I've always loved when the store aisles are filled with fresh new notebooks, pencils, and cute school supplies for back to school season.
But as students & parents prep for the new semester by shopping for dorm decor, backpacks, and (*cough cough*) planners, I think it's easy to forget what students need to succeed in the school year.
Don't get me wrong, I love a cute dorm setup just as much as the next college mom, but when the hardship of life begins to hit, how much help is that new comforter going to offer?
One of the struggles that I've seen catch students off guard is loneliness.
According to Sodexo’s 2022 Student Lifestyle Survey, 53% of college students say they're lonely.
In of May 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General called the country's "epidemic of loneliness" an "underappreciated public health crisis."
This is a problem we can't ignore.
If you're entering your freshman year of college, this might be the first time you're living away from your family and the friends you grew up with. Maybe your friend group graduated ahead of you or you decided to transfer to a new school.
Even as an adult, I know this is true: making friends can be hard.
And if you're starting at square one...where do you even start?!
Let's talk about it.
Tip #1: You don't need to cast a wide net.
The goal isn't to make everyone you meet a best friend. Research shows that most of us only have the capacity for 2-5 close friends. Think deep, not wide.
Tip #2: Show up to school events.
Dorm events, freshmen hangouts, football tailgates—they might not be your favorite thing, but choose to start somewhere. Even if it feels "cringey," commit to putting yourself out there and introducing yourself to someone new.
Tip #3: Sign up for clubs & activities.
A lot of schools offer spaces to meet other students outside of classrooms and dorms. Join an intramural sports team, audition for a play, jump onto the debate team! Find something that aligns with your hobbies or interests, and sign up.
Tip #4: Take the initiative.
We always hope someone else will do the inviting, so we don't feel like we're "pushing ourselves" onto someone. Chances are that other person is hoping you'll be the one to extend an invite! If you meet someone you think might make a good friend, ask them to join you for lunch, a study session, or movie night in your dorm.
Tip #5: When needed, seek counseling.
I've seen plenty of my Gen Z students struggle with social anxiety. If the idea of making friends makes you freeze with fear, consider reaching out to your student counseling office on campus. A professional can help you work through those barriers.
Remember that making friends is a process. It takes time and energy, but it's ultimately worth the work to find committed and kind friends.