Ten ways to make friends in college

Last Updated 24 June, 2015

Feeling both excited and terrified about starting over when you go off to college in the fall? Navigating a new social atmosphere after leaving the comfort (or discomfort) of your high school scene can be unnerving, but breaking into a new group is important to getting the most out of your college experience. We talked to upperclassmen and recent grads to get some tips for coming out of freshman year with relationships that will last a lifetime. 

  1. Participate in new student orientation activities.
    Most schools offer lots of mixers as part of freshman orientation activities. Although doing crazy stuff with a bunch of relative strangers may be initially uncomfortable, it’s a great way to bond. At NNU, Week One follows NSO and offers amazing activities every night.

    “Go to Week One! This is something I tell all incoming students to go to. All these events are set up for you to make friends and mingle. It is okay to feel a little shy; it's totally normal. Ninety-nine percent of all relationships start with meeting someone at Week One!” says 2014 grad T.J. Dooghan.

  2. Leave your door open.
    Of course living in a residence hall is a great way to get connected, but it won’t do you much good if you hole up in your room and never come out. Instead, leave your room door open sometimes. You’ll send the signal that you are open to company and stay aware of spontaneous happenings on your wing.

    “Get out of your dorm room and meet new people! My wing freshman year spent time together out in the hallway a couple nights a week to do study hall. It always started off with homework and good intentions, but usually turned into doing nails, laughing and listening to our favorite boy bands. Getting out of my room and meeting in the hallway gave me a chance to get to know my wing mates and make those bonds!” shares senior and former SGA Social Vice President Jessica Whittaker.

  3. Don’t be above the rules. 
    Sometimes rules like curfew or visiting hours in college seem like unnecessary limits on your new independence. However, often these types of guidelines are intended to give space for fostering relationships rather than restricting your freedom. Check your attitude and give it a chance. You might be surprised. 

    “I know this sounds weird, but having curfew freshman year rocked. It was a great way to bond with the guys in my dorm, and some of my strongest friendships were forged because I had to be in the building. From late night games of hallway billiards to eating 100 cheese-puffs for the centennial to the Culver Family Christmas Party, nothing beats living in the NNU dorms,” says junior Brent Conrad.

  4. Join a club, play on a team or run for office—just get involved!
    You may feel overwhelmed by the academic workload at your university, but don’t let that stop you from finding an extracurricular activity. Most schools offer tons of options—many that compliment your studies and help you meet people with similar interests. NNU offers everything from academic clubs to intramural sports to ministry groups to help you plug in to your passion.

    “Get Involved! Getting involved was a game changer for me. I was never really involved in high school, but I made it one of my top priorities when coming to college. When you are involved you're putting yourself in a great position to meet new people everyday!” shares 2014 grad T.J. Dooghan.

  5. Take a chance on a stranger.
    Although you may be already dreaming up your room's color scheme with your BFF, consider letting fate (or the director of residential life) match you up with a roommate instead of choosing a friend. It can be risky to move in with a complete stranger, but living with someone you don’t already know will teach you a lot about yourself and how to build relationships. Not to mention, you’ll have an instant companion for those first meals and events on campus. 

    “The months leading up to beginning my freshmen year were filled with anxiety as I wondered about who I would be paired with as a roommate. All the worst possibilities crossed my mind: messy, smelly, clingy, anti-social, mean, etc. I finally received the assignment, but it took a few days to built up the courage to send her an email. When I didn't get a response within 10 seconds, I concluded that she already hated me; however, a day or two later I got a message that was kind, light-hearted, funny, and sincere and our relationship began. We have not only roomed together three of our four years of college, but she is also one of my closest friends,” says senior Elisa Rau. 

  6. Be yourself and let others do the same. 
    Although college can offer an opportunity to reinvent yourself, it’s not a good time to pretend to be someone you are not. It’s also not a good time to make quick judgments of others. All freshmen feel awkward, so give yourself and others a break and some time to get to know each other. That weird kid in the room next door can easily become your BFF. 

    “Best advice I could give is just being around and being yourself! The people at NNU are so inviting and accepting and nice, if you're around, you'll make the best friends,” says senior Ben Circeo. 

  7. Open up to new experiences and new people.
    If you really want make the most of your college experience, you have to go all in. This means not just showing up physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Be prepared to be stretched and challenged by those around you in college. It’s a good thing to rethink your assumptions. 

    “Open Up. Being a Peer Mentor for two years showed me that incoming freshman, and even some older students, have a difficult time opening up to the newness of NNU and all that the university has to offer. So, relax and be open to what God and NNU have in store for you,” shares senior Steven Coles. 

  8. Leave your high school love in high school.
    Whether or not your high school sweetheart is coming to the same university as you, consider letting that relationship take a breather. It’s definitely harder to make new friends if you are spending all your time canoodling, not to mention that the newness of college and/or the distance can put a lot of pressure on an existing romantic relationship. It’s cliché, but if it’s meant to be, you’ll probably get back together anyway with a whole new appreciation for one another. 

    “Dating someone from high school when you go to college is like saying, ‘I don’t want to see what life has to offer, I’m pretty content how I am right now.’ You think it can’t get any better, but God has a way of surprising you. Be open and let life happen,” suggests senior and current SGA Social Vice President Jack Biewend. 

  9. Get out of your comfort zone.
    College is all about trying new things, and NNU is a safe, friendly and fun place to do that. Why not try something new, whether it is joining a club or sitting with a new group in the cafeteria? You may be surprised at what you really enjoy and who ends up as favorite people. 

    “Try saying ‘Yes!’ Adjusting to campus life and involvement in such a welcoming community is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so enjoy it while you can! The first week of my freshman year, I met some sophomores who asked me to float the Boise River with them. I was tired, I didn't know how I'd fit in, and to be honest, I didn't even know all of their names, but my gut told me ‘go for it!’ A year later, that afternoon is one of my best memories at NNU. This is the time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, so try not to limit yourself by saying ‘No.’” shares sophomore Kelly Nigro. 

  10. Just relax.  
    Making friends isn’t really rocket science. Chances are good at a university like NNU that finding your new groove will be much easier than you think. So don’t overthink it.  

    “Relax. I didn't think I was nervous coming into undergrad—that is until Move-In Day. There is so much going on and so many things you realize that you don't know. During your first year of college, you are so worried about how you come off to your peers. Everything seems intimidating. As an NNU alum, I would love to tell my 18-year-old college freshman self to CALM DOWN! College is a place to learn, not only about academics but also about yourself. People are going to like you; you will have a great time; you will make awesome memories. People can tell when you're tense and not being yourself. So just relax and take a deep breath. You're going to be okay,” advises 2014 grad Onjoli Martelly.