Have you ever seen any of the countless movies about college, like Animal House, Pitch Perfect, or Monsters University? If so, you might have noticed a pattern. While each has an entirely unique plot and set of characters, most of them share a common trait: an emphasis on the role of friends in college. In line with these fictional portrayals, many people expect college to be a place where you can easily meet new people and build a flourishing social life. After all, college freshmen are thrown into highly social environments with hundreds or even thousands of other kids their age. How could it possibly be hard to make new friends?
As it turns out, building a new social life during your first year in college can be harder than you might expect. And if you end up having a hard time, it may seem like everyone else has it all figured out and that you are the only one struggling. But the truth is, most students have at least some trouble building their new social life when they go to college. In fact, a major 2015 survey found that first-year students struggle with it more than you might think. This video by first-year Cornell student Emery Bergmann shows just how common loneliness in college can be.
It’s true that the transition to college might make you feel a little lonely, but it’s also important to remember that most of your fellow students will feel the same way. This adjustment period also tends to improve over a pretty brief time. There’s nothing weird or wrong with feeling unsettled or lonely in the first few weeks or months at school. That being said, here are some tips to help you get through it.
As weird as it might sound, simply finding something to distract yourself and keep yourself busy can really help. And better yet, make it something that involves others. It could be a school club, a sports team, a religious group, a dorm event, anything you enjoy. You’ll very likely find plenty of other students that share your interests, which gives you an immediate point of connection. Yes, it might feel a little forced at first, but students largely end up valuing the groups they choose and the people they meet in them. If you find it particularly hard to make friends, feel connected with others on campus, or put yourself out there, most college campuses have plenty of resources to reach out to.
Chances are your dorm will have an RA (or other upperclassman staff member) who works to build a dorm or hall community, and they will frequently be available to talk with you about how to find social connections on campus. Your social group from back home (friends, family, etc.) can still be a great source of support to get through a tough transition. Of course, if your loneliness or difficulty making friends becomes too challenging or goes on for too long, you can seek out support at your school’s counseling center. Many schools offer counseling services to undergraduates – just check out your school’s health services website for information about it. Over 10% of undergraduates use counseling services on campus to help them with a variety of issues, including feelings of loneliness and adjustment difficulties.