How to Make Friends at College

For some people, their college years are the “Glory Days” of their lives. Nothing can top that championship season or the internship that led to life changing opportunities. Some students discover what they’re meant to do in one of their elective classes. Some don’t ever stop talking about their study abroad trip.

For others, the best part of their college experience is the friendships they made in their dorms, classes, or on-campus jobs. College provides a unique opportunity to make some friends for a season—and others to last a lifetime. We know that the transition from high school to college can be overwhelming, so we have a few tips about how to make friends throughout your time at university.

The Beginning

Your first year at college is full of firsts; there’s a lot to navigate, like roommate relationships, managing your time, and taking care of yourself. Remember that you’re not going through this season alone. It can take some time to find your people, so we encourage you to:

  • Be brave.

Sometimes the only way to meet your people is to…meet people. While the phenomenon of connecting to others might happen naturally, it’s helpful to start your college experience prepared to initiate those connections. Be brave and ask a classmate to grab coffee after class. Invite your roommate to a football game. Sit next to new people at lunch. And say yes when someone invites you.

  • Be involved.

Most colleges try to create activities and events to foster those organic connections. At Bethel, we have Welcome Week, where we place incoming students into core groups so they have a group to explore campus, eat meals, and begin to make friends. Go to those activities and ask people questions about themselves. Check out the Student Opportunity fair to see what kinds of clubs you can be a part of. Attend the weekend activities offered on campus.

  • Be kind to yourself.

Social anxiety is real. Crowd fatigue is real. Sometimes you might have to decline an invitation to do homework or get some much-needed sleep. Your social victory for the week might be saying hi to someone on your floor. You could find yourself organizing a weekly movie night to fight off homesickness. Whatever you need is okay. Take care of yourself.

The Middle

Making friends is one thing. Keeping those friendships is another. Your second and third years in college are different from the year of firsts, and it can be surprising how hard it is to stay in touch with people you thought would be lifelong friends. As you navigate the middle of your college experience, we encourage you to:

  • Be intentional.

Proximity can play a surprisingly big role in the formation of friendships. You might not have the same schedule as you did with some of your first-year friends, so your lunch rhythm might look different. Maybe your choir pal is studying abroad. Maybe your best friend becomes a resident assistant in a freshman dorm, so you’re no longer living together. Intentionally make time to connect with your first-year friends.

  • Be nimble.

College is a time of transformation. As you take new classes and live with new people, you might be surprised by who you most enjoy spending time with. Be nimble as you explore new friendships; don’t close yourself off to new opportunities or connections because your relationships might look a little different than they did the year before.

  • Be willing to learn.

As you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, your friends are too. Be willing to learn about what you need as a student, coworker, friend, and human being. Be willing to learn what your friends need too. As you grow together, your friendships will both flourish and shrink with the seasons. Learning what that looks and feels like is part of the college experience.

The End

As you near the end of your college journey, you will have collected countless stories and memories. You might still be friends with the people in those stories. You also might not be as close as you used to be, or you might find yourselves closer than ever. As you prepare for life after college, we encourage you to:

  • Be thoughtful.

Honor the end of your college journey, for it is an intense, life changing experience. Honor your accomplishments alongside the people who joined you on the mountaintops and met you in the valleys. Celebrate your college traditions. Make summer plans to connect with your friend group so you have something to look forward to together. Be thoughtful about how you can honor all the memories you’ve made together.

  • Be honest about your feelings.

As you finish up final projects, search for jobs, and figure out where you’re living, it can be easy to push the emotions aside to focus on the practical things in front of you. Before you know it, you’ll be deciding what to listen to during your commute to a nine-to-five job you’ve had for three months. Take the time to feel whatever you need to feel as you’re still in college, still with the people who helped make your time at college so memorable.

  • Be open to surprises.

Expectations can simultaneously offer direction and disappointment. On one hand, it’s helpful to make a few plans to intentionally connect with your people. On the other, expecting everything to stay the same after graduation might actually be harmful. Be open to surprises as you find yourself struggling to connect with friends you were close to, while hanging out with friends you didn’t know that well. No matter what life season you’re in, you’ll need people to share it with.

Lots of students say that when they visited Bethel for the first time, they just felt something different. In all we do, we make caring for our community a priority—celebrating successes with friends, working through issues together, and encouraging each other to grow. At Bethel, community is a feeling and an experience. It’s marked by a deep respect for our differences as well as a unique connection that comes with pursuing the same things.