Many people say that going to university will be one of the best experiences of your life as it’s where you will meet your friends for life or even a potential life partner. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for everyone. Coming to university can be really daunting as everything is so new: a new environment, a new city, maybe even a new country and lastly new people. Yet it’s important to note that although making friends may seem scary, regardless of your age, friendships are vital as humans were not created to be in isolation. At university it’s so easy to isolate yourself and become consumed with your own thoughts and issues which in turn make it even harder to speak to the people around you.
Some may say that the ability to make friends is heavily dependent on your personality, however there is so much more to it as making friends is an active process. It involves actively putting yourself in spaces to meet new people, coming out of your comfort zone and being open minded and engaging with the people around you. It’s all about forging new connections.
Having difficulty making friends at university is a common problem for many students, which isn’t spoken about enough, so here are are some tips if you’re finding it difficult to make friends at university.
1. Identify what is stopping you from making friends
In order to find the solution to a problem you need to first identify what the problem is and the cause of it.
After acknowledging that you’re finding it hard to make friends at university you need to ask yourself why you think that is. It could be number of reasons including: maybe you haven’t given yourself enough time to actually find people to be friends with, not being open to meeting new people and not putting yourself out there enough.
You might even have to ask yourself if you actually want to make friends and the motivation behind this. When you truly understand the importance and impact friendships can have on your life you would be willing to put in the effort and invest in making friends.
I think one of the biggest hinderances to making friends at university is fear. Fear that no one will like you or even the fear that you won’t find people that you actually like; no one wants to come across as begging to be friends with someone and it can be scary meeting new people. But it’s important to remember that everyone is in the same position so you’re not alone in feeling fearful.
Sometimes you need to feel the fear and do it anyway – all the other tips stem from not allowing fear to hold you back. You wouldn’t want fear to stand in your way of making potential life-long friends.
2. Be yourself
When you meet new people it’s so easy to change how you act in an attempt to make others like you. It’s so much easier to be true to who you are than to pretend to be something you’re not.
University is a space where you will meet an array of people from different cultural backgrounds and walks of life which can be intimidating at times. Without realising you can take a liking to someone’s personality and slowly start to emulate them, then before you know it you won’t be able to recognise yourself anymore! The goal should be to find people who make you feel comfortable and are like minded.
I’m sure everyone has heard of the term a ‘mid-life crisis’, yet coming to university can also lead to an identity crisis of some sort as you begin to question who you really are and the type of person you want to be. You should view university as a place to dream, experiment and essentially learn more about yourself: your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and even hidden skills and talents.
By interacting with different people you actually learn more about yourself. You become more aware of how you view the world through your specific lenses as you come to the realisation that every situation and experience in your life has ultimately shaped the person you are today. So why would you want to negate everything that has happened in your life by putting on a fake persona and pretending to be something you’re not?
By simply being yourself you will naturally get along with and gravitate towards people that have similar interests and values to you. You wouldn’t want to compromise your integrity just to make a friend as in this day and age it’s so easy to spot when someone is faking it.
3. Think about how you made friends in the past
This may seem like a weird suggestion, but perhaps just think back to how you became friends with your current friends, or maybe even ask them if they remember how you became friends.
Sometimes we seem to forget that we actually had to meet the friends we currently have – we weren’t born with them as friends (although this may be the case for some).
In the past you may have become friends with someone as a result of seeing them around often, for example, you were in the same class and saw each other every day, then one day you decided to say ‘hi’ or asked a question and the rest is history. A beautiful friendship was born!
Or you may have met a friend through a mutual friend who introduced you and from then you began to talk often, found that you had similar interests and once again, the rest is history!
If it worked before in the past it should surely work again, right? Although you should bear in mind that you may have to adapt your technique by coming out of your comfort zone and being willing to actively speak to people, especially people you see on a regular basis as there would already be a level of familiarity.
After all, if you don’t put yourself out there how will you make friends?
4. Speak to your flatmates
In your first year at university you tend to live in halls of residence with other university students which is a great way to meet new people. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of staying in your room and only seeing your flatmates the occasional times you leave your room to use the kitchen, and even then you may be so quick in the kitchen that you don’t get a chance to get to know the people you live with.
Why wouldn’t you want to know the people you will be living with for the next year?
When in university accommodation, especially during the first couple weeks, everyone tends to call their friends and family from back home often (feeling homesick is real), which is expected but if you’re continually focusing all your time and energy on your old friends how would you have the space to make new ones? No one is asking you to forget your old friends, but you need to remember that a new season of your life may require something new from you, which may include meeting new people.
Start spending more time in the communal areas, such as the kitchen or even the common room if there is one in your residence and you are bound to meet people there.
The next time you’re in the kitchen you could even ask one of your flatmates if they have any plans for the upcoming weekend or if they would like to study with you one day. You could even take the initiative to organise a flat outing together to get to know your flatmates even more.
5. Speak to your course mates
This tip is quite obvious and I’ve noticed that a lot of the friendship groups made at university consist of people who study the same course. Having friends on your course is a necessity in my opinion because they can help you when the work gets tough and are often the best motivators and encouragers as they actually understand what you’re going through. Also, there may be instances when you’re not able to go to a lecture and one of your course mates could fill you in on what you missed. They could even be the one dragging you to a lecture when you may not feel like going!
The jump from A-Levels to university can also be difficult both academically and socially. Especially if everyone from your sixth form/college goes to a different university to you and you go to university not knowing anyone. Whereas for some, they come to university with their friends from sixth form/college so already seem to have a close knit friendship group from week one. In this case, it may be easier for you to speak to people you have seen around who are always on their own.
The people on your course will likely have similar interests to you as they are on your course.
Always ask to sit beside people in lectures and try to sit beside different people in every lecture, this is another great way to meet new people every day. During the breaks or even after a lecture you could ask a course mate how they found the lecture and what their plans are for the rest of the week. You could also organise a study group with some of the people you’ve met from your course so as well as getting to know more people you get to study at the same time.
There will be more opportunities to speak to your course mates at faculty events run by your university whereby you could also meet older students which is an excellent networking opportunity as they can provide guidance and help for your course as well. Older students would also be able to give advice on ways to make friends as they would have been in the exact same position as you at one point.
6. Join a university society
Every single university has a range of societies that you can join which is one of the best ways to meet new people as trying out different societies is a great opportunity to socialise and have fun at the same time. By looking at your Student Union’s website you will be able to see all the societies your university has available; it could range all the way from Harry Potter society to tea society. To learn more about university societies check out this Think Student article.
Most societies have taster sessions that you can go to before joining a society, so why not sign up to random taster sessions and see which ones you enjoy. You could even invite your flatmates or some course mates as this would be a great way to get to know each other and have some fun at the same time.
Once you find a society you’re interested in, make a decision to commit to going to it weekly and before you know it the society will turn into a little family where you will meet up together outside of your society’s events. This is one of the best ways of forming a solid and strong friendship group as you will obviously have something in common with these people as you are part of the same society, and by seeing them regularly you will get to know them on a deeper level.
Most universities also allow the opportunity to create a new society if you can’t find one that interests you, in doing this you could even meet other people in your university who share similar passions.
7. Say yes more
When you get invited out and in your head you begin to start making excuses as to why you can’t go – just say yes. As long as you know you’re not compromising your integrity – just say yes. What’s the worst that could happen?
Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Even after meeting a group of people and you may feel content with them, always remain open to meeting more people as it’s important to have variety in your relationships. You could have friendship groups for different purposes: some may be the friends you study with, others you may party with, while others may be the friends who stay up with you till early hours of the morning talking about the most random things. Some friends may even crossover and do all of these things with you (these are the best type of friends)!
8. Join a Facebook group (or any other group on social media)
We live in the social media age where everything is digital so as a result it’s easier to make friends online.
Talking to people online can be easier than communicating face to face as it removes a level of fear and intimidation.
You can join a Fresher’s Facebook Group, or a group for your student accommodation or for your course where you can meet people and introduce yourself. This is a great way of finding people who may live close to you that you may have never even met; it’s actually surprising how many people are ‘hiding’ at university so you never get a chance to meet them.
Freshers week is a great opportunity to meet new people. To learn more about freshers week click on this Think Student article.
There will also be Facebook groups for societies and events run by your university all with the aim of meeting new people, by joining these groups you would meet other eager students wanting to make some new friends.
There are groups such as Save the Student which provides help and guidance for university students where you have the opportunity to enter into competitions and win prizes, all of which you can take part in with some newfound online friends from your university. Through this you could even make friends with people who go to different or nearby universities.
9. Apply for a job on campus
Why not earn some money and meet new people at the same time?
On every university campus there should be stores and restaurants that will employ students. I find that working within the university community is easier than working in an external company as your employer is more likely to be lenient and understandable, particularly when it comes to exam season and you’re not able to work as many shifts.
Working on campus results in constantly meeting new people and allows you to develop relationships with your work colleagues. Especially in a customer facing role, you will become familiar with regular customers who will also recognise your face, which could all lead to conversations, resulting in building friendships.
10. Get involved in volunteering
Why not give back and do something positive?
There are countless opportunities to volunteer both within your university and the wider community as who would want to say no to a helping hand?
On your Student’s Union website you will be able to find opportunities to volunteer, for example you could even offer to volunteer to help out with any schemes your university may be doing in partnership with local schools, or you could volunteer in the local charity shop or care home.
When you find volunteering opportunities you could also ask a flatmate or course mate if they would like to join you, but be prepared in case they say no as some people don’t like ‘working’ for free! In this case you may have to go alone, but make sure you are going in with an open mind and a heart that is willing to help and serve in whatever capacity you can.
I find that it takes a certain type of person to volunteer, to willingly give up their time and join a cause they may feel passionate about. In doing this, you could meet people with completely different passions to you but you would be able to learn a lot from them about being determined and motivation.
There is even a student volunteer week, to learn more about this check out this Think Student article.
11. Use your university website
Your university is there to help you.
All universities provide health and wellbeing support because they recognise the importance of your mental and emotional health and the impact it has on your work. If you’re really finding it hard to make friends you could speak to an advisor or counsellor about what you’re going through – no one should suffer alone and in silence.
Some universities also have student lead schemes whereby you could speak to another student confidentially who can provide a listening ear and support, this would be particularly helpful as you would be speaking to someone who genuinely understands what you’re going through and could provide practical tips as well.
Most universities partner with the NHS so additional services would be available, particularly if the issue with having no friends is significantly impacting your wellbeing. If you feel as though any of these services would be useful to you, find out who to contact at your university, and speak to them as soon as possible.
12. Make use of the online resources available
There are a number of online resources most of which are accessible 24/7. These can be helpful if you’re still finding it hard to make friends at university:
- Here are 57 conversation starters that you can use if you’re finding it hard to hold a conversation.
- Sign up to this free newsletter that shares some secret ways to make friends.
- Student Minds is a charity that is tailored to supporting the mental health of students.
- Togetherall is a community you can join where you can freely express your feelings and access tools to help in doing so.
- Samaritans is a charity that can provide support and offers a listening ear to any issue you may be facing.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas on how to make friends at university. Don’t forget to be yourself, Good luck!