Going to college or university makes for a big bucket list. One item is to make friends, who hopefully will be for keeps or best friends for life.
What’s really important and probably the mantra of every college student is to live the moment and enjoy the fun and not-so-fun times with friends all while achieving one’s goals.
This post reiterates the importance of having friends in college and the ways to cultivate meaningful friendships with those who matter.
Why Friends Are Important in College
You are facing big shake-ups and major changes in your life: moving to a new place, living by yourself or sharing a place with some people, leaving everyone or everything you’ve comfortably gotten used to.
But your new living arrangements, especially if you live on or near the campus, can give you a lot of time and opportunity to meet new people. Lifelong friendships often start with a casual hi, hello, or how are you.
Such interactions can have a positive impact on your life for these reasons:
- Social support: No time is better to make connections than when you are still a student and worry-free of adult responsibilities. People you meet at school, work, club, extra-curricular activities, or in the community could be a friend.
Some of them could also play different roles at some point in your life: mentor, career adviser, study buddy, secret confidante, second parent, etc.
You may be able to develop many circles or clusters of friends, or choose to keep your inner circle small. As it is, forming ties is one of the faster ways to adapt to a new environment.
- Academic performance: Friends can lend you support in your schooling and education. Studies like this have explored the role of friends in one’s academic performance and that same level of academic achievement can be a determinant in choosing friends.
As much as they can motivate you to study, “friends” can distract you too. Just be clear on your priorities, and learn to say no to peer pressure.
Keep those who’ll be supportive of your goals, the way you are with theirs.
- Career and employment: Your social network will definitely expand when you are in college. It’s not difficult to understand the importance of networking, given that finding a job is a top priority for most graduates.
Career fairs, mentorship programs, internships, part-time jobs, clubs, and networking events are some ways to meet people who can help you with your career.
Look at these events as ways to enhance your skills in communication and ability to convince people with your pitches. Overall, these events enable you to socialise and interact with people outside your circle.
Making friends nowadays may not be as nerve-wracking because there’s social media, where casual interactions thrive. These platforms not only help break the ice, they also break down distance and time barriers.
Do you actively seek people out or just wait for that nice person in the lecture to talk to you first?
Places to Meet New People in College
To answer the question above, here are top places in your school to find new buddies.
1. Campus Events
Online classes are still a thing, but in-person events are coming back per health standards. Music festivals, contests, concerts, trivia nights, pageants, and sports matches are worthwhile occasions to mingle with fellow students.
Going to campus events has its benefits. For one, they can make your campus life more exciting and enriching.
It’s an essential collegiate experience. Attending campus events could rouse if not strengthen your school spirit, that indescribable sense of awe and pride as you cheer on your team to victory.
This connection also encourages you to be more involved in your campus or community. Even without getting ahead of oneself, some events present free chill time (maybe free food) in between exams.
Given your assignments and all, you really can’t be expected to show up to every event in your uni. But if you are keen on meeting new people or the who’s who, it’s one of the places to be.
Or you can focus on the closest to you, like the activities organised by your club or society. Imagine doing something that you enjoy and being with people who share that joy.
And if you hold a role, like a club secretary or president, that puts you in a position to interact with lots and different kinds of people. Joining a club is a win-win situation in terms of making connections and polishing your resume.
It won’t be long before that room full of strangers becomes familiar faces. Classes make up most of your time, so being friends with some of your classmates is inevitable.
Friendships arising out of the classroom can be totally unexpected and random. Group projects, for example, can bring together clashing personalities and polar opposites, and you know you’re onto something friendly when you meet them after class to hang out.
Aside from gaining friends, think of the many skills that you can develop by mastering small talk:
- Active listening
- Formulating questions
- Making eye contact
- Giving and receiving compliments
- Understanding nonverbal cues
- Enhancing spontaneity
- Boosting self-confidence
- Being positive and authentic
Notice how those skills are applicable anywhere. Indeed, forming friendships at school and work starts similarly, albeit workplace relations are more rigid with all the power dynamics and politics.
3. Campus Jobs
Working while studying is challenging. But if you are up for it, consider applying for an on-campus job.
Barista/coffee shop staff, library staff, teaching assistant, admin assistant, and peer tutor don’t require you to commute to or from anywhere else.
Holding a job on campus pays in many ways. The first and most obvious is the financial reward.
Working also teaches you first-hand about responsibility, time management, and discipline. It also helps you set goals, priorities, and expectations.
Then, there’s the people aspect and focus of this section. Your part-time job can introduce you to many people and expand your social network quite effortlessly (you don’t have to seek them out).
Of course, the main goal is to befriend your co-workers or have a harmonious working relationship with them.
4. Your Dorm
Look no further than your hall of residence for potential BFFs. Their close proximity may make it easier to strike friendships with them.
To be clear, living together doesn’t translate to being friends instantly. This friendship often starts by being mindful of personal boundaries in a shared-space arrangement.
So how do you bond with a roommate/flatmate? The serious answer:
- Be considerate in using the bathroom, kitchen, living room, or any shared facility. More importantly, clean up, replace, and keep everything neat and organised.
- Get permission first when borrowing their things.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Those boundaries may not be as rigid when you’ve finally earned each other’s trust and respect. But even the closest friends abide by unspoken rules and limits.
And now for the more fun stuff:
- Have a movie night.
- Go to school together or join campus activities.
- Bond over food (it’s the best kind of bonding).
- Throw a party with common friends.
- Help in the best way you know-how.
How to Deepen Friendships
Acquaintances are many, but friends are few because it takes effort to strengthen the bond. So, aside from being a good friend to that friend, consider the following as well.
1. Make Time for Hangouts
It’s the constant or periodic togetherness that seals any friendship. No offence to the august halls of the institution, but you and your pals could spend your well-deserved break away from the four corners of the classroom, library, etc.
Running out of funds can be a college student thing (or anyone’s really), so finding something fun and free or at least affordable can be the theme.
So, a magical place to just relax without blowing your allowance sounds about right. Check out these ideas:
- Throw a party. The pandemic has shown that a virtual party can still be lit. So with your creativity, throw in games, snacks, and beverages.
- Throw a pizza party. It’s everyone’s favourite food regardless of one’s mood. And if you are up for celebrating something, like your friendship, this is it.
- Organise an outdoor movie night. Take your friend up on their offer to use their back garden, put in place comfortable seats and cushions, and play a campy film.
But, really, whether you stick to the campus grounds or spend a nice afternoon in a nature park, invest in quality bonding with your friends.
2. Have Meaningful Conversations
Congratulations that small talk has blossomed into a wonderful connection. And having meaningful conversations takes the friendship even further.
This kind of talk tends to follow a natural course, like you start off with a topic and it just takes off from there. But there has to be a level of trust for conversations like this to flourish.
The more you talk, the closer you’ll get and the stronger your friendship becomes. Sure, there are a lot of things involved when conversing with others; sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
3. Do Acts of Kindness
They may not say it, but someone you know may be going through a rough time. Help the best way you can; listening to their problems can be one.
This kindness can also be something you and your friends can extend to complete strangers. Share your time and talents for free with the community.
Volunteering together one summer or even for longer can help create things of higher purpose and bigger than you. It also gets more work done faster by pooling resources and dividing tasks.
It’s also in group volunteer work that you can confirm having the same values as your friends or understanding these differences. Experiencing hardships, overcoming obstacles, solving problems, and resolving conflicts can push you to the limits and affect your ties with each one of them.
Imagine going abroad to volunteer and living together in a new environment. It’ll be a different kind of fun and discovery.
4. Try Something New Together
Speaking of discoveries, one of the best things about having friends is doing something outrageous or spontaneous. It gets even funnier to relive the memory and laugh at your silliness.
What are some new things you and your friends can bond over?
- Go on a camping trip with the barest essentials.
- Budget-travel in an expensive city.
- Try the scariest rides in an amusement park.
- Open a vlog to do not-the-usual vlogging activities.
- Form a band.
- Audition for a talent show.
Friendships in college can be like that: some are born out of deliberate intentions, others like the biggest plot twists of the year.
Getting to know people may involve overcoming social anxiety. Take baby steps, worry not about filling a quota of friends every year (quality always wins), and best of all, enjoy making friends while getting your degree.