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I was mortified the summer before I headed to college when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to share a dorm with one of my high school friends.
He and I had been friends since we were about 4 years old.
On the introvert/extrovert spectrum, we were basically opposites. I was a serious introvert and he was the textbook definition of an extrovert.
He was energized by talking to people, was always thinking out loud and was constantly wanting to test out new things.
I, on the other hand, was reserved, enjoyed being in quieter social settings, and thrived when I could sit down in the quiet and focus on projects.
But despite our differences (or because of them) we got along incredibly well. We helped each other out in many ways throughout our childhood and teenage years.
So when we were both accepted to the same college we naturally planned to room together. But then it didn’t work out.
I was forced to room with a couple of other guys I’d never met. That first semester was a challenge and pushed me in many ways. But by the end of it, I’d made a few friends.
Over the course of my 4 years in college, my list of friends continued to grow. I connected with people from majors across the university, attended social events I’d never thought I’d go to as a freshman and made friends with people from countries all over the world.
As I reflect back on how I managed to do that I’ve put together this list of three simple tips to help any other introverted college student out there.
Make no mistake, college will be challenging. And you will have to find the courage within yourself at times to “make the first move.” But it is also incredibly rewarding.
1. Find Your People
One of the beauties of college is it provides a plethora of opportunities to find people who share similar interests.
So, take the time to actually find “your people.”
Clubs and Intramural activities
Look for clubs on campus around your interests. Most campus websites will have a list of the clubs available. Go find yours and circle 3-5 you might be interested in.
Find out when their first meeting is and go. And seriously, go to the first meeting. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably have this conversation in your head:
“…I think I’ll skip this first meeting. I’m just too busy with homework to go. I’ll definitely go next time.”
Two weeks later, next meeting rolls around.
“…Ehhh, I don’t think I’m going to go. I missed the first meeting so I’ve missed introductions. People have already started making friends so I’ll be the odd man out. Next semester I’ll do it.”
Don’t. Be. Me.
Go to the first meeting. And even if you miss it, go to the second one. Even if it’s halfway through the semester go. People will be welcoming.
And don’t feel like you have to go back if you don’t like the club. That’s why you have a list of a few to try out. Go to each one and maybe only pick one to stick with.
Or don’t pick any of them and look for something else. That’s ok too. At least you gave it a shot.
Along the same lines as clubs are intramural activities.
If you’re into sports but aren’t going to be playing on an official college team sign up for an intramural team. While I never did this I had plenty of friends who did. They loved it and made friends doing so.
Making Friends in Your Major
Another easy place to make new friends is within your major. As a freshman, this may not really be an option because you’re still taking general classes.
But once you get to your core classes work on getting to know a few people.
I recommend always introducing yourself to whoever you sit next to in class. Do that consistently and you’ll slowly get to meet people.
My go-to line, “Hi, I think I’ve seen you in one of my other classes, I’m Brian.”
It breaks the ice and you can use it over and over. As you do this, try to remember their name. It helps if you say it a few times as you talk with them. I’ve had this exact conversation more times than I can count:
“Hi, I think I’ve seen you in one of my other classes, I’m Brian.”
“Hi, I’m Katie”
“Nice to meet you, Katie. How’s your day going?”
“So Katie, what other classes are you taking this semester?”
“I’m taking…what about you?”
“Oh I’m taking…”
Then after class:
“Yep, and you were..?”
“Nice to meet you Katie, I’ll see you around.”
I know, I know. It sounds stupid. But seriously, I wish someone would have taught me how to do this as a freshman. As an introvert with a decent amount of social anxiety, I was always terrible at starting a conversation. But there were days when I was just craving a little human interaction.
I didn’t really figure out how to start conversations easily until my senior year and even then, I was still terrible at it. But that little one-liner definitely helped a ton.
Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent. But hopefully, it helps someone.
Anyway, your major is a great opportunity to make friends. I recommend finding 2-3 people to really connect with. These folks can also become study partners when the need arises.
Volunteer to Make Friends
This was easily one of the best ways I found to make friends in college.
I’m sure there’s an official study out there that shows this but I found that people who willingly volunteered their time were incredibly friendly and accepting.
I made some wonderful friends while doing volunteer work.
Most colleges have some type of volunteer center that can help you find opportunities on campus or in the local community.
Go through the list and find one that will work with your class schedule/load and that interests you.
As you volunteer you’ll naturally get to know the other people you are serving with and friendships can be formed there.
For a couple of semesters, I volunteered as an English language tutor.
If you’ve made it this far in the article you can probably tell, I am no English major. But tutoring other students in an ESL program was a lot easier than it sounds.
Every week I’d go and sit down with one person for 30-45 minutes and we’d practice speaking English. Sometimes I’d read through their homework or we’d do activities in their manuals. It was surprisingly fun.
This is also partly how I managed to make friends with people from Russia, China, South Korea, Spain, and more (Word of advice. If you do this, organize a potluck and invite everyone to bring their favorite dish. We did this a few times and…wow! That was some good food).
Being Friends with Your Roommates
Throughout my college career, I had many different roommates. Surprisingly, I’d say the majority of them were more introverted than extroverted so we got along rather well (Our dorms/apartments were never a party scene).
Getting along with college roommates can be a challenge. And odds are high you’ll at least have a few roommates that never really become close friends.
But roommates can be a great way to meet new friends. If your roommates are planning on going to an activity, see if you can tag along.
This will feel uncomfortable at first but once they realize you’re interested they will probably invite you to come more regularly.
This can be a great way to get out of your shell just a little. But don’t feel like you always have to go out with them.
I always had a few good excuses at the ready for days when I just didn’t want to go out.
2. Host Your Own Gatherings or Parties
Now, before you skip right past this section as you skim this article, let me explain what I mean.
I’m not suggesting you throw some giant party and invite as many people as possible. Frankly, that sounds like many of my personal nightmares.
What I do mean is to create a party that fits your needs. I wanted a party that had 4-6 people, maybe some quiet music if any music at all, some good food, and pleasant conversation.
What’s your ideal party/gathering?
Here’s a few ideas:
- Game night (Bring some of your favorite board games, invite people to bring food and drinks and enjoy)
- Host a wine and cheese tasting
- Have a bbq
- Go on a hike with a group
- Hit the park for a picnic
- Invite some people over for a potluck
There are so many ways to create a party that don’t involve a ton of people, loud music, and a keg.
I’ll go into this a bit more in a future article but easily one of my greatest “victories” in college was learning how to do this well.
3. Don’t Stress Out and Make Time to Recharge
This may not sound like a good tip but letting go of the stress made a huge difference in my life and I know it will help you too.
Don’t beat yourself up. It’s absolutely ok if you don’t feel like going out and engaging in conversations with people.
There were weeks in college when I spent tons of time in serious group work. By Friday I was exhausted and all I wanted was some time alone to just relax.
When you have those weeks let yourself take a break and recharge.
I sincerely recommend adding some kind of meditation to your daily routine. It has been profoundly beneficial in my life as a way to recharge.
I often used it in between classes when I knew I was going to have to engage with my peers or before giving a presentation.
Just find a quieter place on campus and take a few minutes to yourself.
<<Note: I recommend wandering around your college campus. Find the buildings that tend to have fewer students and use them when you need to study or meditate in between classes. While the library is great, it’s often out of the way so having a few backup locations can be helpful. On my campus, the math building, education building, and upper floors of the humanities building were my go-to places.>>
What to Do Next
I like to end each of my articles with a suggestion on what to do next. Because I think every person reading this article is looking for an action to take to make new friends. So here’s what I think you should do next:
- Go to your college website
- Find the list of clubs on campus
- Make a list of 3-5 that sound interesting to you
- Write down when and where their first meeting will take place.
- Add them to your calendar/planner
Or, if you’d rather, do the exact same thing with volunteer organizations.
Have questions or a tip of your own? Share in the comments below.