College life should not only consist of study. Did you know that the social connections you make in college could set the stage for the rest of your life? Glenn Sparks of Purdue University conducted studies on college friendships. His take? "College is a key time for generating close friends."
A separate survey brings up another side to this story. From responses of 153,000 first-year students, it was found that close to 40 percent said they spend less than 5 hours of time with their friends a week. The result of less time spent with college friends is a concerning one. Spending time with friends helps students combat feelings of overwhelm that the first year of college study often brings. So, the University of California describes the survey results as an all-time low for the emotional health of students.
But for socially awkward first-year students, how does one cope if socializing is not one’s strong suit? Here are some steps to consider:
1. Join a study group.
Studying in a group has advantages that are not present in self-study. Talking about the material you are learning or reading can help you pinpoint holes in your knowledge. The bonus to this is that you get to know a different set of people than those who you might naturally gravitate toward. How to find a study group? Start one! Ask the person next to you when you receive an assignment to help put together a group. And there you have your first member!
2. Consider Greek life.
Greek organizations are not the perfect fit for everyone. But there is a reason this tradition has held true across the US. Joining a brotherhood or a sisterhood provides you with a ready-made social circle that can help you fast track friendships. Check out Rush Week activities. The fraternity rush shirts alone might have you inching for the sign-up sheet.
3. Volunteer on campus.
On the other hand, you do not have to go Greek to increase your chances of meeting lifelong friends on campus. There are other clubs and organizations that you could consider joining, which are more aligned to your interests. And potential college friends with the same leanings. Bonus points? Some clubs can enhance your resume. For example, helping out with the college newspaper will give you invaluable experience if you are looking for a journalism job. And College Mentors for Kids is a great volunteering opportunity and can give you experience in leading and mentoring others.
4. Cheer or play for the team.
Why not stay active by trying out for the basketball or volleyball league? Or the college swim team? Having an avenue where you get to exercise weekly will keep your body in shape and can be a great way to release stress, too. Not only that, friendships forged in the fire of a sporting arena are good as gold.
If you do not have the skills or interest to play, you can still cheer for your college teams. Attend college sporting events, or volunteer to help with organizational duties.
5. Do not wait for introductions.
If you wait for others to introduce themselves first, you could be wasting valuable time. Take the first step. Don’t wait for introductions or for the perfect timing to appear to introduce yourself. Push yourself to greet the people you are interested in getting to know. Ask for invitations if you hear of an event you want to attend.
Learning how to approach people and start a conversation is a skill that you will use for the rest of your life. You might as well get started on honing it now. Most of the students around you are in the same boat as you — looking for ways to fit in and belong. Take heart. It’s a rare person who will refuse a genuine hello and a smile. It is a nice first step in building your network of college friends.