Auntie SparkNotes: The Friendless Collegian
Allow me to express my grievances in a parody song. You sing it to the tun of the Napoleon vs. Napoleon epic rap battle on YouTube, specifically, Napoleon Dynamite's first part:
I can't believe how disappointing college is
No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to make a single friend
I'm told I'm a pretty nice person, and I'm kinda smart too
Welcome to [censored] High IB part 2
I'm lonely as hell
Feelin' like a full-time Holden Caulfield
Startin' to wonder if maybe I was born to be an outcast
Which would be fine, but the other outcasts keep ignoring me though
Wondering if I should transfer
Or become a commuter and live at home
I'm not sure my parody song covered all the details: basically, I've been at college for a month and a half, and I've followed your advice Auntie, but I'm still friendless. I go to a small school, so the further into the semester we get the less likely it is I'm going to find a friend. I'm more depressed than I've ever been and the fact that the material I'm learning in two out of my three classes is basically a repeat of high school isn't helping. I came to college with all kinds of big plans to have the experience I never had in high school (having a big group of friends, doing stuff on the weekends, enjoying homecoming, going to games, that kind of thing). So far I've reached my level of high school invisibility again, my only friend is Maximus, my betta fish, and I even seem to be making him sick (he currently has velvet and just got over a second case of fin rot)! Auntie, is there ANYTHING more I can do to make friends? Am I just unfriendable or what? Is everyone at this school just hopelessly snooty and I should leave?
I'm sorry, were you saying something? I was too busy ROCKING OUT LIKE A BOSS to that wicked rhyme you just busted. And when I say "rocking out," I mean that I was dancing like this.
But you do have a problem! You're friendless at college! And so, Sparkler, I just have to say.... blargh. I'm sorry. That sucks. And I'm going to just assume—since you've said as much—that you have, in fact, tried all the friend-making tactics in the Great Big Guide to College Socializing, so as not to waste time reiterating any of that old, familiar stuff about joining clubs, and suggesting casual hang-outs, and making yourself visible to the sort of people you'd like to be friends with. (But just in case you missed that one, it's over here.)
But the truth is, this can happen—whether it's because you haven't found your people yet, or because your people don't exist at the school you're at, or because you're unknowingly projecting some sort of weirdo vibe that makes you hard to connect with. And when that happens...
Don't give up.
I hate to say this, because it sounds condescending as hell, but y'know what? It's still early. And while your current connections may not have yielded any friendships, soon you'll have a whole new round of clubs and classes to participate in—and a whole other second-semester set of people to come into contact with. Basically, think of the social scene as a big game of musical chairs; you might be left standing for now, but the music will start again shortly.
Check your expectations. (And while you're at it, check yourself.)
It's one thing to expect to make more and better friends in college; it's another thing to expect that you'll somehow become a completely different person upon matriculation. If introversion and invisibility are what come naturally to you, you were never going to be an instant social butterfly just because you changed venues. You're still you. So if you were hoping for the big group of friends and the packed social calendar—and if you're getting increasingly frantic over not having made that happen -- then not only are you being way too hard on yourself, but you may be projecting the kind of insecure/desperate vibe that makes people unwilling to get too close to you.
So, for starters, make sure that your expectations don't exceed your capabilities. You may just not be a life-of-the-party type—and darling, if that's the case, it's okay. Most of us aren't! And then, take a run through the following checklist to make sure you're not inadvertently creeping anyone out:
- Are you comfortable hanging out by yourself?
- Are you a well-rounded person; do you have hobbies, passions, and interests that you enjoy and actively participate in?
- When you do meet someone and have a friendly conversation, do you listen as much as you talk?
If you answered no to any of these, you may want to take a refresher run through the Great Big Guide section on being confident and not closed-off to potential friends. And if you're really feeling lost? Schedule a meeting with an on-campus counselor. They're there to help! And on the off chance that you are doing something off-putting, a counselor will be able to help you identify and stop it.
And if, come spring, you're still miserable? It's totally okay to consider transferring.
Small schools can be great, but if you feel out of place there, then you really feel out of place—and there just aren't that many social groups you can try your hand with. And while I don't want you to throw in the towel yet, that throwaway line about the crap quality of your classes makes me think that you and your school may well just be mismatched.
Hopefully, it'll only take another few weeks (and and ongoing but not over-the-top effort on your part) for you to connect with a few good friends. But if you do choose to transfer, try to identify the things about this college that make it such a bad fit, and use those criteria in looking for a new one. And if you do this, please do consider a bigger college. If you don't make friends easily, the cliqueishness of a small school can be extra, exceptionally awful.
And hey, if you're really looking for people you can connect with? Write back, tell me where you go, and we'll send out the alert for any Sparklers on your campus to schedule a meetup, already.
Hey, who wants to be friends with this Sparkler? Leave your vital statistics, favorite bands, and preference for long walks on the beach in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.