How to Make REAL Friends at Uni
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
6 Ways You Can Make Actual, Proper Friendships That Go Beyond College Campus.
"Uni is where you make lifelong friends." We've all heard them, the love stories, the best mate stories, the Maid of Honour stories.
It seems everyone met their best friends at Uni.
Today we're looking at how to make real, lasting friendships at Uni that go beyond campus.
If you’ve just started Uni or you’re in second year, even third year, you’ll know that trying to make proper friends at Uni can be hard. It’s intimidating. You don’t know anyone; you only see people from your classes once a week and everyone seems to already have their own group of friends.
It can be hard to meet people let alone make a real friendship, I mean, how much can you really talk in a lecture without being kicked out by your lecturer? And if you’re only going on campus for specific classes and then heading off again, it can be even harder. Often you meet someone in a particular class, finally become friends by week 8, only to never see them again after that semester is over.
And yikes, online school, especially during a pandemic, is a whole other ball game.
I spent the first 2 years of Uni friendless and alone and I was pretty sad. When I started changing a few behaviour patterns, I found that in the last 3 years of Uni I made a lot of quality relationships.
I went from super lonely to having a thriving social life on and off campus. I met my future business partner and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but also my future husband.
I realised a lot of people had the same struggle with making new friends, especially in first year when transitioning to Uni.
So, I decided to analyse my own behaviours and I pulled together the top 6 things you can do to make REAL, proper, out-of-class-friends at Uni (the last tip is my personal favourite).
In this post we will look at:
Top 6 Tips on How to Make Proper Friends at Uni / TAFE / College.
A Real Friendship Story of how our Co-Founders met at Uni.
Resources you can use.
Top 6 Tips
1. Get out of your comfort zone
Get out of your comfort zone. You can do this in 2 ways.
1. The first way you can do this is by making the first move and chatting to different people in class.
Like I said it can be intimidating.
Other people may seem confident and cool, but what is important to realise, is that most people are in the process of ‘recreating’ their personality.
For a lot of people, it’s the first chance they’ve had to break out of the ‘box’ that they were assigned in high school, for the last 7 or even 13 years if they were at a k-12 school.
This process feels a bit like a rollercoaster, even if you seem calm on the outside. And during this time, most people just want to be seen, talked too kindly and connected with.
So, when you feel nervous or weird about approaching someone, just remember that their probably just as nervous as you.
When you’re chatting with them, find things in common so that as you leave the classroom you can keep chatting. You could walk with them to the next class, the library or to the food court.
If you’re enjoying the conversation, it’s a good indication that they are too. Ask them if they’re getting lunch now and suggest going to a certain spot together. Or if it’s not lunch time, you could ask them if they want to study together, or work on the homework for that class. Uni work is a lot less painful when you have a friend to get through it with you.
Don’t be disheartened if they can’t grab lunch, or they have to rush off to another class.
It doesn’t mean they weren’t keen. Next time they might say yes. Or now that you’ve broken the ice, next time, they might even be the one to suggest it.
2. Getting out of your comfort zone also means breaking out of the routine of your regular activities and going to Uni events like guest speakers, comedy nights, paint and sip nights, TEDx talks, festivals etc. It’s a great place to meet people and makes for good talking points in class.
If you don’t want to go alone, you could even ask someone from your class if they’re going & meet them there. Worst case scenario, if you really don’t want to go along, drag along someone you already know. But remember to make an effort to meet people while you’re there, and try to avoid only talking to the one person you brought.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if your first attempts don’t work out. You won’t immediately click with everyone.
2. Take Advantage of Online Opportunities
Don’t shy away from your chances to meet Uni friends online.
You can meet people if you aren’t present, and that applies to online opportunities too!
Since 2020, the online world has exploded with apps that make online events and virtual hangouts super easy and common place.
Most Universities, whilst trying to safely transition back to on-campus events, are also still hosting online events like online art nights, virtual trivia night, speed friending via zoom or online key note speaker series.
It can be tough to actually make connections in a virtual environment but here are two great strategies for online events: 1. Pay attention to those who ask questions, say something funny, or have an interesting contribution to a discussion. The points people raise, or the comments they make are great conversation starters. You can send a personal message to them during the event or after, and mention their contribution, saying something like “Hey, that was a really insightful question about __” or “I really liked what you said about __”. It’s a great way to spark a conversation and even if it goes nowhere, later down the track that person might remember you and your friendship can build.
2. Offer your assistance. If someone is asking questions, you can help by getting them useful links or providing your own insight in the chat box, or through a personal message.
Speaking of online, don’t forget about your online socials.
3. Online Socials
They particularly useful in the world of Uni.
Normally each cohort (E.g. Law 2021, or Psychology 2021) has their own Facebook group. Sometimes members of a particular class (e.g. Statistics 101) will create a group chat where they discuss homework, assessments etc.
Not only will these groups be helpful for your Uni work and important dates etc. But you can be active on the chats, suggesting a study group, asking insightful questions or leaving helpful comments.
The best thing you can do on these groups is offering help where you can. Whether that’s just a simple answer to a question, or offering notes from a class, or a link to useful research.
People remember kindness.
And being helpful is a good thing to be remembered for. (NB. Always be careful of plagiarism and we do not condone cheating of any kind.)
Connecting via socials in this way also facilitates personal messages. You can message someone from your class or cohort after you’ve made that initial contact via online or face to face class.
You can start to make plans and build on that initial connection. Maybe that’s suggesting a group study session at the library with snacks or in the park, picnic style. Perhaps it’s to go buy the art or science supplies needed for the assessment.
Whatever it is, your online socials give you a chance to reach out and follow up, doubling down on that initial contact.
4. Societies and Social Sport
These are both great free / low-cost ways to meet people with common interests. Societies and social sport let you hang out with people outside of the classroom without any weird pressure.
With an activity to focus on, you won’t have to worry about constantly keeping the conversation flowing.
Often featuring food and some sort of fun activity, societies are perfect place to bond over shared loves or hates.
Social sport gives you a chance to meet people and show your new friends another side of you. Whether it’s a silly side, a chill side, a competitive side, you can bet that someone on the team will resonate with it and it’ll deepen their understanding and appreciation of you.
5. Show a Genuine Interest in People
When you talk to someone in or out of class, focus on them. Don’t be scouring the room for someone else to talk to.
Make sure they know you enjoy speaking to them by giving them your attention and responding thoughtfully. Ask them enough questions to show you are interested, but avoid interrogating them (it’s not an interview!).
Remember their name, check in with them about something they mentioned last time. People like to be remembered.
Avoiding being cliquey and be polite to everyone around you, encouraging others to join the conversation if they seem interested. It shows integrity and kindness, two things' people are attracted to in a friendship.
Deep down humans want to feel important and often people can go through the whole day without feeling important to anyone, or in any facet of their life.
If you make them feel interesting and important even just for one conversation, you could change their whole day and they will remember you.
Showing interest also involves following up. It could look like adding them to your socials and sending them a quick message to say “it was cool meeting you yesterday.”
I always try to add something a little more personal that specifically relates to your conversation like “good luck with ___” or “let me know if you need help with __”.
Following up opens the door to repeat interactions, which is important in building a friendship. One study shows it takes 80 – 100 hours together to transition into being friends and more than 200 hours together before being good friends.
6. Get a Job on Campus
This is my FAVOURITE tip. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Getting a job on campus was the best thing I ever did.
Before I got a job on campus, I was literally only turning up to Uni for my one class that day and then rushing off to work. So, not only was I pretty stressed from constantly rushing from work to Uni and back to work every day, but I was hardly on campus and I didn’t get a chance to really meet anyone.
Once I got a job on campus my whole life changed. Working on campus is SUPER convenient, I could finish class and just walk 2 minutes to my shift. No more rushing, spending hours in the car each day.
Because of this I was able to work more hours and therefore earn more money and feel more accomplished because I was meeting my financial goals. (Speaking of which, if you’re at an Australian Uni, you will most likely get paid well if you work for the Uni!)
But more importantly, I was working along side other Uni students, so every day I was meeting people my own age. Each one, a another potential friendship.
I was also on campus so much more. This meant I could really make a life at Uni.
I met heaps of people and it really boosted my confidence as I started to be familiar with the campus, staff members and other students.
There are heaps of fun Uni job options: Student Ambassador, Cafes on campus, Student Admin etc. You'll make so many friends and really find your place at Uni.
A Real Friendship Story - Our Co-Founders
Did you know that our co-founders, Connor and Majella (that’s me!), actually met at Uni?!
They didn’t start Uni in the same year and they didn’t study the same course.
Their story is a perfect example how these 6 strategies actually help you make real friends at uni.
Connor had moved all the way from QLD when he was 17 and knew no one in all of Sydney! He didn’t live on campus, so making friends was a little harder for him than most interstate students.
I, on the other hand, went to a Uni with most of my school friends. So, I already knew quite a lot of people when I started Uni. But I was really excited for first year Uni, where I could branch out, meet new people and make new friends to add to my network.
Yet, first year went by and I didn’t make any new friends. Beginning of second year I was determined to make new friends, and I started talking more in class. And I met a few cool people that I thought I could click with! But our friendship never blossomed beyond the class room.
By the beginning of 3rd year, I was really stuck in a rut. I felt lonely at Uni. It seemed like everyone I met already had their group of people, their ‘real’ friends.
I remember saying to my younger sister “you must only make friends at Uni if you live on campus”.
But once I put these 6 strategies into action, I started making new friends almost immediately. And in my last 3 years at Uni, I ended up meeting my future business partner, our Co-Founder, Connor!
Connor and I were first introduced to each other through our job on campus. Working in a big team, our friendship didn’t actually start to take off until we bumped into each other at a Uni event – the Annual Law Ball. Connor didn’t study law but he got out of his comfort zone and tagged along with some work friends. During our chat at Law Ball, Connor told me he was moving out soon. We connected on socials and later I followed up, asking if he needed any help with the move. Our friendship properly developed through playing on the same social netball team at the Uni and continued to grow as we both began taking more shifts at our on-campus Uni job. It was whilst studying at Uni that we came up with our business idea and became business partners.
Connor had moved interstate, and I hadn’t made any friends for the 2 years of Uni! But we both managed make amazing friends who will be in our lives forever.
We practised the 6 strategies above and it worked like a charm.
So, give them a go this year, it can be scary to stick your neck out and try to make friends with someone you've never met. But it can be oh so worth it.
Resources You Can Use
Most Universities run programs to facilitate friendships. Here are some examples (if your Uni isn’t listed here, you can always give them call)
There’s also the app Bumble BFF which you can use to meet people in your area, with similar interests.
If you’re struggling at all with feelings of loneliness, please know there are places you can go for help. Your University will have a ‘student wellbeing’ centre with people who can help. You can also seek external assistance via Beyond Blue at 1300 22 463.