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We have been told that going to college is critical to our future success, including our careers and financial stability. However, for some, going to college requires many sacrifices, such as leaving their families and friends behind. This is more notable for first-year students who may be worried about college life, including homesickness, how and where to meet friends and whether they will thrive academically.
Before you went to college, you probably had some friends from your hometown or neighborhood. Because these friends were not distant, you had an opportunity to meet them frequently. Club activities, such as sports and volunteering, were also a way that you could spend a lot of time with friends. You may not have noticed that while you were interacting with your peers, you were developing your social skills, and now you are probably using those skills during your college years.
If you had a hard time with social interactions during high school, you probably had to ask your parents or others around you for help and guidance. And now that you are a college student, it is time you become more independent and work on your social skills. Acquiring such skills will help you better interact with your classmates, club members and professors. Here are a few social skills that can help you make new friends.
Introduce Yourself to a New Person
I understand that approaching a new person can make you feel nervous. However, here are some tips that will help you become more confident in taking the initiative. Before you introduce yourself to a new person, maintain eye contact to give that person a signal that you are willing to interact. If that person looks back at you, then at this point, you should smile at them. That person will likely smile back. You would be wrong if you think these initial steps are unnecessary. In fact, these steps effectively break the ice with the person to whom you would like to introduce yourself. Mutual eye contact and smiles with a new person will not only help you start a conversation, but also leave a lasting, good first-impression.
Have a Firm Handshake
Handshakes typically happen at the beginning or end of a conversation. Before you offer your hand, it is important you maintain eye contact and smile warmly. When you reach out your hand, be sure to keep it perpendicular and shake firmly. Keep in mind a firm handshake gives a subtle signal you are pleased to meet that person. On the other hand, a limp handshake sends a signal that you are nervous or uncertain.
Start a Conversation
I am aware that starting a conversation with someone you’ve just met can be a little uneasy because it is unchartered territory for you. You can still ease a new person into conversation by asking some conversation starter questions. This can range anywhere from asking, “Why’d you choose your current major?” to “Did you do anything fun over the weekend?” Closed-ended questions will lead to short responses, likely ending your conversation fast. Instead, try to ask open-ended questions, as it can help keep the conversation going.
Find Common Interests
After engaging in conversation, see if the two of you have any common interests. Depending on the conversation flow, you may not be able to know each other’s interests from the very first conversation. Try to meet that person a second or a third time and ask some questions in such a case. You are more likely to discover whether or not you have common interests. If your interests align, then take the initiative by asking for an outing—such as going to an on-campus event or watching a sports game. Spending time together while fostering a common interest will help develop the friendship.
Making new friends is not something you should do only during your college years; it should be a lifelong endeavor. After college, your friends will likely move away due to their personal or professional circumstances, and hence it will be harder to keep up with them. If you stop making new friends, you will likely end up lonely, with little to no social life. College presents one of the best opportunities you’ll have to make friends, just due to the sheer proximity of all our peers and the number of organized events we can go to. Take advantage of this fact and approach people when you can; you won’t regret developing the skill or making friendships that could last a lifetime.