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Navigating Friendships in College: How to Make and Maintain Connections

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

College can be such an exciting time! But it is also completely understandable to be nervous about all the things that come with this experience. One of the biggest fears amongst college students is usually making and maintaining friends. Good news is that you’re not alone with that feeling. College is a time of transformation, personal growth and countless opportunities. It’s a chapter where you can craft not only your future, but also the meaningful connections that shape who you are!

So, whether you’re a fresh-faced first-year student on a big campus for the first time or a seasoned senior looking to deepen your connections, it’s never too late to be a friend. Let’s get into it!

When I was first going into college, I felt like all I heard was that “college is the best four years of your life” and to “make it count because it goes by in a second.” I was met with countless stories of the glory days and all the incredible friends and memories they had made. It all simply overwhelmed me with excitement. The excitement quickly moved into uncertainty when I was met with large classrooms, crowded dining halls and walkways packed with people that looked like they had known each other all their lives. I couldn’t help but wonder how I had even made friends in the past. I mean, I’ve done it with ease all my life. Why is it so much harder now?

I can say with a full heart that that feeling doesn’t last forever. In fact, now I’m one of those people who is telling incoming students to take in every moment (such a full circle moment omg). While I hate to admit it, they’re right. Being a senior, college has brought me so many things. I learned so much from my classes and how to live on my own, but one of the greatest things I’ve gotten out of this is how important my friendships are to me. Of course, my friends didn’t all just appear one day out of thin air. It takes lots of getting out of your comfort zone, lots of trial and error, lots of vulnerability. While it all seems scary, it’s rewarding when you realize one random night that these are the people you’ll tell your “glory days” stories about to some high school kid.

Keynote speaker Sam Demma focuses on helping students navigate connections and self confidence in many of his works. In his 2019 TEDX speech, How To Make Friends, Demma talks about his experiences making friends as an incoming freshman in a college of over 20,000 students. “All I wanted was that face-to-face conversation and I’m not talking about FaceTime because in today’s day and age, it is so easy to hide behind a cell phone and I promise you that person sitting next to you isn’t pulling out their cell phone because they’re closing a multi-million-dollar business deal. Though that would be pretty cool,” says Demma. “They’re pulling out their cell phone because they’re feeling the exact same way as you. They feel isolated in unfamiliar situations where they don’t know anybody.” Demma goes on to offer his audience this piece of advice: “The next time you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know any people, I encourage you to embrace the one person one day mentality. Ask how they are or how their day is going because that is the quickest and simplest way to make friends.”

With that, let me offer some advice that I have picked up along the way of my experiences as a girl who was (and still at times is) a student navigating the world of new friendships:

1. Join a club or organization on campus

This is a great first step in creating friendships on campus! Finding people with similar interests as you is awesome and could even lead to you discovering new hobbies and passions! Taking the time to research clubs, publications, organizations and sports offered on campus truly changed my life and brought me so many cool opportunities, connections and friendships!

2. Attend school and community events

Getting involved in the community you live in and attending events hosted by your college allows you to find friends that are also probably wanting to get involved like you! I’ve met lots of people from campus events and getting involved in your community is a great way to get a feel of the town you live in!

3. Join online social groups

Social media is truly the easiest way to put yourself out there and get connected to others! Joining Facebook groups, group chats, Yik Yak, following Instagram accounts, whatever form of communication you prefer, there are tons of students that are using these platforms to make friends! Social media has introduced me to so many people that are now big parts of my life!

4. Keep all friends close (new & old)

Just because you’re moving onto your new chapter of life doesn’t mean you need to leave characters behind. It can be comforting to continue some of those friendships from our past. College can bring a lot of change and oftentimes friends come and go. It’s important to focus on our friendships and find peace in the realization that we might discover that some friends were good for us in the chapters they were meant to be in. Don’t let that limit you in finding new friends and sticking with the old ones too. All friendships, no matter when or how long they last, teach us valuable lessons about life, love and self-worth.

5. Say yes

Push yourself out of that comfort zone. I struggled doing this in the beginning as it is much easier said than done. I’ve realized the easiest way to get over this is to just say yes to new experiences! It allowed me to try new things with new people, and we found a lot of adventures to do things we really enjoyed. Regardless of whether it ends up going well or you never want to do it again, it’s the fact that you tried that is important! Friends are the people you create shared experiences with and with the power to just say yes to things, we unlock so much opportunity!

If you haven’t heard this yet today, I’m proud of you for how far you have come! Friendship is such a beautiful and unique thing. To experience unconditional friendship is so important and it’s what makes life feel beautiful. You got this! Friendship is out there!

Madison is a student at The University of Florida majoring in Mass Media Production with a minor in Graphic Design. Madison is a positive individual who loves astrology, Harry Styles, and any kind of iced coffee. When she isn't writing, you can find her shopping for plants, playing Mariokart with her friends, and perfecting her strategies for making the perfect avocado toast.