You’ve watched 22 Jump Street and you’ve watched Pitch Perfect. You geek until you weep at these hilarious comedies about college but don’t you wonder what your college experience will look like? How will you make real friends during your first week of college?
According to most films about college, the average person makes their first real friends within 20 minutes of arriving on campus. Hold on, though. Unless you have a film crew following you, you’re probably not going to meet every member of your wedding party by accidentally stumbling into them on move-in day.
During my first week of college, I made real friends by going out of my comfort zone while staying true to my morals and my interests. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, let me give you 10 tips on how you can go from no friends to mo’ friends in one week.
1. Make your roommate your first friend
In the struggle to connect with the thousands of other students living by you, don’t forget that you likely have to live with one of them. Your first interaction may not result in love (ahem, that’s platonic) at first sight but you can get ahead by picking someone with a similar composure.
Most universities set up a Facebook group for first-year students the summer before college. You can use this group as a tool to post about yourself and chat with fellow students in your class. I not only met my roommate by bonding over our love of memes in this chat but I also made new friends that became familiar faces even on my first day at college.
Even if you decide to pick a random roommate, don’t get too anxious. While you may not have gotten to know each other over the summer, demonstrating an interest in your fellow newbie’s background and interests will put you at a great advantage. Make an effort to have conversation with this stranger, and with patience and respect, you’ll start treating each other more like soulmates than roommates.
2. Forget everything you learned in high school
Forget everything you learned in high school… about how to make friends. While making friends in high school relied on the statutes of cliques, athleticism, and followers on Instagram, it’s time to let that all go. Every jock, geek, and average joe has to start fresh now that high school has ended.
At most colleges, the schools have too much space and students for anyone to form a social hierarchy. Now that you and your former classmates have their independence, the pressures to fit in have lifted greatly. The teenagers trying to be cool have become the adults tackling new responsibilities.
Don’t be afraid to talk to someone because you think they could hurt your chances of making friends with the cool kids. Grow up and make the friends that you really want to make. Every new kid needs a friend and in your case, the new kids are well, around one-fourth of the people around you.
As someone who didn’t make many close friends in high school, I’m so grateful that I didn’t let the pressures of high school affect the relationships I pursued in college. Drop the labels. Don’t make or break your friendship with new people based on how they fit into a high school stereotype.
3. Set a trap on the door with a marker and a whiteboard
If you’re struggling to connect with the other people on your floor, try hanging up a whiteboard on your door and leaving a dry erase marker as an accomplice. You can write or draw everything from polls to memes for passersby to interact with in order to attract your audience. Show off your creativity, your humor, and your talents. Let your neighbors see the real you and you’ll have a greater chance of making real friends during your first week of college.
In my first week at the University of Maryland, my floor got to know each other quickly through our peculiar drawings and messages that we left for each other. We began to gather around each whiteboard and started conversing over the unique sketches each person put on their door. These silent drawings filled the halls with laughter and discussion.
Don’t try to offend anyone with your messages, but don’t be too afraid to showcase your humor on your whiteboard. Sometimes simply writing “Hi, from (insert someone’s name)” on another person’s whiteboard would be enough for my roommate and I to start a conversation with a neighbor.
On your own whiteboard, think of something that will attract participation from your peers. My roommate and I made our posts random, yet nostalgic. For example, we posted polls like “Which chipmunk from Alvin and the Chipmunks is the best-looking?” and “Which character from The Office do you see yourself as?”. Other successes included drawings of characters from Phineas & Ferb and love notes written in Ukrainian.
4. Embrace the opportunities of your first week of college
Struggling to break the ice with your fellow peers over a funny or interesting story? In my first week at college, I managed to squash this fear by embracing every interaction with a person that I got. During your first week, you may not have access to clubs yet but you likely have the chance to attend a club fair, football game, or orientation activity.
Acting like a party pooper during your first week of college can set you up for disaster in the months to come. Sherry Woosley, who is the Senior Director of Analytics & Research at Macmillan Learning, published an article in 2003 for College Student Journal saying that a lack of social interaction “can have profound effects on subsequent levels of involvement and aspirations for intellectual achievement”.
The freshmen in my hall that socialized the most throughout the year did not prioritize making friends any later than the first week of school. Even my friends that commute set up a great circle of friends by driving to most of the events that my university planned. Don’t decide not to come out because you’re an introvert. You never know who might bring you out of your shell.
I met one of my now-good friends at college when he set an odd, yet effective example of how to make friends at Maryland’s first football game. He started walking up to random groups at the football game and asked if they would share their “chicken tendies” with him. After five no’s, he finally received a yes from one of my generous new friends. You’ll meet a lot of interesting people at events. Be careful not to send away the person who will take care of you on your 21st birthday.
5. Turn your room into the floor’s hangout spot
Getting through your first week of college can be a hard adjustment for anyone. An LED light strip, a speaker, and a sizable stash of munchies can change all of that. When you make your dorm feel and sound like a party, your neighbors will want to come and really make the room a party.
Once you’ve pumped up the pop songs and popped the popcorn, it’s time for your party to pop off. Advertise your hangout spot by knocking on your neighbors’ doors, introducing yourself, and inviting them over to check out the space. This is a great way to start your first conversation with a new person and increase the chance that you’ll make some great new friends that night. If all goes well, movie nights and kickbacks in your room could become a beloved tradition.
If you don’t know how to start a conversation, bring on the generosity. A handful of Sour Patch Kids or a can of Dr. Pepper can go a long way in letting someone feel welcome. Remember that college is a new experience for everyone in the room. A simple gesture of kindness or the crunch of a pizza-flavored Pringle can let another freshman know that he or she doesn’t have to face this new challenge alone.
During freshman year, my neighbors hosted a lot of get-togethers where we could all play games like Grand Theft Auto V and Rise of the Tomb Raider on their PlayStation 4. We became friends through these hangouts and started bringing in even more friends once our other neighbors wanted in on the fun. We continued to bond by watching shows like Big Mouth on Netflix and playing Cards Against Humanity together. By the end of the first week, my new friends’ room became known as “the trap room”, the hottest venue in all of Cumberland Hall.
6. Start a study plan to make classmates into friends
It happened on Community, so why can’t you be best friends with your study group? Aside from helping you to achieve higher grades, study groups let you access a whole new network of friendships. Who knew that studying the difference between real and imaginary numbers can get you from imaginary to real friends?
When I first met one of my best college friends in math class during the first week of school, I had no idea we would ever become so close. The teacher had laid out the textbook at his desk for us to take pictures of our homework problems. As 10 other people and I waited in line to take pictures with our phones, I suggested that we make a group chat so that only one person has to take pictures of the notes each day.
To make a long story short, no one really cared. Well, one person cared. One guy in the class gave me his contact information as we walked out of class and we started to talk about the material. Then we branched off into how we felt about the class, how we felt about the school, and then about how we felt in general. Before I knew it, I had spent 20 minutes talking to a complete stranger as I suddenly stood back in front of my residence hall.
Over the first week of school, we continued the tradition of walking together after class, which soon became hanging out and introducing each other to each other’s new friends. Because of my new friend, I had the confidence to reinitiate the idea with the class, and this time, more people jumped on board. Soon I not only had a few more friends in the class, but I had a study group for learning statistics.
Learn from my experience that taking initiative is important to both establishing great college study habits and great friend groups. Don’t let yourself struggle with classes and making friends during your first week of college. Lead your classmates to an A during the day and don’t be surprised if they lead you to a party that same night.
7. Reveal your secret talents
You don’t always need to use words to make a new friend. You can just as easily communicate your personality through a showcase of your talents. Give those around you a preview of how much cooler their life can be when they hang around you.
Remember how I said earlier that you can use whiteboards to make new friends? If you can draw an eye-catching picture or tell a gut-busting joke, take a marker and use a whiteboard to make a quite literal post on social media.
One day, I caught a girl from down the hall drawing handsome pictures of Squidward Tentacles, my favorite character from SpongeBob SquarePants. She amazed me with how accurately she could draw him from memory. She didn’t use words, yet she definitely did not struggle to make a great impression on me. I started talking to her about her art and our mutual love for Squidward, and the experience led us to become good friends for the rest of the year.
When you’re an introvert, talking may be the last thing you want to do at any given time. If you don’t want to talk, try moving your body. With the rise of Tik Tok, dancing has become a key part of Gen-Z culture.
My roommate has made friends all over campus by simply busting out Tik-Tok dances in public. He’s gotten people hyped up at bus stops, street corners, dorm hallways… you name it. Performing backflips on the fly during his first week of college not only attracted a fanbase on campus, but he started to make a growing circle of friends.
Use your talents to grab the attention of those around you. My friends have made their own friends by singing, performing voice impersonations, and playing basketball, among other activities. Whether you believe it or not, you have something to bring to the table. Your real friends will come to you to celebrate your abilities.
8. Keep your door open
What do first-week freshmen dorms and the houses in Pokémon games have in common? When you walk into either of these homes uninvited, you have an oddly low chance of having the inhabitants call the police on you. If you don’t feel comfortable being the extrovert, you can likely survive as an introvert as long as you keep your door open.
During your first week of college, your resident advisers will probably encourage you to keep your doors open in order to meet new people. When you leave your door open, neighbors feel less cautious about entering your personal space. The great thing about leaving your door open is that you and your neighbors can communicate more efficiently with each other.
No one needs to loudly bang on the door to get another person’s attention. You can get to know your new neighbors without having to let them in first. Once you feel a little comfortable with them, invite them inside your room to enjoy your hospitality.
Out of the eight floors in my freshman hall, my floor became the most social during our first week on campus. Our neighbors from the floors above us were shocked at how quickly my floormates and I got to know each other. We realized that the majority of our conversations had started because we felt comfortable talking to each other through the large amount of open doors on our floor. Who knew that social distancing through a doorway is a great way to make friends?
9. Seek help if you’re struggling to make friends
Although I made a lot of friends during my first week of college, you may not make those connections as immediately as I did. Perhaps you’re trying different strategies like joining clubs or hanging out at events, yet you don’t feel like you’re clicking yet with anyone.
Don’t worry. Take a deep breath and concentrate on the support system you already have. Now is the time to use your lifelines. Phone or text a friend or family member for advice on how to make new friends at college.
I’m shocked that too many articles on how to make friends in college do not reference turning to family and friends for help. Everyone has a unique college experience and a perspective to share and help you in your own experience. If you know friends or family members who have already dealt with the first week of college, ask them how they made their friends. Maybe you’ll find a great technique that hasn’t already been mentioned online.
You’ll either commute or live on campus. You’ll either be a transfer student or a freshman during your first week at a new college. No matter your situation, you’ll probably worry about losing your pride if you feel the need to reach out to someone if you’re struggling to make friends. You’re better off knowing how to make real friends and not worrying about your pride than continuing your loneliness as you constantly have to check your pride as it fades.
If you can’t get a hold of a person in your support system, make an appointment with a counselor at your school’s health center. When I struggled with my mental health toward the beginning of freshman year, I could access a counselor at University of Maryland by calling up the health center for an appointment. 24 hours later, I had a great talk with a trained professional and I felt so much better about how to tackle the challenges of college life.
A report by Higher Education Today from 2018 states that only between 10 and 15 percent of college students use mental health resources on campus. I can tell you from my experience that 85 to 90 percent of us would feel much better after just one 30-minute session with a mental health counselor. You’ll not only learn tips on how to make friends during your first week in college but how to pick out the real ones from the fake ones.
10. Make yourself memorable (for the right reasons)
When the get-to-knowing gets tough, let your peers know you’re the tuffest. Don’t wait for people to find out how cool you are. Instead, let them find out during your first college floor meetings. When an RA asks you to share a fun fact about yourself, think about what you think sounds like a fun fact, as well as what others might find as a fun fact.
A floor meeting offers one of the first opportunities for you to advertise yourself as a possible friend for someone at college. Don’t rattle off a fact that you think might disturb people to the point of no return. Do consider telling them an aspect of your life that you feel is unique and a source of pride for you.
As high school has unfortunately taught us, being true to ourselves doesn’t always mean that we make friends with the people we expect to enjoy the most. College has taught me that you can never expect who you’ll end up enjoying the most as a friend in such a large pool of people. When you open up to others, your real friends will be the ones who seek you out, rather than the ones who you give all the unrequited attention.
During my first college floor meeting, I met two of my closest friends at UMD after they asked me to tell them more about a story that I had shared during a get-to-know-you game. My story involved meeting Bill Cosby right before his scandal broke, which piqued the interest of my floormates in our circle. Most people don’t have the same story as me, but they don’t have to use my story. If you have a story that evokes a strong emotional pull toward you from your audience, take action and grab a future friend’s attention.
No matter how you make yourself positively memorable during your first week, remember the importance of charisma. If you don’t have the confidence to try to attract friends toward you, you could end up struggling to make friends during your first week of college. I recommend checking out author Jeff Haden’s article called “10 Ways to Develop Incredible Charisma (Yet Still Be Yourself)” on LinkedIn.
You don’t have to be a natural extrovert to make a grand impression. Acting friendly to others, treating yourself with kindness, and finding a balance between confidence and humility will let the people around you know that you’re a great friend to have. If you can learn these tips for your first week of college, I promise you that you can make friends even if you’re an introvert.