It’s a Friday night and I’m sitting in my dorm—alone. My roommate is out with her high school friends, and my suitemates are doing the same. I, on the other hand, have a date with my laptop, Stranger Things, and my twin-size bed.
Being the only student from my high school to go to The University of Texas at Austin and relatively far away from home, getting out and finding my own group of friends was a pretty daunting task, so the majority of my weekends were spent alone my first semester in college.
Finding a place on campus seems like an easy thing to do, considering the large number of students and array of clubs and organizations to get involved in. Many universities often have a variety of resources for students to engage with, but it’s up to the student to use those resources and make the effort to connect with a group of people. However, finding new friends is a relatively common struggle among first-year students, especially ones who feel like they’re in it alone.
Frank Bruni, a writer for the New York Times, discussed how common loneliness is among college students in his article, “The Real Campus Scourge.”
“In a survey of nearly 28,000 students on 51 campuses by the American College Health Association last year, more than 60 percent said that they had “felt very lonely” in the previous 12 months. Nearly 30 percent said that they had felt that way in the previous two weeks,” Bruni wrote. “In a sea of people, they find themselves adrift. The technology that keeps them connected to parents and high school friends only reminds them of their physical separation from just about everyone they know best.”
Stepping onto campus for the first time can be intimidating. One way to make sure there are a few familiar faces on campus is to attend your University’s welcome week or orientation. Most universities, whether public or private, will host these events, which allow students to meet each other and build relationships in the short time spent together.
These programs also offer a lot of great information for incoming students, from learning about campus traditions and different student organizations to hearing upperclassmen’s general tips on how to handle the first semester of college. Going to my University’s welcome camps offered me great memories and new friends and helped me get connected to the organizations I was involved with in my second semester of college.
Another way to easily connect with other students before classes begin is to link up with people using social media. Receiving an acceptance letter and finally committing to a college is an exciting time. Many students announce their decisions on social media, proudly updating bios and using hashtags to show their school pride. Universities also create Facebook groups and Twitter pages for students to bond with peers and virtually introduce themselves before stepping on campus. Social media allows classmates to get to know each other, make new friends, and find roommates.
Once students are settled in on campus, many schools host a week during the semester dedicated to clubs and organizations. This hectic week involves a variety of students tabling, trying to attract students to come to an informational meeting. This week can be especially helpful in finding an interest worth your time and connecting with people around campus who share those interests. It’s designed to help students get plugged in to campus activities, so take advantage of it. Plus, free food is common at most informational meetings, so if nothing else, go for a free meal!
Lastly, it’s important to remember community is all around you. Every person admitted to the University is a part of a community. It may seem intimidating, but there’s no reason not to introduce yourself to new people. Students in college are willing to open up and meet new people, especially since everyone understands the vitality of connecting with others. In general, people of all ages enjoy talking about themselves. Being genuinely interested in getting to know a fellow peer will almost always end in a pleasant conversation, and you never know who you’ll meet.
Related: 7 Tips for Making Friends in College