When I started my freshman year of college, I thought I did everything right. I joined all the clubs that interested me, went to all of the meetings to make friends, talked to people in my residence hall and classes and even frequented a few house parties to socialize. It turned out unhelpful in the end. When sophomore year rolled around, I ended up friendless.
Worst of all? I turned out clueless about how to make those friends.
Where I Went Wrong
As it got time to start making new friends during sophomore year, I tried to learn from my past mistakes. In my first year of college, I followed all of the advice that I heard from other college students. They told me to join clubs and organizations that interested me because I should find friends with the same passions as me. So I did. At my university’s involvement fair, I jumped at the opportunity to speak to representatives from every organization and association, making sure to take the flyers of the ones that spoke to me. For the next week, I fit about three different club meetings into my schedule per day to weed out the ones that wouldn’t work for me. This plan didn’t turn out as fool-proof as I hoped.
While I stayed true to myself and joined the clubs that interested me, I ended up sticking to them out of nothing but pure stubbornness. I convinced myself that going to every meeting and sitting through introductions and games would be the easiest way to make friends. If I showed my face at every event—people had to notice me, right? And noticed me they did.
But the attention soon became unwanted. I found myself having a lot of superficial conversations and not making any significant bonds or friendships. Sure, I could talk about the weather for hours, but I longed to meet someone that I clicked with. When I should’ve left and tried to find another club where I made real connections, I pushed myself to stick with the clubs I originally joined. I thought that if I stopped going to the meetings before I made a genuine friend, I would be considered a quitter.
Overcompensating for More
Struggling to find friends in college became a new experience for me. In elementary school, middle school and high school, I had no problems making friends. In fact, I could float around from friend group to friend group because I liked to get along with everybody. Since I believed I should’ve made friends already, I overcompensated for the friends I didn’t have. I found myself going to parties with people who didn’t even talk to me that much. Take it from me, you reach the lowest of the low you can get in the “friendless zone” by inviting yourself to parties. When I should’ve been having fun, I fought for people’s attention and for people to like me. How embarrassing.
I still did more. I thought the people that didn’t reach out to me for friendship didn’t take me serious enough, so I took on leadership roles within those clubs. I found myself standing at the front of the room on countless occasions to give speeches, run meetings and mediate ice-breaker games to no result. I kept taking on responsibilities that I didn’t need in order to gain disingenuous friendships. Looking back now, I wish I realized sooner that I didn’t fit in so I could’ve saved myself the stress. Take it as a lesson: don’t “stick it out.” Leave a situation if it doesn’t work in your favor. Don’t waste your time by getting stuck in the same old routines instead of pursuing what actually makes you happy.
Don’t Be Afraid to Tag Along
By the end of my freshman year, I grew tired of my new try-hard persona. I decided to finally quit those clubs and organizations that didn’t suit me. Instead, I looked in front of me, at my roommate. The whole year, I looked up to her. She took the same advice as me, but it actually worked for her. She thrived with friends in different clubs, in her classes and beyond. While I tried to seek out my niche and make my impact on campus, I didn’t realize I had a huge resource for making friends right in front of me. My first real shot at making friends finally came into play.
Here’s my next tip: Don’t let tagging along intimidate you. Sure, you might feel like a third wheel when you get lunch with your roommate and their friend, but socializing comes with the process. Once I started tagging along with my roommate and the friends she made, I started to form my own friendships. Not only would I meet her friends and get along with them instantly, but I went on to meet more of their friends and so forth. The more I got to know them, the bigger and tighter our friend group got. If I let the fear of intruding get to me, I never would have met my best friends in college.
Once I started to form my friendships, I gained confidence to form more. This time, I started to take some of my own advice. Instead of joining clubs that seemed perfect for me, I joined some that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Discussion-based clubs lead to surefire ways to make friends because people constantly talk and share their opinions. I chose to join the film committee. As a club, it challenged me to get up and talk about my favorite films, which motivated me more and more to talk to others. Soon I found myself complimenting the girl-sitting-next-to-me’s backpack. The more I socialized, the easier it felt to strike up a conversation with the person next to me.
Let’s face it, a lot of people struggle to find their place in college, especially on a huge college campus. But, as Hillary Duff says in A Cinderella Story, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Don’t give up and seclude yourself during the struggle to make friends. Keep trying new things because you could find your new passion. Put yourself out there and the ones who appreciate you will notice.