Navigating College Friendships: Your First Year and Beyond

Most first-years come to college intent on turning the sea of strangers around them into numbers of great friends. Your first nights on campus are busy, exciting, and sometimes terrifying as you meet face after face and try to strike a connection. Once class starts, you meet even more people and try to get to know them during class and in group projects. It can be hard to find your people—that solid group of friends that will make your time in college unforgettable—in all this chaos.

            When there are so many people to meet, how are you supposed to make connections? Well, as much as it might scare you, put yourself out there. There’s no way around it. You don’t have to be the life of the party or the center of attention, but put forth effort. Don’t be afraid to ask people about themselves and tell them about you. Show that you’re interested in getting to know them. Talk about your interests and ask about theirs, and hopefully you’ll find common ground.

            Once you have a connection, be present. Cultivate the friendship by getting lunch together and hanging out on weekends. While it’s great to talk to a variety of people, it’s easy for some friendships to fall to the wayside if you don’t keep in touch. If you find someone that you really like to spend time with, put some work in. Don’t always expect them to come to you.

            It goes without saying, however, that sometimes you’ll meet and connect with someone that you’ll later find out isn’t going to be a good friend to you. In this situation, be polite and cordial with them, but don’t play pretend. Let it be obvious that although you respect them, you don’t want to spend time with them. They’ll probably be upset, especially if the friendship is particularly developed, but you definitely don’t want to go through college with a toxic relationship holding you back. Be respectful but honest.

            Once you’ve found friends that bring out the best in you, don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need support. You’ll definitely need a support system as you go through not only your first year, but also the rest of college. While even your best friends can become estranged as you move out of the dorm, join different Greek chapters, or participate in different extracurricular activities, always be willing to put forth effort. Just like friendships in the adult world, you need to be able to put things down and check in with people to maintain a connection.

            The friendships you make your first year of college are often the strongest and most important ones that you’ll make in college, so hold onto them! Make time for the people who have been there for you since the beginning, but don't be afraid to make new connections as well. Do that, and you’ll be sure to spend your time at DePauw with a great group of people that truly care about you.