Kicking off freshmen year of college? Or maybe you’re transferring to a new school. Whatever the case may be — I get it — it’s nerve-wracking having to find a new group of people who get you. Coming into my first year of college, I was in the exact same spot. I was nervous about making new friends because I came from a tight-knit high school where everybody knew each other from elementary school and my immediate friend group was a small and quirky bunch haha.
I grew up an introvert, so opening up and making new friends wasn’t something that came easily to me. At the very very back of my mind, a small voice kept piping up, “but what if I don’t find anybody I can click with”? Fast forward four years, and I can say that it all worked out and I came out of the whole experience with 5 other gals I can call my ride or dies.
I’ll say this — if you’re already well into your quarter/semester and haven’t found someone you click with and can really be yourself with — don’t worry! Sometimes, finding that person or group of people who gets you takes a while and that’s completely okay. Don’t get disheartened!
I’ll share some suggestions and stories of how I met my group of closest girl friends in college (we nicknamed ourselves Da Crew, that’s how extra we were haha) and how I made friends with people who didn’t necessarily become my BEST friends, but are people who I still stay in touch with and hang out with today.
The best thing about college is that everybody else is nervous about finding new friends too, especially if you’re a freshman or transfer! So if you keep running into the same person in the communal spaces (like the dorm bathrooms, hallway, lounge, study room, or laundry room), say hi and introduce yourself! Chances are, they’re probably too shy to make the first introduction but have been curious about you.
In fact this is how my college friend group started! I was late on my way to the freshmen year Convocation Ceremony (basically this whole official spiel from the Chancellor to welcome our class to UCSB) when someone from one of the neighboring dorm rooms as me (guess who it is — yep it’s Praisella lol) piped up a hello and asked to come along to the ceremony. Next thing you, know, I’m grabbing brunch with her roommate, Katie, and then we hold a card game night in their room, and then Rachel, someone else from our dorm hallway pops her head in the room and asks to join our game. She became the fourth addition to our friend group and our group continued to expand from just that — a series of “Hi’s”.
I know saying hi to someone new can be daunting, especially if you’re the first one to do so. You can start the conversation by blatantly pointing that out and saying something like “Hey! I keep running into you” And then follow it up with a question or point out the shared situation you guys are both in to build that immediate connection. For example, if you’re both in the laundry room you can cheekily say something like “it’s that time of the week when you run out of clean shirts.” Once you get a bit of a conversation or small talk going, you can chime in and say “oh my name is __ by the way” which usually prompts the other person to offer their name. Or you can always say, “I don’t think I caught your name” to get their name first before saying your name.
If the two of you vibe really well, suggest to hang out some time at the end of the conversation. Exchange some sort of contact to stay in touch. Back in college, I liked to use Facebook as that medium since it’s not as up-front as asking for their phone numbers. Following each other on Instagram is a really great and casual way to maintain contact too.
Go to the dorm/residence hall/apartment events
If you’re in a school dorm, residence hall or apartment, then take advantage of it! Chances are there is some sort of Hall Council or Student Apartment Committee that specifically plans free events just for their residents to meet each other and to build a community! Don’t be shy — keep note of the next events or reach out to the committee to ask for a calendar of events. Or befriend the committee themselves! Students in these councils/committees are usually already friendly to begin with. In my experience at the school dorms and apartments, I always eventually befriended the RA (Resident Assistant) or someone from the Committee because I would keep bumping them into these events.
Or if you’d love to be a part of building a community in your residence, you can totally volunteer to join the committee/council itself! Joining a committee like this or offering help to your RA will guarantee you a network of new friends from the committee since you’ll be planning events together, and will often meet new people who come to the events.
Check out the university events
Just like the school dorms and apartments, there are also a ton of campus events you should take advantage of! During my time at UCSB there were plenty of fairs of all sizes and interests that led me to making some new friends. Often times these friendships would form from just waiting in the same line or from checking out the same booth.
Finding study buddies
Surprisingly enough, many of the friends I made actually came from class! At UCSB, a part from the lectures taught by professors, we have smaller discussion-based classes led by TAs that supplement these lectures. We call them “sections” at UCSB. Typically at sections, the TAs splits everybody into groups to discuss a set of questions or for group work. By discussing the questions our TAs gave us in our groups, I often found myself clicking with at least one other person in the group. In this kind of situation, it was easier to directly ask to exchange phone numbers with the excuse of studying together for the next exam. Having a study buddy helps make class go by faster too!
Some major departments, academic programs, and school clubs have buddy programs in place which do all the friend-finding for you! After getting a sense of your personality and interests (sometimes through just conversation, or it can be more formal through interviews or surveys), the coordinators will pair you up with someone else in the program to be your mentor-big buddy.
Some clubs, like the TSA (Taiwanese Student Association) or VSA (Vietnamese Student Association) call this buddy relationship “Big-Little”, where you as the newcomer would be the LIttle and an existing club member would be the Big. The idea is that your Big is someone you can trust and confide in and is someone who can show you the ropes and answer any questions you have without judgement. Although founded on a mentor-mentee-like relationship, this typically naturally fosters into a friendship. But if yours doesn’t — don’t worry, that happens! The pairing system isn’t a science so sometimes you and your pairing may not click and that’s totally okay. At the very least, you will have a mentor-like figure to turn to for advice.
Join clubs of your interest
I actually didn’t join my clubs for the purpose of making new friends. Looking back at it now, the friends and network I have now are largely rooted from the school orgs I joined. But that makes sense right? The likelihood of you finding someone you can vibe with is probably higher at a school club of people who share similar interests as you.
For example, I joined the American Marketing Association because of my interest in marketing. Just from attending the meetings alone, I would keep bumping into the same people and would eventually strike up conversation with them. It also helps that in club meetings, there is usually an icebreaker at the start or some sort of social event in which you can meet people in the org. Depending on what type of club you’re in, these relationships can deepen if you are placed in the same team or project. That’s what happened with me in AMA since we had a lot of projects working on marketing plans for partnering brands and we would become close from spending time outside of the club to work on these projects together.
Hang out with Mutual Friends
Once you start to make some friends, organize a hang-out and ask your friends to invite your friends! Chances are, you’ll click with people who are friends of your own friends and this is an easy way to expand your friend group without much effort. Some hangout ideas include hiking, movie nights (host one in your own space or your apartment/dorm lounge!), holding study groups, having a potluck or even grocery shopping together at Costco (trying out samples together? Yes please)!
Hope these ideas spark some courage within you to put yourself out there to meet new people. I get it — making new friends is hard. It requires a degree of vulnerability and being vulnerable is scary. Or maybe it’s that fear of rejection that they might not want to be friends with you. But how would you know if you don’t try? I have yet to meet someone who actively did NOT want to be friends with someone. And if you happen to be in that rare situation then you’re honestly better off without that kind of negative energy.
So as uncomfortable as it can be, strike up that conversation, go to that event you were thinking about, ask to exchange numbers with your classmate. You won’t know if it can become a friendship until you try. In the best case scenario, you gain a life-long best friend. In a medium case scenario, you have a new friend. In the worst case scenario, you stay as you currently are, but even then, you’re a better you because you put yourself out there. And that action alone means you’re trying. That’s effort and that’s how 90% of friendships form and continue 🙂