After more than two years of social distancing, masks, and virtual events, the idea of in-person connections can feel overwhelming, including as you prepare to start college. To a certain extent, it is not unusual to feel nervous or uncomfortable at the thought of meeting new people; many feel these emotions when faced with new social situations. Some people would describe themselves as “shy” or “introverted”; others suffer from social anxiety, which can be debilitating and make socializing feel almost impossible.
Whether you are socially anxious or shy, here are some useful tips we hope will help to make the process of making friends at college less intimidating and more enjoyable.
1. Fight Negative Thoughts – Turn “no one likes me” into “I’m unique and have a lot to offer”
Negative thinking plays a significant role in making social anxiety and shyness worse. Examples of negative thoughts include thinking that no one likes you, always assuming the worst, and overanalyzing people's words and actions, such as assuming someone doesn’t like you because they disagree with something you say.
Quieting that inner monologue can help you remain present and relaxed in social situations. Try replacing negative thoughts with positive ones so you can remain present and really make a connection with someone. Next time you think something like “no one is interested in what I have to say” pivot that thought and instead think, “I have had a unique life experience and my opinion is valuable”. This is called cognitive reframing and it is a great tool to help people recognize thought distortions, adjust their mindset, and see things in a more optimistic way.
2. Practice Your Social Skills – Make eye contact
As you begin the journey of making new friends at college, it is helpful to practice your social skills in day-to-day life.
Some easy skills that can make a huge difference include using open body language, such as firm handshakes and eye contact, and learning how to make small talk with new acquaintances. Start to look at all of your daily social interactions – from the cashier at the grocery store to a classmate at college – as opportunities to practice your skills. Smile at a stranger, ask a peer a question about themselves, pay someone a compliment, and observe their reaction. Spoiler alert, you’ll probably receive some smiles and compliments in return!
To make this process even easier, try writing a list of small-talk topics that you can draw from to help you feel more comfortable in these casual interactions. Examples of small-talk topics to use when talking to a college peer might include the weather, plans for the weekend, what brought them to college, or their hobbies or interests.
Remember, not every interaction will result in a new best friend, but you will have practiced smiling, chatting, and managing those negative feelings that social interactions can bring out. The more you face your fears, the more comfortable you will be talking with new people and, eventually, making long-lasting connections.
3. Befriend People with Similar Interests – “I see you like reading/hiking/movies too”
A great trick for easing your social nerves is to become friends with like-minded people. Try hanging out with other socially anxious or introverted people or seek out people who share your interests. If you can bond over a shared experience or pastime, it will naturally provide you with a lot to talk about and help you feel confident in your interactions.
While at College, try attending events that will help you meet similar people. Pursuing your interests in this way will put you in the same room as people that share your passions, which can really boost your chances of making friends!
Resist the urge to pretend to be someone you're not when you are meeting new people. You will attract more like-minded people if you are honest about your interests, hobbies, and the way you like to spend your time.
4. Attend Social Gatherings – Just say yes
It’s natural to want to avoid the things that frighten you but in doing so, you are actually making your anxiety worse in the long run. Once in a while, try pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by attending campus events or volunteering for an organization that aligns with your beliefs. How about saying “yes” to a college peer next time they invite you to a gathering or event?
The more time you spend around people you don’t know, the less frightening it will become. You will quickly realize that, often, others are also feeling apprehensive and are probably too busy worrying about themselves and their behaviour to worry about yours! Let that thought soothe your worry when those negative thoughts start to creep in.
5. Be Kind to Yourself – “I am doing the best I can” instead of “I’m not good enough”
Self-care is essential for everyone, but especially for people with anxiety or introverted tendencies. Remember to be kind to yourself and know your limits; push yourself out of your comfort zone without compromising the boundaries you have put in place to protect yourself. Take small steps to manage your anxiety and always remember your worth!
Sundance is Here to Help
The college experience is designed for new beginnings and growth. We’re here to help you with one of the most rewarding journeys of your life, both academically and personally.
At Sundance College, we prioritize student support and ensure each student’s individual needs are met. Our college campus fosters an atmosphere of community and inclusivity so that all students feel respected and understood. Visit our website to learn more about our programs in Legal, Business, Technology, and Health, and to find out how you can become a student at Sundance College.