Coming from a small town, I was relieved when one of my best friends from high school and I had chosen to attend the same university. We were attached at the hip, had the same majors, and did everything together. I didn’t even have to talk to new people and it was great… until she transferred.

I was happy for her, but when she left I realized that I hadn’t spent much time building other relationships. Why? Because starting from scratch can be intimidating.

Whether you are just beginning to build your social network or want to grow your acquaintances into deeper friendships, read below to learn how.
College students take a selfie

Finding fast friends

When you arrive to campus as a first-year student, you will not be the only one looking for friendly faces. Below are some ideas to meet new people.

Join a campus group. From Harry Potter fan clubs to outdoor adventure groups that take long weekend excursions, you will find a campus group that fits you. Look on your college’s website for a list and attend a meeting of each one that even remotely interests you. Scared to show up alone? Ask your roommate to join!

Say YES to your RA. One of the first people you meet on campus will most likely be your Resident Assistant (RA). As a former RA, I can tell you that these people’s number two priority (safety first!) is building community. They want you to experience the best of campus life and find a sense of belonging. If you are uncertain about where to start expanding your network, ask your RA to grab dinner or chat.

Talk to strangers. I met some of my best friends by talking to them as strangers in a class. I had made it a point to challenge my tendency toward shyness and talk to humans. How do you strike up a conversation? Reference a common experience like an upcoming assignment, your majors, or why you are taking the class.

Building lasting bonds

We are hardwired for connection as human beings. In fact, research suggests that our quality of life can be improved when we have and nurture strong relationships. Keep these things in mind to strengthen your college friendships.

Courage, dear heart. The word ‘courage’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘heart’. The original definition of courage was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. Deeper friendships blossom from the courage of people to be who they are and share their story with their whole heart.

You are flawed. You are worthy. You are not perfect, but you are worthy of connection. It can be easy to slip into feelings of inadequacy, especially with so much pressure to be perfect from social media. Even with your imperfections you are worth someone’s time and energy and you don’t have to do anything but be you! When we accept our flaws and only accept people into our lives that will accept us as we are, we have much better chances of experiencing authentic connection and happiness.

Compassion is key. Compassion is a key ingredient to building authentic friendships. This means practicing compassion with yourself first and then with others. Your ability to care for others is a direct reflection of how you care for yourself. Be kind.