My college friends are the best. There’s no replacing my friends from childhood or the people I was close with in high school, but my college friends are special. They were there with me as I grew into the person I am today, and in many ways they are directly responsible for some of my best qualities. (And worst guilty pleasures– thank you obligatory college K-pop friend.) I hope that these tips and shared experiences can help you make your own best-ever college friends. Just don’t get too excited; obviously my college friends are the greatest college friends there ever will be.
Join a club… or seven
It’s likely that this tip isn’t a total revelation, but it’s a classic for a reason: meeting people who do cool stuff is a good way to find people to do cool stuff with. Often people will cite the virtues of clubs as a way to meet new people and expand your social circle. On the other hand, if you’re a serial activity collector (like moi), joining a bunch of different clubs can also help you recognize the like-minded folks who show up to every meeting of everything.
I met my Activity Buddy when we joined the improv club together, and then I saw him the next week at auditions for an a cappella group. By the time we both showed up independently to the same religious/cultural club meeting and found each other performing at the same open mic night, we had pretty well realized that we had a good thing going on. Initially I felt a bit of jealous rivalry with my new buddy; I wasn’t used to being overshadowed in my perpetual high school role of activity master supreme. However, I realized that we just had a shared commitment and enthusiasm for fun stuff. By the time senior year rolled around one or the other (or both of us together) were in charge of what felt like half the clubs on campus. Fortunately, as a sagely Gryffindor he helped me use my Slytherin powers for good. It was awesome hanging with my Activity Buddy all the time, but it was also invaluable to have a trusted partner who could step in and be relied upon when I needed help, or when finals got too finals-y.
Butt in (with your face)
Meeting new people right when I got to college was an exciting and slightly terrifying endeavor. Nearly everyone was in a new place, and hardly anyone knew anybody else coming in. This made for some primo social anxiety, but it also meant that everyone was on even footing, and any commonality or mutual interest was grounds for making friends. The first weekend on campus, I awkwardly butted into a conversation between two girls talking on the main drag between dorms. I had overheard one of them say to the other that she was a vegetarian for health reasons, which was a cause I felt strongly about myself at the time. This could have gone really awkwardly… and actually, it did. BUT in the end my forced conversational invasion was worth it: I managed to make it through my word vomit without spontaneously combusting out of embarrassment, and said vegetarian ended up becoming one of my absolute life-besties.
College is a whole new world, and it’s not worth sweating small stuff like potentially awkward moments when you could be missing out on incredible new friends that might change your life. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with my awkwardly-met vegetarian friend through four years of college and beyond, as she’s grown from a health-conscious teenager into a health-conscious, real life actual doctor. You can’t be too scared to put yourself out there, because you never know when you might need to text your platonic vegetarian life partner about a weird thing on your skin at 2:30 in the morning. (Sorry friend!)
Love thy roommate
One of my most fortuitous college friendships took root right in my own room, with my roommate. I met the majority of my friends at college with my roommate by my side, and our interpersonal relationships developed in harmonious parallel, like a good college a cappella group. In fact, my roommate and I liked living together so much that after freshman year ended, we decided to do the whole thing over again and co-bunk once more.
Ending up with a good roommate can certainly take some luck (or serious devotion to your pre-college voodoo ritual), but it helps if you put in the effort to make yourself as live-withable as possible. My roommate and I had some interests in common, but in many ways we had “complementary” personalities. He was a lot neater than I was. He cared more about his privacy than I did. He was really quiet, and I was… not. I liked my roommate and I wanted him to like me, so I did my best to sweep up regularly and keep my stuff (mostly) put away, made sure to give him his space, and took my one-person party outside when things were getting excessively boisterous. These might not seem like big deal issues or major concessions on my part, but I have seen firsthand how these kinds of lifestyle divides can tear a dynamic rooming duo apart. My efforts were rewarded with a great friendship, and a lasting one. Once “real life” rolled around after graduation, my roommate liked living with me enough to keep on doing it, so that we could stave off the harsh realities of not-college together.
Keep an open mind about everyone, self included
Many of my favorite people in college didn’t start out that way. Looking back, my first impression of several eventual friends was something pretty close to, “that guy/girl/gender-nonspecific person is really weird.” It turns out that people who are comfortable being themselves are pretty awesome. People often say that college is a good place to experiment, and that should include trying out new people to hang out with, inclusively. Why not make more friends?
The temptation can be strong to create a cool, new, oh-so-casual identity for yourself when you get to college. The good news is, it is totally possible reinvent yourself socially when you get there, if you really want to. However, it’s important to remember that college provides the chance to figure out who you are on your own, and who you want to be as an adult. Don’t get let your inner secret crystal fairy get held back by boring high school hangups. Being yourself will help you find friends you want to keep hanging out with for the long haul as you grow. College is all about learning, and that includes figuring out what makes someone a good friend for you all on your own!