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Counseling Center

Division of Student Affairs

Making Friends
Making Friends

What is one of the best predictors of whether someone will overcome a mental illness? Social support. By that, we mean the extent to which a person feels cared for and loved by others. However, having many friends does not necessarily mean that a person has more social support. For example, a person can be alone, but not lonely. Other times, a person may be surrounded by people, but not feel cared for by them.

Quality is more important than quantity, and there are a lot of individual differences in terms of what is a persons ideal social support. For example, introverts tend to prefer fewer, closer friends (but may have difficulty initiating such friendships) while extroverts usually can make a lot of acquaintances within a short amount of time (but feel like the intimacy in such relationships is lacking).

Making new friends in college can be more challenging than expected. For many college students, their best friends were their childhood friends. These were friendships that developed over time, and probably ones that had a lot to do with frequent contact with the other person.

Here are some tips for how to make new friends in college:

  1. Get out of your room! Its hard to befriend others when you are physically isolated from people. Go outside. Go to class. Join clubs and organizations. Visit places that you enjoy. Doing so may help you find people who share your interests and values.
  2. Take risks. Relationships require vulnerability. It takes courage to ask someone to do something as simple as hanging out because there is always the chance that they may say no, leaving you feeling rejected. Similarly, it takes courage to be honest with people about the difficult experiences in your life because they may not respond in the right way. However, taking these risks is what deepens relationships.
  3. Don't wait for the perfect best friend. It is important that your friends treat you with dignity and respect. But if you do not have many friends to begin with, do not start a manhunt for a friend who you want to be your soul mate. Good people are everywhere. And most often times, good is good enough.
  4. Embrace diversity. It is human nature to seek what is familiar. The unknown can be scary. However, being friends who are different than you (whether its gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, race, etc.) can be incredibly rewarding. They will teach you different ways of seeing the world.
  5. Be patient. Chances are, the people you feel most comfortable with are people that you've known for a long time. It may require time and attention for those awkward, uncomfortable relationships to become long-lasting.
  6. Explore what might be holding you back. How has your past impacted your view of friendships? Were you taught that boys do not talk about their problems? Or that girls cant be trusted?  Were you bullied in school? These types of messages we receive can negatively impact our ability to form meaningful relationships. You may want to explore them on your own or speak with a counselor about them.
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