How to Make Friends While You’re in University
TL;DR: it’s important to have friends in university, you can make them by putting yourself in certain social situations, but trying to force things will only backfire.
Why You Should Care About Making Friends
There’s a few common factors that contribute to why many of us hit a rut in our social lives as soon as we start university:
- Your previous circle of friends was based around high school, and has now largely dispersed into other schools/jobs/faculties/etc.
- You aren’t automatically friends (or at least acquaintances) with everyone you take a university course with like you were in school before.
- You have much more autonomy in general, but even more so in regards to your friends and social life…
- …buuut no one ever taught you how to make friends.
And while you may think you’re immune to it because maybe some of your friend circle did make it to university intact, or maybe you don’t think you need friends because you’ll be in and out of here in four years, or maybe you’ve convinced yourself you’ll be alright just being an old cat lady.
You. Are. Wrong.
University is going to be immensely stressful at times, even for the brightest students. And in those times, you are going to need someone to talk to, hang out with, or maybe get McDonald’s with at 2am.
Without one or two really solid friends in university, your chances of burning out go up, your happiness goes down, and your mental health can be jeopardized in any number of ways.
How to Begin Friendships
So here’s the lowdown on how to make friends. And spoilers: it’s not as simple as attending orientation and/or joining clubs (although those things can help).
Now this next part is important so I’m going to put it in quoted text.
The key to making friends is putting yourself in situations where friendships can begin and develop naturally, with no pressure or expectations.
Situations like rec-league sports, escape rooms, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. Situations where the main activity is not solely centered around socializing (as that can often put too much pressure on budding friendships), but neither is the socialization so removed that you don’t have the chance to get to know people. Here’s a handy chart to illustrate this proverbial friendship social sweet spot:
These sweet spot situations lend themselves well to creating the perfect low-pressure environments where new friendships can blossom because it immediately gives you a shared interest to discuss. They let you feel out everyone’s personality, interests, and sense of humor without having to resort to dry questions like Where are you from? What are you studying? etc.
This is where attending orientation and joining clubs can come in handy: it gets your foot in the door. But by themselves they can often end up in the “too much social” category. So you either have to put yourself out there and invite people to something more in the sweet spot range, or ask if you can join in on already existing plans. I’ll put some links of nearby things you can do at the end of the article if you’re struggling to to come up with ideas.
So let’s assume you’ve already met some people that you could be good friends with, what now?
Finding a Connection
“Connecting with someone” AKA “having chemistry” AKA “feeling a spark” is just as important to strong friendships as it is to romantic relationships.
It’s a subtle thing, but one that I think most of us can start to sniff out after spending as few as twenty minutes with someone. Are you able to riff on each other’s jokes? Do you take your turns in conversation effortlessly without interrupting each other? Do you feel comfortable teasing each other when either of you gets a haircut?
You don’t have to be able to answer “yes” to all of those questions, but you can probably see what I’m getting at. A connection is being able to be yourselves around each other, and that’s enough by itself for you both to have a great time.
However, connections go both ways, and it is possible to encounter a false positive (i.e. where you feel a connection but they do not), which is why it’s important not to try and force a friendship too hard. Remember that they have to show signs of interest in you as well. And if they aren’t, well that’s okay too. Take things easy and maybe things will change in the future. Friendships always have been and always will be a mutual endeavor.
Do not try to be friends with someone just because you’re lonely, you’ll just end up sucking the life out of the friendship. Be friends with someone who you have a connection with, and the rest will fall into place on its own.
Now if this all sounds complicated that’s okay. These are all things that I think most of us* already know innately on some level, but it’s useful to be aware of them consciously too.
*unless of course you’re a sociopath trying to figure out how human compassion and empathy work, in which case I apologize for not explaining my thoughts concisely or effectively enough.
But at the end of the day, these are just the heuristics I’ve derived from where my best (and worst) friendships have come from. Everyone is different, and different things will work for different people. So I suppose all I can recommend for certain is: be nice to each other, and remember that you need and deserve to have people in your life who you connect with.