Your college experience will be some of the best four years of your life. But on move-in day, the sea of unfamiliar faces can feel really intimidating.
Don’t know any students at your school-to-be? No worries—we’ve got you covered. Here are a few easy ways to get to know some friends before your freshman orientation.
Join the admitted students Facebook group
Join your Class of 2020 Facebook group! Often, these Facebook groups will not only be open to accepted students from your incoming class, but will also include a few upperclassmen who are there to help answer your questions. They will usually post something to introduce themselves, saying their major and what extracurriculars they are involved in.
Don’t be afraid to message these students! These students want to help you—they wouldn’t have posted if they didn’t. If you’re interested in what they’re studying or have questions about an extracurricular group they’re involved in, you can definitely ask for their advice or even just to hear more about their experiences.
In addition to connecting with upperclassmen, these groups allow you to virtually meet members of your own class. Iris Goldsztajn, an international student who is a sophomore at UCLA, joined her class’s Facebook group to get in touch with her school from far away. “At first I didn’t really expect anything from it and just used it to ask questions, but soon enough, people started friending me and talking to me,” she says. “I had some awesome conversations and some of these people have become really close and valuable friends!”
That said, be careful about how much you’re posting on the group page. Remember that the school’s staff will likely also be able to see every post that goes up; there are some clear no-no’s, so don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a school administrator to see.
Attend a regional meet-up
One great way to meet people from your class is by attending a meet-up in your area. Sometimes universities or their official alumni organizations will put together official meet-ups around the nation for new students.
Katie Barr, a sophomore at Barnard College in New York City, attended an alumni-hosted meet-up close to her home in New Jersey the summer going into her freshman year. “It was really nice to feel like I knew people going into college,” she says. “It made going away feel a lot less stressful.”
If there is no official meet-up taking place in your region, plan one yourself! Posting on the Facebook group is an easy way to set a date and place and to reach out to other incoming students who live in your area.
Take it from Sarah Wainschel, a sophomore at Gonzaga University who is originally from Southern California. She and other incoming students from her area planned a big beach bonfire before heading off to school. “It wasn’t anything official put on by the university, but it was still a great way to meet people,” she says. “I’m actually still friends with a few people that I met at that meet-up!”
Whether or not you end up sustaining the relationships you make with your classmates before school, attending a meet-up is a great way to relieve anxiety about going off to college. Plus, it’s fun, and chances are you all have something in common if you chose the same university!
Reach out to your high school alumni
What if you come from an especially small town or can’t organize a meet up in your region? One option is to reach out to alumni of your high school who attended or now attend your university.
If they are current students, meeting them for coffee on campus or staying for an overnight visit is a great way to be introduced to some of their friends and to start the year with at least a few familiar faces.
Even if a particular alumnus or alumna has graduated from your future school, he or she may have friends who are still in school. Although it can seem like a faulty connection—a friend of a friend of an old high school acquaintance—even a seemingly distant relationship can feel like an anchor in a sea of unfamiliar faces. One of the hardest things about college is stepping into an entirely unfamiliar environment, so any connection is a valuable one!
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when meeting with a stranger. First, make sure you meet up in a public place and someone knows where you are. Second, don’t worry too much about making a good impression. If you’re so caught up in what the other person is thinking about you, chances are you won’t really be listening to what he or she has to say. So relax, be yourself and enjoy the opportunity to hear from a student firsthand!
Third, be polite. While it’s great to ask current students or alumni general questions about student life and academics, avoid asking questions that could make them uncomfortable. For example, asking for their personal opinions on specific sororities is probably not the best idea. And asking them about their grades is definitely a no-no.
You might feel hesitant to reach out to someone you don’t know personally. But attending a university tends to bond people together, and even distant friend-of-a-friend connections can help link you to students who, after all, are now also your classmates!
Most students will be more than happy to usher you into your school community, whether that be taking you around campus or just answering a simple question about housing selection or meal plans.
So don’t be afraid to reach out to friends of hometown friends or your sister’s best friend’s cousin. Meet them for coffee or lunch before classes start, or if you live close to your university, you can meet them over the summer. It might sound intimidating, but trust us: meeting people from your university before you start school can really help ease the transition into college life.