Now that the decision's been made, your enrollment fee's paid, and you're signed up for a summer orientation session, it's finally sinking in: you're headed off to a brand new school that's most likely way bigger than your current high school filled with strange people and places in just a few short months!
While the first few weeks of college are overwhelming to say the least, they're also super exciting, filled with all kinds of ways to meet people, some of whom could end up being friends for life! Where does a freshman begin, though? Some collegiettes are getting crafty, and using the web and other resources to meet people before officially setting foot in a college classroom. So what’s the secret to finding friends for life before life at school officially begins? Four current collegiettes weighed in on how they met people before beginning their college careers.
Get active on Facebook or your school's freshman website
Leah Palmquist, a freshman at the University of Tampa, advises signing up for and using any special websites many colleges and universities establish for their incoming freshman classes.
"At UT when we were admitted, they had a special site for all admitted freshmen called the Verandah and you could make your own profile and chat with other people on there to find and connect with people," she said. These sites help you connect with people interested in similar things at your university as well. "One thing that was kind of cool about that site was the group feature it had. You could join groups based on your major, where you were from, if you were an honors student and stuff like that," Leah explained.
There are drawbacks to sites like these, however. "It was kind of a nice first step to meeting people, but after a while no one really used it," said Leah. She said most people from the site switched over to Facebook, which offered several advantages over a site designed just for freshmen. "We had a few upperclassmen that joined our class page and would answer any questions we had about the school in general which was really helpful too," Leah noted. Call your school’s admissions office to find out if your school has an online platform like this, and search around for Facebook groups too!
Connect with your future roomie
With school-specific websites and Facebook, finding a roommate is easier than ever, even if you're miles apart. Is it worth filling out countless questionnaires and trying to strike up a conversation with someone on Facebook with the hopes of finding the person that could be one of your first college friends?
As far as finding a roommate before signing up for a dorm, Leah chose to go with a random roommate, rather than use Tampa's site or Facebook to find someone. While there are pros and cons to picking your first-ever college roommate, social media can still help you get and stay in touch with whoever you'll be sharing a space with next year.
For Leah, living with someone random ended up working out awesomely in the end. "I didn't really start connecting with people too much until we got our roommate and suitemate assignments though," she explains. "Once we got those we exchanged numbers and would talk every now and then. When we finally got to school those were really our first friends. Basically I became friends with everyone that I live near and now they're some of my best friends, even though we're all from different states and are in different majors."
Regardless of the choice you make when it comes to finding a roommate, contact your roommate as soon as you can. Introduce yourself, share your hometown, any interests or hobbies you have, and a little bit about what you plan to do at school. Establishing a friendly relationship with the person you'll be sharing your space with next semester is key, not just to make sure you don’t end up with two microwaves but no mini-fridge, but also because your roommate can help introduce you to people. She's also a great buddy to attend those first few awkward welcome week events with come the start of school, especially if neither of you know many people at your college or university. Be nice, keep an open mind, and stay in touch!
Maximize any and all connections
Your dad's best friend's cousin's niece goes to your future university? Ask to meet up! That kid from your bio class who's headed the same place you are? Sit with him at lunch to talk about what you both are looking forward to next year. Three kids from last year's graduating class just finished their first year? Talk to them! Ask them to introduce you to people they might know majoring in the same thing you're interested in, or to people involved in clubs and activities that sound appealing.
College (and, quite frankly, the rest of your life) is dependent on networking and making connections. Ask anyone and everyone you can think of if they know former, current, or future students headed to your school, and see if a meeting would be possible. You don't have to meet in person, either. Just trading a few emails or a simple Skype conversation can introduce you to a familiar face and help you create a network of contacts before you ever step foot on campus.
Take advantage of any and all welcome activities and orientation sessions
Facebook is great for making an initial connection, but orientation and other events for admitted students are great ways to make further connections and meet other students just as nervous and anxious about making friends as you are. Be sure to attend your school's summer orientation program and maximize any opportunities that come about as a part of it. Some colleges or universities also host events in the spring closer to your home, especially if it's a school located further away from where you live. Attend these too, or organize your own meet-ups to connect with potential friends and meet people you can attend some of the earlier events in the semester with.
Sam Richie, a junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that her orientation experience didn't really lead to any friends. It did teach her several good friendship lessons, though.
"I never really stayed in touch with the rest of my Summer Welcome group, however, that didn't keep me from taking advantage of connecting with people during those couple days," she said. "Summer Welcome is kind of a social crash course in what the first couple weeks of college are like. Everyone is in the same boat, and everyone has a million questions and fears about starting college. For people like me that were very shy in high school, Summer Welcome allowed me to understand that being friendly and not being afraid to just say hi is all you need to succeed in making new friends. If someone doesn't reciprocate, then they're probably not worth being friends with anyway."
Honestly, it's difficult to form a connection with someone when you’re both part of a group of scared freshmen rushing from activity to activity during a packed day or two of orientation activities. Get crafty, and use the web and the first few days before classes to your advantage. Don't be that girl who suddenly has 793 new friends on her Facebook timeline after adding every single member of the "Fill-in-the-blank college/university Class of 2016" Facebook group, but don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with those that appear to have similar interests, majors, or career goals as you.
The key to making friends at college is to challenge yourself and go outside of your comfort zone, but relax, have fun, and be yourself at the same time. Remember – everyone is starting over, looking to meet new people and have fun. If they weren't they wouldn't be there! (Or they won’t last very long at your school.) Take that first step, and offer up a simple "hello" or compliment, and the rest will fall into place.