like a no brainer, but be present when you are on campus. In other words, take the earbuds out and put the phone away. Smile at other people. Say hello. Engage in small talk. There are plenty of ways to meet people by just being aware on campus. Whether it is the gym, the student center, or in a hallway while waiting for your professor's office hours, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people and strike up a conversation if you are not distracted by your phone.

Internships, Part-Time Jobs, and Research Assistant Positions

When you are working alongside someone, you have a lot to talk about it. These conversations can be the beginnings of a great friendship. After all, you are already interested in the same things. Plus, you are gaining some valuable skills that will look great on your resume. So, even if you do not make any friends this way, you will at least have something to show for all your work.

What If You Are Introverted or Shy?

For those who are shy, introverted, or are simply uncomfortable meeting new people, the concept of making new friends on campus can seem especially overwhelming. Fortunately, college is one of the easiest places for shy or introverted people to make new friends. Of course it will take some effort and the willingness to be uncomfortable, but it can be done. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Set Goals

Because it is so hard for introverted or shy people to put themselves out there, it is important that they set reasonable goals. For instance, make a point to talk to at least one new person each day. And challenge yourself to say hello to people as you walk to class. These exercises will help build your confidence and might even open a door or two in the friendship department.

Introduce Yourself

Every time you sit down next to someone, whether it is in class, at dinner or in a coffee shop, introduce yourself. Of course it might feel a little bit awkward, but you have to practice being brave so that your confidence grows.

Make Eye Contact

Looking up from your phone, your tablet, or your book can be really challenging especially for introverted people that enjoy escaping into their own thoughts. But, making eye contact is the first step in meeting someone new. It shows them that you are welcoming and approachable.

Host People

If you see a lot of the same people in your classes or people that share your major, consider inviting them to your dorm or to the library for a study group. Even though introverts prefer to study alone, this will give you a good opening to make new friends with the security of picking a place that feels comfortable for you.

Don't Make Excuses

Yes, it is very important to stay on top of schoolwork. But, do not use it as an excuse to avoid going out and meeting people. Even though it is uncomfortable sometimes, you need to challenge yourself to go out and do things. You don't have to leave the dorm every night. But, try to get out on a regular basis. In the long run, you will be glad that you did strike a balance.

Avoid Worrying

Not making friends right away is completely normal. In fact, friendships take time to cultivate and grow. So, do not feel discouraged.

Additionally, there is no need to have a large group of friends if you prefer to have one or two close friends.

Some Words of Caution

Pick your college friends wisely. You don't want to start hanging around with a group of people who have different values than you do. You do not want to compromise who you are in order to fit in.

Finally, feeling lonely and homesick is a very real but normal part of college. If you are feeling lonely, it is important that you take action and get involved. Join a club, a sport, or a religious group. Attend campus-organized functions. Ask people to join you for coffee or to study together. Doing these things will keep loneliness at bay.

If you find yourself struggling with depression or anxiety, do not delay in reaching out for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of and with the proper mental health care, you will be able to cope and feel better in time.

A Word From Verywell

Remember that you never achieve anything by staying in your comfort zone and this includes making friends. Push yourself to be uncomfortable and to take risks. Strike up a conversation. Compliment someone on their outfit. Invite someone to join you for lunch, have coffee, or to study together. Be polite. Smile at people when you cross paths. Say hello when your eyes meet. Most importantly, just be yourself. Just as your friends in high school appreciated you for who you are, so will your college friends.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.