The Freshman 15: Tips for Meeting New People

Before I started college, one of my biggest concerns was that I would have trouble making new friends. After all, most of the people I socialized with in high school had chosen other universities, and ever since middle school, I was a little shy around new people. How was I going to acquire a whole new clique in such a short period of time, when it had already taken me thirteen years of school to really figure out who my friends were back home?

Ironically enough, within a few months of college I had already made more friends than I knew what to do with! Meeting so many people that early on and watching the way they interacted with others was what really helped me to create such strong friendships in that first semester, and in turn it made my freshman year of college much more memorable. πŸ™‚

This month, let’s talk about ways to meet new people, make a good first impression and forming lasting friendships.Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Tips for Meeting New People

1. Smile — it makes you more approachable.
It’s scary to just walk up to someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation, but it’s even worse when that person is off brooding in the corner somewhere. A simple smile makes you much more accessible, simple as that. Positivity attracts positivity (maybe not in science, but hey – I’m a communications major!), and when you look like you’re happy and having a good time, people start wanting to have a good time with you. Things to avoid: painfully phony pageant smile, creepy clown smile πŸ™‚

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2. Get out of your dorm room.
The more you get out, the more chances you’ll have to meet new people! Instead of eating alone in your room, go to the dining hall where you’re much more likely to find someone to chat with. Talk to that random person in the laundry room whose shirt you like. It may sound crazy, but sometimes the most mundane tasks can become the easiest ice-breakers and friendship starters. Go to events — even the cheesy ones that your RA has put together — because chances are, there will be others in the same boat as you. The ugly truth: if you never leave your room, the only friend you’ll have is yourself.

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3. Branch out from your old high school group.
If you go to a state school, then you’re bound to run into people you went to high school with. And if you were friends before, then that’s great, because you already have some familiar faces to turn to and to make things more comfortable as you start your college experience. But some friendships from high school are based more on convenience than compatibility, and if you’re afraid to step away from that, you may miss out on stronger, potentially longer-lasting friendships with people you haven’t known your entire life. Don’t throw out anyone who is important to you, but don’t be afraid to branch out and meet people from other zip codes.

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4. Become involved!
Your college experience is only as good as you make it. That being said, if all you do for fun is party, then you won’t get much out of your four years other than a few good stories and some pictures on Facebook. In no way am I trying to bash partying — if it’s something you enjoy, then by all means do it in moderation. In the meantime, find clubs, intramural sports teams, and other groups to join. Not only will it make you feel more connected to your school, but it will allow you to meet people with similar interests, opinions, or beliefs. It’s much easier to connect with someone if you already know something that you both have in common!

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5. Ask others about themselves.
According to Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People and various other great books, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” And how true is that? To a point, everyone likes talking about themselves, and if you take a genuine interest in their lives, they’ll be more likely to take a genuine interest in yours.

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6. Open up your worldview.
Up until now, you’ve probably lived in a very small world. Before college, I was extremely sheltered and therefore was never exposed to certain kinds of lifestyles and beliefs. At school, however, I got to see a little bit of everything, and am definitely happy to have learned from the experience. When you get to college, just know that you’re going to meet people completely different from anyone you have ever known, and that you may or may not agree with those people. Part of what I love about having such a vast array of friends is that no one is a carbon copy of anyone else, and I can learn something from everyone. Even if you don’t decide to become friends with those people (and that’s fine!), you should at least treat others with respect, and recognize the beauty in our differences. You don’t want to be known as the close-minded one… such a label brings with it extremely negative images that you want to avoid!

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7. Speak up.
Even if you have found people to hang out with, you still want to form your own identity among the group. Don’t try to dominate all the conversations, because no one likes that, but do chime in with your own opinions and ideas. By showing your personality early on, you show people exactly what you have to offer as a friend!

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8. Leave your high school baggage behind.
There might never be a more perfect opportunity for a clean slate than the beginning of college. If you did things you weren’t proud of in high school, now is the time to learn from those mistakes and change up your act. That being said, you don’t need to share every last dramatic moment of your high school years when you’re trying to meet new people. Save the heavier memories for a later date; you don’t want people to meet you and already think you’re too dramatic for their tastes. After all, who really wants someone else’s drama added to their own life?

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9. Talk to your classmates.
Think about it: you already have something in common… you’re taking the same class! While at first this might sound like a friendship of convenience, you’ll find that it can actually become much more. There’s a reason you both took that class with that particular professor at that particular time, and your reasons may be surprisingly similar. Through a quick ice breaker in one of my smaller classes in the fall semester of my freshman year, I became friends with two very cool people I still hang out with today! Don’t be afraid to turn to the person next to you and ask them what they thought of the test, or shoot them an empathetic smile when the professor announces a tedious assignment.

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10. Put your best face forward.
No, you don’t need to wear a prom dress or tuxedo to class, but in general you should make sure you put some time into your appearance each day — it shows that you care about yourself. No Hollywood makeovers are required, but in general you should make sure you’re well-groomed and put-together. I won’t go into how much effort you should put in, because that’s entirely based on personal preference and some people are higher maintenance than others, but don’t let yourself go just because you don’t have a dress code. Looks aren’t everything, and anyone who chooses friends specifically based on outfits is probably too superficial to deal with, but it never hurts to take some pride in your appearance.
After all, if you don’t look like you care about yourself, then how do you expect others to?

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11. Don’t come on too strong.
There is a fine line between showing genuine interest in someone and acting completely desperate, and I’ve certainly seen people cross it. In fact, I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and it’s a little overwhelming and borderline creepy when someone you’ve just met won’t leave you alone. Even if you feel like you’ve really clicked with someone, you should give the friendship time to develop before you consider yourselves inseparable. The same thing goes for relationships — boys, don’t put the moves on a girl when classes have only been in session for two days and you’re not even sure she’s interested. Too much too soon can lead to disappointment and regret.

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12. Be kind and respectful to everyone, no matter what.
You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar (although I’m not so sure why you’d want flies in the first place), and even if you don’t see yourself ever becoming friends with someone, you should still follow the golden rule and treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter if you have friends already or not — being rude or unfriendly to others is generally not a trait you want to find in a friend. In general, a lot of people are trying to get away from their high school experiences, so why would they want to come across the next Regina George?

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13. Recognize the fine line between Confidence and Cockiness.
If you want to make friends, then first and foremost you must see yourself in a positive light. Remind yourself of all those things about you that make you wonderful — your sense of humor, your listening skills, whatever abilities you have — and accept your flaws and the things you cannot change. This will certainly help you to gain confidence, which everyone wants to see in a friend. However, many people confuse confidence and cockiness, which is generally an undesirable trait! Know that you can love yourself without bragging about every accomplishment you’ve ever had, but that at the same time, you can still learn to accept a compliment gracefully without downplaying yourself.

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14. Be yourself.
Okay, so this may be the most cliche trick in the book, but that’s because it works. If you aren’t “doing you,” then chances are you won’t be attracting the people you’d work best with. Act like something you’re not, and people will be befriending someone you’re not. Don’t lose sight of who you are just to make a few friends. Eventually you will find someone who appreciates you for you.

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15. Don’t fret if you don’t connect with people right away.
Be persistent and proactive, because chances are, the first person you meet won’t automatically become your best friend. These things take time, and while college can really speed up the bonding process, you still have time to get to know people. The most important thing is to get out there and try your best. There is a friend out there for everyone, so don’t give up!

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For those of you who had no trouble at all making friends, what are your suggestions to new freshmen? πŸ™‚

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18 thoughts on “The Freshman 15: Tips for Meeting New People

  1. leandraparks says:

    I definitely was in the same shoes you were in a few years back. But what helped me get through this process was finding clubs/meetings that interest me and attending them. You will be surprise the amount of people that are freshmen and feel the same way you do.

    • Valerie says:

      Very true. Clubs were really helpful for me (and still are!) when it comes to finding new friends and a firmer sense of belonging on campus. Even now that my freshman year is over, I definitely find myself forming brand new connections in the clubs I join (and sometimes even in the clubs I was already in). Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  2. Katherine says:

    I only started making a ton of acquaintances and friendships this semester and the last, despite being a senior. So I would say “keep trying”–and to consider every new relation, or face-to-face encounter, a learning experience, even if something goes awry. That’s okay. It took me this long to slowly crawl out of my shell, but I worked on it. And “speaking up” I will echo as well, which also includes “taking the initiative” in regards to talking to someone new. The trick is how you handle a potentially mean response (because you *cannot* internalize it–it’s that person’s problem).

    • Valerie says:

      It definitely took me a while for my pool of acquaintances to trickle down into a close-knit group of friends. You give some great advice here! It can be difficult to initiate a conversation, especially when you’re shy like me, but sometimes that is the best way to make friends. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      • Valerie says:

        Benard,
        Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so glad my work has been helpful for you! I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks, so your comment really brightened my mood. πŸ™‚ I hope to hear from you again!
        – Valerie

    • maddy says:

      The same thing is happening to me.. there is this girl.. at first she was nice now she does not talk to me.. i really hate it and dont know what to do

      • Valerie says:

        In that case, I would steer clear of someone who won’t talk to me! There are plenty of other people out there to be friends with, and while you should always be polite to someone, you don’t owe that person your time or friendship if he/she isn’t willing to reciprocate it. πŸ™‚

  3. Bob Flynne says:

    This is really helpful, seeing as how I’m going to orientation at uni tomorrow!!!
    Thanks so so much Valerie, you’re a legend πŸ™‚

  4. Chicken Recipes says:

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  5. Jane Doe says:

    I’ll be attending orientation soon, and I’m really just so worried about meeting new people. I feel like my anxiety just kicks in which leads to distancing myself, or not making an effort to speak to people, and using my phone. I’ve read your articles (this one and the one about preparing for orientation), and will probably keep them in mind. Any other advice you could possibly give me??

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