As if making friends at a new school wasn’t hard enough already, the pandemic has brought even more new challenges to the college social scene. Whether your university plans to go back online in the fall, in-person or both, you might need to get creative with how you reach out to potential new friends. But don’t fret—plenty of online resources, student organizations and internet communities exist to help you make meaningful connections on campus and beyond.
Keep reading for 10 ways to make friends in a pandemic.
1. Connect through social media
Social media is a powerful tool, indeed. Start by searching for the name of your school plus your graduating class on Facebook. You’ll find plenty of pages to explore and plenty of people to connect with. Create a post listing your hobbies and interests and before you know it, you’ll friend so many new people on Facebook that you’ll lose count. “I would see someone with a really cool bio or a movie quote that I liked. I reached out to those people and some people would reach out to me too. Through that, I’ve made a couple friends,” University of Florida freshman Sofia Alfonso said. Making those connections through social media early on means you can use the rest of the summer to message new people and get to know them. Once you arrive on campus, you’ll feel better knowing a few familiar faces.
2. Join a student-led mental health group
The transition to college would feel so much easier if you had a group of other college students to talk to about how you’re doing, right? Well, here’s some good news for you: Some colleges actually offer student organizations which allow you to do exactly that. Wolverine Support Network (WSN) at the University of Michigan holds weekly group meetings—now 100% virtual—to discuss any topic related to mental wellbeing. “To have a guaranteed way to meet people and have authentic, genuine conversations and get to know [people] is really special,” said Liadan Solomon, senior at the University of Michigan and Executive Director of WSN. “A lot of our members in the past have said that they’ve met really close friends through their groups.” Explore your college’s webpage or student portal for a list of student organizations to find out if they offer a similar group. You’ll come away from each meeting knowing a few more faces around campus and feeling a little less stressed out.
3. Start your own organization
If your school doesn’t offer a club that supports your needs, why not create your own? While the process of starting a campus organization may seem overwhelming at first, many other students feel the same way you do when it comes to making friends. Starting your own student support network can not only benefit you and your own mental health, but it can also allow you to help others with theirs. If you’re not interested in starting a support network, create a club based on one of your interests. Whether you’re into anime, activism or art history, you’ll find other people on campus who share those same passions through starting a club and you’ll get the chance to build meaningful friendships with them. Once you get past the paperwork, forming your own organization totally pays off.
4. Find a peer mentor
Sign up for a mentoring program to get connected with someone who can show you the ropes. Many universities offer mentoring programs within specific colleges and majors where you can become a “little” and be paired with a current student as your “big.” Especially if you want to connect with people in your area of study, becoming someone’s Little can provide the perfect option. For most programs, your relationship with your mentor consists mostly of communicating via email or phone with any questions you have about academics, campus life, student organizations and more, but for many students, mentorships can also blossom into friendships.
5. Use dating apps for more than just dating
When you match with a campus cutie on Tinder who goes to your future school, instead of sending them a pick-up line, ask them what life is like there. At first it may seem awkward to go from flirting to asking how they like the dining hall food, but at least you’ll learn more about your new college and get to know a potential new pal. Consider signing up for Tinder U, which allows you to match with people who go to your college. With Tinder Plus, you can also use the “Passport” feature to drop a pin on your soon-to-be college home and find people who already live there. Though unexpected, dating apps work pretty well as a platform for connecting with people who already know the ins and outs of your college.
6. Turn casual connections into meaningful ones
Think back on the people you’ve come across over the past couple of months. Sometimes we make connections with people but they can quickly slip our minds. Whether you exchanged numbers with someone through orientation or your friend mentioned a friend of a friend who’s going to the same school as you are, potential relationships exist everywhere. “I’ve been FaceTiming with people I would not have probably FaceTimed if quarantine wasn’t a thing,” Drake University junior Anush Jain said. Reach out to the people you might not have considered reaching out to before the world went virtual. They’re probably looking for a new friend to talk to, as well.
7. Go global with your friendships
You can extend your friendship beyond your college campus, too. Quarantine Buddy, a site developed by three Cornell students, matches you with someone else to hang out with virtually. The app can be helpful to anyone and everyone, whether you want a cooking buddy, a music buddy or just someone to talk to. “Some of our best matches have been people who live across the globe from each other, which we think is pretty cool,” said Sam Brickman, co-founder of Quarantine Buddy and Cornell University senior. Unlike other social networking sites, platforms like Quarantine Buddy came about in response to COVID-19 for the exact purpose of helping people all around the world manage feelings of loneliness and isolation. “Something we’ve heard from a lot of people is that it’s been really good to have almost like an anonymous person to talk to, so someone who’s not in your social circle or someone who hasn’t gone through the exact same experiences as yourself,” Cornell University senior Jordyn Goldzweig said. As nice as having friends on campus can be, let’s be honest—sometimes you just want to talk to a stranger.
8. Play video games
Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid gamer, now might be the time to finally give video games a try, especially if you’re in search of new friends. “I’ve never been one for online gaming whatsoever, but all of my friends were playing [Call of Duty: Modern Warfare]. The good thing about that game is that everyone with different consoles can still play together so we’ve been able to chat through there,” Jain said. COD offers several different multiplayer game modes, from Free-For-All to Domination to Gunfight. Not into first-person shooters? Life simulation games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons also allow you to connect with friends. You’re guaranteed to form bonds with fellow players whether you want to play some Free-For-All on COD or invite new friends to explore your island on New Horizons.
9. Find people online who share your passions
No matter what you love to do, other people with similar passions are out there. And thanks to the internet, you can easily find them with a quick Google search. Find a community within sites you already enjoy. If you’re an avid gamer, chat with other players; if you’re a crafty person, message other sellers on the platforms you use. “I thought it would be cool if I started a group chat with other sticker shop owners where we could collaborate and help each other out because I wish I had other people to talk to when I was just getting started,” Drake University junior Emma Walker said. Take your skills to an online platform and discuss your work with like-minded people. By sharing ideas with and drawing inspiration from the people you connect with, you’re sure to make a few long-lasting online friendships.
10. Start pen-paling
Your inbox fills up with emails every day, but when was the last time you received a handwritten letter in the mail? “There’s something mysterious, cool and fun about building friendships in a unique way. Rather than knowing the person you’re writing to, it’s someone who’s going through something similar in a different place,” said Banu Gulecyuz, senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Plus, you get to brighten someone else’s day every time one of your letters arrives in their mailbox. Whether you want to start writing to a pen-pal who lives on your campus, in your city or on the opposite side of the country, you’ll find that nothing quite compares to starting a new friendship via handwritten letters.