Sometimes making new friends in college is easy. Your student may find their roommate is perfect, or they sit next to someone in English 101 who they instantly hit it off with.
But what if this doesn’t happen for your student and they find that making friends in college is kind of tough? First off, your student shouldn’t think that a lack of serendipitous new friendships is a sign that they don’t fit in. And second, they definitely shouldn’t give up on finding friends, because friendships are a huge part of the college experience.
Researchers have reported that when they asked graduates to share their experiences in college, instead of talking about themselves and their accomplishments in isolation, respondents would talk about the people that surrounded them and how those people shaped their college experience. In fact, the same study suggests that there is a connection between meaningful relationships in college and a student's success.
In other words, success in college is not just about what your student accomplishes through individual effort, it’s also about the people they interact with — the friends, mentors, faculty and so on — along the way.
People help us through our difficulties. They show us new perspectives or new behaviors that ultimately help us grow, and they introduce us to others who then increase our network.
So if your student has trouble connecting with the people they meet in college, tell them it’s worth it to keep looking. Here are some tips to help them find their fit in college:
They should be who they are
Your student doesn’t need to be anyone but themself. College is a large community — there are people who will appreciate them for who they authentically are. Remind them to stay open to new people and opportunities and most importantly, be confident.
What signals are they sending?
If your student is interested in finding friends, they should keep their residence hall room door open, hang out before or after class, and definitely take advantage of invites from others (if they can). The point is, if they’re always too busy, they're sending the message that they aren’t interested in friendship.
There are no rules that say your student’s friends have to be in the same major, campus or hall as they are. Getting involved outside of their immediate bubbles can expose them to people with other interests. Think clubs, athletics or events on and off campus. They can also take a fitness class or sign up for an intramural sports team.
It can be intimidating to ask people to hang out, so your student has to learn to be brave and focus on low-risk invites. Coffee or lunch are good options, but they should also consider free or inexpensive events on campus.
Make connections with university professionals
When it comes to ensuring well-being and success in life, it’s important that your sudent feels supported by a professor or mentor and has deep learning experiences. It's a benefit to your student to introduce themself to their instructors and other college leaders. They might consider inviting their dean to coffee or sending a professor an email about a lecture they enjoyed.
Get a part-time job or volunteer on campus
Putting in even just a few hours of work or volunteering a week will allow your student to broaden their circle of connections. Most colleges offer opportunities to work on campus or have days of service where students can volunteer.
Ultimately, the relationships your student makes in college can contribute to their personal, academic and professional success. Encourage them to get involved, make those connections and build their college network.