How to Make Friends in College During COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, a lot would change, primarily how individuals communicate and interact with one another. In a matter of months, people went from celebrating the submission of their online college application with hugs to greeting one another from a distance of at least six feet or through digital screens. Similarly, in-person gatherings and celebrations went from no one second-guessing to a time where seeing others in person leaves individuals with second thoughts.
Personal relationships and mental health in the time of the COVID-19 present individuals worldwide and of all ages with new challenges. However, a group of individuals the pandemic has significantly affected is college students. Students around the country are wondering how to make friends in college during COVID. Whether a college or university has moved entirely online, offers a hybrid option, or allows students to be on their college campus with numerous safety precautions implemented, students’ college experience is vastly different. Returning and being on campus, whether virtual or in-person, is a new experience for all, no matter a college student’s class year.
Now, in a unique situation with new challenges, anxiety in college students has risen because they are worried about being able to make at least one new friend during the semester. Despite the school year looking and feeling different, there are still solutions to socializing safely. With these solutions, communicating may feel challenging at times and may require an additional amount of effort. However, it is worth the extra effort--especially when forming new friendships that would not have happened before.
How to Make Friends in College
With various safety precautions and, for some, remote learning in place, how students can make friends in college and maintain those relationships comes into question. Finding a balance of safety and friendship security can be challenging. Luckily, living in the digital age makes it a little bit easier. With access to technology, connecting with friends, new or old, is not an impossible task and can improve mental health in college students. Here are some ways students can get to know others on campus.
Join Clubs and Extracurricular Activities Online
One of the best mental health tips for college students is to get out of your comfort zone and join a club or extracurricular activity. No matter the college or university, there is likely to be a variety of clubs, organizations and extracurricular activities on campus. It is also likely there are various ways students can continue to attend meetings and events, even in a virtual setting. To learn more about which clubs, organizations and extracurricular activities are available on campus and how to join them, be sure to utilize campus resources. For instance, North Central College has a page dedicated to providing more information on all student clubs and activities on campus. Additionally, students, faculty, and staff at North Central College have access to a website called Presence to stay up-to-date on all club meetings, events and activities.
Getting involved is crucial to meeting other students on campus and making students’ college experiences more memorable. It is vital for students to remember that there is more to college than just classes. College is also a time to create unforgettable friendships.
As stated by Rachel Pridgen, director of student involvement and transition programs at North Central College, “Getting involved with college activities and events is now even more vital for students to connect and meet friends on campus.The Office of Student Involvement is dedicated to finding safe opportunities for students to get to know one another and to help students meet new friends. Even if it is now more focused in a virtual setting, students can develop new skills, find new hobbies and meet other students with similar interests. Whether it’s through events sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement or virtual gatherings hosted by student organizations, there’s always something students can do.”
Follow Student Clubs and Organizations on Social Media
There is almost always something interesting for each student when it comes to student clubs and organizations on college campuses. When students join a club or organization, they increase their chances of finding others who share similarities by class year, interest or major.
At most colleges or universities, there are Facebook groups created for each incoming class. Here, students can share more about themselves, such as their major, where they are from or their interests. Joining Facebook groups like this is an excellent way to get to know other students and introduce yourself. By learning more about other students, there is a more straightforward path for who might be the right person to have further conversations to get to know better.
Like class year, there are also social media accounts and groups for each student organization and club, which coincide with interests. From volleyball to the international club, there is something for all students. When joining a specific club or organization, it increases students' chances to find someone else on campus who shares their same interests.
Additionally, students can even find social media accounts and groups, specifically for their field of study. Whether a college student's major is political science, mathematics or chemistry, there is most likely an account to follow or group to join. Keep an eye out for these on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. They can help students network with one another and faculty who will be a part of their learning environment.
Plan a Socially Distanced Gathering
If students are looking to spend time with one another in person, they can plan a socially-distanced gathering, if permitted on campus. Whether students are living on their college campus or at home, spending time together outside is a great route to take. However, it is vital to ensure safety precautions, such as wearing a face covering and maintaining a distance of at least six feet, are followed by each individual in attendance. Socially-distanced activities could include:
- Spending a morning or afternoon walking around campus.
- Setting up a picnic outside, with the appropriate amount of space between one another.
- De-stressing with a bike ride through campus or on nearby trails.
- Playing a sport or activity outside.
- Finding a shady tree and reading.
- Enjoying a simple conversation with one another.
Making Friends in College
In the new, remote learning landscape, students likely spend a good portion of their time in their dorm room or home. Under these conditions, how can students form new friendships?
How to Reach Out
Whether attending an online class or a virtual event via Zoom, the best way to capture other students’ attention is to simply reach out. While messaging another student out of the blue may seem intimidating, the rewards that follow make it worthwhile.
To lessen the fear of reaching out to others, it is essential to remember that most students are experiencing the same thoughts and sentiments towards navigating communication in the time of COVID-19. With newfound friendships on campus, the school year will prove to be more enjoyable. Having someone who can support you and you can talk to is essential, especially during tough times.
Where to Reach Out
A natural way to reach out to a peer is to message them on Zoom or whichever platform is used for classes. To make it easier, start with a question or comment about the shared course. A simple question can break the ice and open the conversation up for other discussion topics. When messaged first, individuals feel more comfortable responding. Taking the lead shows the other student that there is an interest in getting to know them. From that point, students can get to know more about one another, such as their major and interests. In addition, students can reach out to one another via email or social media.
What to Talk About
When brainstorming topics to talk about, the sky's the limit. From discussions about virtual learning to favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu, the list goes on. Engaging in conversations like these is an excellent way to foster meaningful friendships.
How to Make More Friends in College
After all other recommendations are exhausted, and there is more interest in connecting with individuals on campus, here are additional ways to break the ice and genuinely get to know others.
Meet for a Virtual Coffee
A simple question that can lead to a great friendship is, “Do you want to get coffee?” Often a casual meetup between two people, this is a vital tool for building connections. Asking to meet for coffee virtually is as easy as scheduling time to chat with classmates or peers. While the coffee is part of the enjoyment, it is just an excuse to connect and learn more about one another.
Organize an Online Study Group
Another way to form new connections is to organize an online study group. Creating or joining a study group is an excellent way to merge schoolwork with socializing. Students involved can exchange ideas about the course while also conversing about their day. The best part is that many students are welcome to join since connecting is done safely online rather than in person.
Share a Virtual Meal
In college, it is crucial to take breaks to improve concentration and motivation. Take advantage of those breaks by asking a peer or friend to share a virtual meal. Whether done through Zoom or FaceTime, moments like this help build great friendships.
Overall, to condense the sentiments of navigating friendships in the time of COVID-19, the Harvard Business Review puts it perfectly: “As we head into new jobs or new semesters, many of us will have to start over, and part of that includes turning new colleagues and classmates into new potential friends. Find solace in knowing that you are not facing this situation alone. Sometimes all it takes is a little initiative to get the ball rolling.”
Kara Kots is a social media specialist at North Central College, where she contributes her content, writing and communication skills.