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The challenges of making friends on a large campus

November 8, 2010 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A college freshman finds it hard to make friends on a large campus.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I’m a college freshman at a large state university. I chose not to join a sorority because it’s really not my thing, and I’ve had some difficulties joining campus organizations. They don’t make it easy to join clubs here. I’ve made a few friends, but no one close yet, and I feel that it’s been a long time not to develop any close relationships.

All my high school friends at smaller schools across the country have their new best friends. I had amazing friends in high school, so I can’t understand why I haven’t been able to make true friends in college yet. The few friends I have made are very nice people, but we don’t share many interests. I’m frightened that I will be alone for the next four years of my life, and I don’t want that to happen.

Any advice? I’m smart, funny, likable, and approachable, so I don’t understand why I’m always the one trying to initiate contact.

Best,
Bethany

ANSWER

Dear Bethany,

The transition from high school to college is a difficult one because students leave behind their family, friends, and all the people and things to which they were accustomed. For many students, this transition is made even more difficult if they attend a large school where they may initially feel invisible, swallowed up by the masses of people around them. The challenges of connecting with other students can feel even more daunting.

Remember, it’s only the beginning of November and you’re just beginning your college experience. It’s wonderful that you have the confidence and self-esteem to approach new people; some of your peers aren’t able to do that. In the end, it doesn’t matter who made the first approach.

While you don’t feel close to the people with whom you’ve already developed new friendships, that’s to be expected. Close friendships need to be nurtured slowly. You may find that, over time, you have more in common with the friends you’ve already made than seems apparent now. And perhaps, instead of one best friend, you will find several people with whom you’ll feel close to in different ways.

Each semester provides another set of opportunities to meet new people, both in classes and in your dorm. Also, as you begin to take courses in your major, class enrollments tend to be lower in number, making it easier to meet people with similar interests.

Resist the temptation to compare your relationships to your friends’ at other schools. Remain in contact with them via text or email—and keep doing what your doing on your own campus: Initiate contact with others, join clubs, play sports and keep yourself open to meeting new people. As another way of coming in contact with people, you may want to see if there are any part-time work or volunteer opportunities on campus, depending on your interests.

My guess is that you will eventually find some mutually rewarding friendships and maybe even a best friend. In short, keep pursuing your own interests and doing the things you love. Using your already proven social skills, they will make you a people magnet!

Hope this helps!

Best,
Irene


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  1. Making friends at college : The Friendship Blog | July 27, 2014
  1. Irene says:

    Thanks for your very thoughtful post. You may have inspired Bethany to become the next Mark Zuckerberg :-)!
    Best,
    Irene

  2. Laura says:

    Maybe Bethany can form study groups, have a dinner party for classmates she finds are friendly, or start a support group for people precisely in her predicament, like a transition to college support group. Even something as being a volunteer with other students can open up opportunities for friendships to form. And it takes time. Also, if Bethany’s noticed that clubs are hard to join, maybe she can propose a solution like online enrollment for clubs or forming a database of clubs and members’ diverse interests – like Facebook – to make it easier to join clubs. To also get over the blues, volunteering as a mentor like a big sister program helps or visiting the sick or elderly. It makes you grateful that you have to deal with this problem of things not moving as quickly as you’d hope versus life and death, which are infinitely harder since there’s no practice for that part of life. The big thing is that you can’t connect with people who do not share your values and live your values. That’s why friendship forming is hard; it’s trial and error most of the time. Patience is a virtue.

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