Finding friends in the next big season of life.
From the moment I began my college experience, I was on a mission. A mission for friendship.
In high school, my mentor showed me what true community in college looked like. At Ohio State, she had an array of supportive, encouraging women around her. When I visited her, I saw the warmth of the friendships she had, the way they treated each other, the laughter they shared. It was beautiful, and I wished that I could be blessed with that kind of uplifting environment in college. But I wondered how to make friends in college that would be like this.
It’s no surprise that I probably signed up for 50 clubs and 5 bible studies in the first couple weeks. I was that girl.
If you are about to go to college, or if you are a human being, you probably want some good solid friends. And I want that for you, too. Follow these tips below so you can find that wonderful community that is waiting for you.
1. Remember that proximity isn’t everything
You might think that you’ll be besties with everyone in your dorm, and you might just find a few. But it’s not best to rely on your dorm for community. The tricky thing about dorm-friendship is it’s based on proximity, not on similarity. Plenty of people become best friends with people in their dorm, but the next couple years they grow apart. They realize that they were only BFFs because they lived on the same floor, and it was convenient. This is why getting yourself out there is so important.
2. Get yo’self out there
I remember mustering up the courage to go to a fitness class alone, hoping to make a friend. When I left the workout, I met Carrie and found out she lived right next to my dorm. So every time we walked back from this class, it only made sense to walk back together.
Our friendship grew, and many tears and laughs were shared on that walk. If it doesn’t come to a surprise, Carrie is one of my best friends today.
After meeting and hanging out with Carrie, she invited me to a bible study. So I took Carrie’s word for it and went to a bible study, where a bunch of women all met up at an upperclassman’s house and talked about life.
One day, a new girl named Emily showed up. She came alone and was very quiet. We barely said a word to each other, but with each week, our friendship grew more and more. Without surprise, she is now one of my best friends.
If I had never mustered up the courage to go to the fitness class solo, I would have not met Carrie. And if it weren’t for Carrie, I wouldn’t have met Emily. Each of these friendships started with a small ounce of courage.
3. Join organizations
I wouldn’t have made any of my friendships if I didn’t get involved. I found a bunch of organizations at my school’s club fair, where you can sign up for clubs that interest you.
My personality is to sign up for as many clubs as possible without even knowing it. It’s convenient that most clubs subscribe you to their email list, just in case you black out and forget all the things you signed up for.
Yes, I did sign up for the running team, though I can’t remember the last time I ran a mile shorter than 15 minutes. But at least I put myself out there. I ended up joining some media outlets and school ministries.
If you’re not like me and you actually love to run, maybe you’d have a better go at the running club. If you’re all about the corporate world, it might be a good idea for you to join a business fraternity. And if your heart hurts for poverty, join Habitat for Humanity. In college, there’s a place for everyone.
Maybe you think joining clubs is stupid. But most fulfilled college students have one thing in common: they’re involved. I don’t care if it’s the fencing club, or a sorority, or a book club – these students are finding something they love and are surrounding themselves with like-minded people. If that’s not a recipe for school success, I don’t know what is.
4. It’s okay to go alone
When you decide what to get involved in, make sure you go to a meeting, even if it means going alone.
There were plenty of times where I needed to suck it up and say tiny prayers as I walked into meetings on my own. It was scary, but it all paid off in the end. Not everything that’s worth doing is going to be fun. But the upside is worth the fear.
You might’ve gotten shut down at orientation when you complimented Sally’s shoes. But you can’t let that destroy your hope for finding future friends. It’s a good thing that you’re on campus with thousands of other people who want community to navigate college with, just like you.
5. Extend the invitation instead of waiting for invites
Friends don’t come to you in college. You have to go to them.
Watching five episodes of Stranger Things in your dorm is not going to get you any friends. Even though this is one heck of a show.
If you don’t believe this, you’re going to be very disappointed when you look at your phone after a binge-watch session to no new messages.
Friendship requires effort. It takes getting out of the comfortable space of your dorm, and extending the hand of friendship to another.
6. To have a friend, you need to be a friend
Being a friend is more important than hoping for people to approach you and invite you to everything. It’s better to shift the focus off of yourself and onto loving the people around you, even if you don’t know them super well or it gives you a nervous pit in your stomach.
If you don’t know where to start, smile. No one is a fan of a RBF, and if you struggle with this default, try your best to resist. And if you don’t know what to say, ask a question. Ask other students what brought them to that meeting. Ask what they are studying, where they are from, and how their first couple of weeks are going. People love to talk about themselves, so asking questions will likely make for a good conversation.
7. Get a lot of coffee
After meeting someone, ask if they want to grab coffee. I know, I know, maybe you think that’s pushy. And maybe you fear that you’ll get rejected. But the truth is, everyone wants to be invited to something, especially in those first few months. Think of how happy you get when someone wants to hang out with you, even if you don’t really want to hang out with this person. It feels good to be wanted.
8. The friends you choose at first might not be the best for you – and that’s okay
Maybe the group you’re hanging out with isn’t the best for you. It’s completely normal to go along with life, and think you’ve found your college besties, but realize that you didn’t quite hit the nail on the head.
Sometimes it takes feeling uncomfortable in the wrong group of friends to find the right community. I know many women who grouped up with people they had nothing in common with, but there’s always a way out. You’re surrounded by thousands of other women who would love to have a friend like you.
As a good rule of thumb, I heard when looking for a group of friends, imagine them as your bridesmaids. Would you want these women to stand with you on the most important day of your life? This is a good shift of perspective.
9. Remember good things take time
Despite my club-joining efforts, best friends weren’t popping out of thin air. There were definitely potential besties, but no immediate friend group. I had pretty high expectations when I stepped on campus.
I remember crying to a mentor about not yet finding my “people”. She then reassured me that friends would come, but it would take time. And I needed to be okay with being alone.
If a best-friendship happens in 2 weeks, that’s a friendship built on a shaky foundation. True friendships take months of dinners at the dining hall, breaking down from the weight of school stress, and laughing about awkward moments of the day.
But at the beginning of the year, I hadn’t quite figured this out.
I got jealous with every social media post, where it seemed like everyone already found friends. It hurt my heart to see a big group walking to the dining hall, and I was heading off to my quiet dorm room to eat my sandwich alone. But God let me wait for community. And in the waiting, in the process of not getting what I wanted, I grew. I learned how to be content on my own and to put my identity in Him before putting my worth in a group.
Now, two years after that vulnerable time, I am enjoying the blessings of a wonderful community. Of women who point each other to Jesus. Of women who mourn over the Bachelor. We cry together, pray together, hysterically laugh together.
If I had looked in the future, I wouldn’t have worried at all. If we always knew what the future held, there would be no point in having faith. In trusting a God who has our best interest in mind.
10. Trust where God has you
As someone who loves people, I’ve had trouble thinking that I need others around me to feel fulfilled. And though friends are a wonderful gift, you don’t need them to walk with confidence.
True joy can be found no matter what the circumstances are.
There will always be something we don’t have. The key is thanking God for what we do have, and living in the abundance of what we’ve been given.
If you’ve been blessed with friends, love those friends well. But if you’ve done your part in finding them, and they still aren’t there, it might mean God is calling you to walk on your own.
Live and love right where you are, instead of wishing you were somewhere else.
I say this for the Friday nights when you are by yourself and don’t have any plans. But I also say this for the nights when you have endless plans because you are such a hot commodity (we tend to experience both seasons in our lives.)
If the time calls for you to be alone, you can grow closer to the Lord and enjoy the peace that comes with solitude. If the time calls for you to spend time with your bajillion friends, you can serve them and enjoy the fruits of community.
No matter where you are or who you’re with, you can feel joy. No matter the circumstance, you can prosper. And if that’s not freeing, I don’t know what is.
What advice do you have on how to make friends in college? Comment below!
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