How to make friends at uni (DO THESE THINGS NOW)

How to make friends at uni (DO THESE THINGS NOW)

How to make friends at uni

Want to know how to make friends at uni? We show you the best ways to meet people and the right mindset to approach them with. 

How to make friends at uni

Making friends at university is crucial to avoid feeling isolated. Arriving in a new city and not knowing anybody can seem intimidating, but uni has plenty of welcome activities to help you meet people. And there is no shortage of opportunities to find friendships after Freshers Week. You just need the right mindset.

How to meet people at uni

There’s a natural order in which you will meet different groups of people when you arrive at university. Assuming you’ve moved away to uni, the first group will be your flatmates. (If you’re going to uni in your home town, don’t worry, we have a special section for you at the end of this article.)

Forming good relationships with your flatmates can make or break your uni experience. But there’s a catch—you don’t get to choose who you live with in your first year, so your living situation can be pretty random.

While you might get lucky and become best buds with your flatmates, you’ll still want to make friends further afield. So cast your net wide in the early days to give you the best chance of finding like-minded people with similar interests to yours.

If you’re staying in uni accommodation, the next group you’ll meet will be other students living in your halls. This immediately gives you access to a large pool of people on your doorstep. Making friends in halls also gives you somewhere convenient to hang out other than your flat, which can be a blessing if you don’t click with any of your flatmates.

Once you get to know a few people in your halls, you’ll soon get to meet their friends, their friends’ friends, and so on. So you can quickly expand your social network in this way.

In the early days, hanging out with people in your halls helps you avoid feeling isolated and gives you people to tag along with so you don’t have to go places on your own. But at some point, you want to get more intentional about meeting people who closely share your values and interests.

How do I make friends at university without clubbing?

Strong stereotypes exist about students’ social lives revolving around drinking and music. Of course, there’s no shortage of that if you want it. But there are many more creative, rewarding ways to make friends at uni than trying to have a conversation over loud music in a dark nightclub.

Activities such as skills workshops and TED-style talks are excellent ways to meet new people with shared interests. And they’re often more relaxed and conducive to forming interesting friendships than the night-time social scene.

These activities can be less intimidating to attend alone than walking into a bar or nightclub. They give you something to focus on other than trying to keep a conversation going. And the shared experience provides a natural talking point. Plus, even if you don’t meet anyone new at a workshop or talk, you’ll still get value from attending, making them a win-win option. 

Sports clubs and societies

Another way to meet people at uni with similar interests is to join sports clubs or societies. These are small student communities based around specific activities.

If you’re into a particular sport, joining the relevant sports club is a no-brainer. You’ll become a part of a group of people who all share your passion, and you’ll be able to indulge in it right away. 

Sports clubs range from uber-competitive to entirely recreational, so look for one that suits your level of interest, not just your discipline. 

Societies are the non-sporting equivalent of sports clubs. They focus on specific interests such as movies, gaming, entrepreneurship, or food, ranging from political and cultural to lighthearted fun. Find one you like, and you’ve probably found friends for life. 

Don’t limit yourself to only following your established interests when joining groups. Use them to explore new things too. Following your curiosity can often lead to some of your most rewarding experiences at uni.

Get a job on campus

As a student, you’ll probably want a way to put some cash in your pocket. While many options are available, a job on campus is one of the best. 

Working on campus likely means being employed by your university or students’ union. Both organisations should let you prioritise your studies by offering more flexible shifts than off-campus employers do. They also allow you to work close to where you live and study—an additional convenience. 

But the biggest advantage of these jobs? You’ll work in a team with other students, making it easy to grow your friendship circle. 

Student workplaces are highly sociable. Workmates regularly socialise together (and you’ll get to meet their friends too), so it won’t be all work and no play. 

How long does it take to make friends at uni?

It varies, but a good rule of thumb is that the quicker a relationship is made, the shallower it will be. We talked earlier about how you will meet your flatmates and hallmates early on. You will form these relationships quickly—in a matter of days. The flip side is that they may not be the deepest of friendships.

So don’t stress out if you don’t form strong relationships immediately. There are literally thousands of people to meet at uni, and it can take a while to filter through them until you make friends you really click with. Just know that if you keep trying, you will find them, so be patient. 

Shared experiences are proven to develop strong bonds with others. So sign up for events, clubs, and societies and purposefully interact with people when you’re there (you could set yourself a target of talking to three new people, for instance). 

Relationships take effort and require you to be proactive—even with people you naturally click with. They don’t happen by accident, so put the work in to build the friendships you want rather than just hoping they spontaneously occur.

At the same time, be aware that if a relationship requires too much hard work or doesn’t feel right, it might not be worth pursuing, so be prepared to let go, no matter how much you want it.

What to do if you’re not making friends at uni

If you don’t form firm friendships in your first term, use the winter break to reflect on what you can change about your mindset or actions. Then make a plan to start the new year with a fresh approach and explore new ways to meet people.

Make some goals, such as committing to trying a new activity every week for a month and starting conversations with at least two people each time. Decide on some ice-breakers and follow-up questions ahead of time to make things easier.

And remember this: struggling to make friends at uni in your first few weeks doesn’t mean you’re a failure or your entire time at uni will suck. It’s actually pretty standard. Close friendships take time to form. So rather than get down about it, use it as motivation to get involved in things and meet new people.

How to make friends at uni when living at home

Going to uni in your home town rather than moving away and living in student accommodation gives your student experience a different dynamic. 

You won’t have new flatmates to go out, come home, bond, or fall out with. You won’t be living in an accommodation block with hundreds of people to meet. And you won’t have the shared experiences that come with that, such as learning to cook, hanging out at home, or doing spontaneous things together.

That’s going to impact your time at uni. 

You’ll still meet all these people, but you’ll relate to them a little differently from how they relate to each other. As you can’t rely on having flatmates for a social circle, the other avenues for making friends we’ve discussed are doubly important for you. 

The first group of people you’ll come into contact with will be your coursemates. Make an effort to get to know them. Invite people for coffee. Find out what they’re getting involved in and go with them to things that interest you. But getting to know your coursemates is just step one. Don’t stop there.

Prioritise getting involved in activities, events, clubs, and societies—these are your primary ways to meet people other than your coursemates. Commit to this, and you will get as much out of uni as anyone else. Plus, you’ll avoid many accommodation-related headaches that typically come with student life (like falling out with people over washing up or running out of loo paper at just the wrong time).

Don’t neglect to make friends at uni by relying on your home friendship network as a fallback instead. This might seem like an easy option, but you’ll get far less out of your uni experience than you otherwise could. The social side of uni is a big part of the experience, and making new friends will help you get the most out of your time as a student.

Principles to remember

Whether you’ve moved away to uni or you’re living at home, forming successful friendships is all about having the right mindset. Here are some principles that will help you.

  • Walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating. If it makes you uneasy, remember that they’ve just started uni too, and you’re all in the same boat. Don’t assume everyone else is super-comfortable and you’re the only person who isn’t (even if it feels that way). Put yourself in their shoes and realise they’re probably just as anxious as you. Focusing on putting them at ease will go a long way to calming your nerves and theirs.

  • Don’t go out of your way to impress or fit in with people. Being authentic is the best way to connect with others. Own your uniqueness; people will respect and accept you, so just be yourself.

  • In his infamous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie highlights how much people love to talk about themselves. Use this to your advantage. Refer to people by their names often. Rather than talk about yourself, ask people about themselves. Be complimentary, but don’t suck up to anyone. They will be flattered by your natural interest in them and think you’re great as a result. 

  • Don’t overthink things or get too self-conscious about how you come across. No one is paying as much attention to you as you think. Just be in the moment and don’t dwell on past or future interactions. If you’re uncomfortable being in the spotlight, use the above technique of asking people about themselves to take the focus off you.

  • The specifics of what you say are less important than you think. People don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. If you make people feel valued, they will value you in return, so find ways to show people you appreciate them through words, actions, or just making time for them.

  • Look for common ground—it’s an easy way to connect. But don’t shy away from differences. Instead, use them as talking points and a springboard for asking (non-judgemental) questions to better understand other points of view.

  • Be open and curious. Don’t lock yourself in your room and close yourself off to people or expect them to come to you. Be proactive and welcome interaction with others. If you’re in halls, prop your door open whenever you don’t need privacy, at least for the first few weeks. This simple trick can be the difference between getting to know people and making friends or being a mysterious enigma your flatmates only hear but never see. 

  • All this social interaction will come naturally to you if you’re an extrovert. You might find it a little harder if you’re an introvert, but it’s totally doable. You may just need to socialise in shorter bursts, at smaller gatherings, or take regular breaks to recharge. The main thing is to not shut yourself off to the social side of uni, as that will make forming friendships difficult and leave you feeling isolated. 

One final takeaway (and probably the most important)

When making friends at uni, quality is more important than quantity. Though we’ve repeatedly recommended meeting as many people as possible in your first few weeks at uni, the ultimate goal isn’t to build a massive social circle. Instead, it’s to have the best chance of finding people you click with and form a few strong friendships.

So, get out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there early and often. Yes, you might get freshers flu or go through some initial awkwardness getting to know people in the process—but they’re only short-term. Shy away from being socially active early on and you risk finding yourself isolated and struggling to cope with three years at uni with no friends.

And that’s way worse than a few awkward moments you’ll look back and laugh at with your new friends.