Problems Students Can Have While Trying To Make Friends In College
In the article How To Make Friends In College Or University I lay out some approaches for how students can meet people and form a social circle. However, I realize not everyone can easily pull off the advice. Here are some common problems people have while socializing at university.
Having shaky social skills or self-confidence
Even if they find guides on making friends and meeting people, some university students will have trouble applying the advice because their social skills are undeveloped. That or they may just be too shy, anxious, and insecure around other people to do what they know in theory.
In the grand scheme of things people are still really young when they're in university, especially when they're first starting out. Yeah, relative to being in high school they're older, but someone who's 18 hasn't been around that long. Many students have had the chance to develop pretty decent social skills by that time, but some haven't. They just need more practice under their belt before they feel on top of things.
If you're having trouble making friends at college because of shyness or social awkwardness there are some things you can do:
- The main one is to work at improving your people skills or confidence. This will take a while, but the results are naturally worth it. This site has plenty of articles on the topic.
- Try to find friends who are a good match with where you're at now. Just because you're a bit shy or unpolished doesn't mean you can't have any friends at all. It may not be totally realistic to aim to hang around with the super-confident, outgoing crowd who have all been partying and dating since they were thirteen.
- Universities have a lot of supports for their students, and free counseling services are often one of them. I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing a counselor. In fact, since access to the service is often included as part of your tuition, it can be a great opportunity to get some free outside help. The earlier you start working on this stuff the better too. Getting assistance may involve talking to someone one-on-one or taking part in a therapy group focused on learning people skills or dealing with social anxiety.
Not relating to the drinking/partying/hooking up culture on campus
This is a pretty common complaint from students. They want to make friends, but they feel like all anyone cares about is going out, getting wasted, and trying to get laid. Some people just find the whole endeavor kind of stupid and immature and not their style. For others it clashes with their personal, cultural, or religious values.
The fact is not all students are into binge drinking and casual sex. In fact only a minority are. The problem is the people who are into partying make the most noise. The media also tends to focus on this stuff in its depictions of college life.
While you may not like the partying culture, you can't really make it go away. What you can do is know that there are lots of other people on campus who feel the same way you do, and try to seek them out as friends. Certain clubs or organizations may have more of these types of people than others. For example, if you belong to a cultural group that disapproves of drinking, you'll likely find like-minded friends if there's a student association for its members. It is possible to have a social life without alcohol.
Another suggestion is to try not to think of drinking and partying in all-or-nothing terms. Not everyone who drinks or goes to parties does it to the same degree. There are people who get black out drunk four nights a week and act like annoying idiots the whole while. There are also good, decent students who drop in at parties on some weekends and maybe have a beer or two. Not to mention, some of the partiers may not like that whole scene, but they just don't realize it yet, and are only there because they got caught up in following along with their friends, and the mentality that that's what college kids are supposed to do. It's not a clear line between Drinks any amount > Bad - Will never get along and Doesn't drink at all > Good.
Other life problems that can get in the way of making friends
There are personal issues that university students frequently run into. If someone already knows how to make friends these issues may not get in the way of their social life. However, if someone finds making friends hard, then coming up against any of the difficulties below may overwhelm them and put the brakes on their progress.
University student may feel stressed out and in over their heads due to all the academic demands. They may find their courses way harder than they expected. They may realize they don't have good study or time management skills. It may slowly be dawning on them that they don't really like their major, but feel pressure to stick with it.
Giving academic advice is beyond the scope of this article, but I'll mention again that universities have lots of supports in place for this kind of problem. There are mini-courses that teach study skill techniques and academic advisers you can go to. If you're struggling in school you have lots of options you can reach out to for help.
This happens to people most often when they first come to school, but it can persist into later years. It can make someone feel down and unmotivated to go out or meet anyone. The main way to alleviate homesickness is just to give it time. Moving away to a new school, and leaving all the people you care about behind, is a huge life transition. It just takes a while to get used to that kind of change, and for your mind to establish a new normal. It may be several months before your emotions start to settle down.
Another thing that helps is to strike the right balance between keeping connected to your home and creating a rewarding new life at school. You don't want to totally cut off the people at home, since they're still important to you, and can make you feel better. On the other hand, you don't want to completely neglect life in your new surroundings, isolate yourself, and spend all your time chatting to your old friends. You also don't want to pack up and go home every weekend if you live nearby. You should try to engage with your school and get a fun new routine going for yourself. It may feel weird or forced at first, or like you're betraying your hometown friends. Over time you'll start to enjoy life in your new city.
If worst comes to worst, and nothing seems to be working, some really homesick students find the best solution is to transfer schools to be closer to home, even at the cost of studying somewhere that isn't as good on paper.
Feeling thrown for a loop by the size of your new community
This can happen both with a move up or down in size. People from small towns may feel uncomfortable if their school is in a huge, sprawling city, or even just a somewhat larger town. Socially, this may affect them because they feel anxious about being in a bigger place and would prefer to hole up in the safety of their room rather than go out. Students from bigger cities may feel cooped up and bored if their college is in a much smaller community.
In my experience the solution in both of these cases is to actively explore your new area. For the overwhelmed small town student, seeing their new city takes the mystery out of it and makes it seem more reasonably sized and manageable. It becomes a collection of streets and shops they're familiar with, rather than this big, scary abstract concept. For the bored city dweller exploring is more to discover firsthand that the town does have good points and that there's likely more to do than they first gave it credit for. I find in smaller towns you may have a dig a little harder to find things to do, but there's often still plenty there.