I felt incredibly lucky to have been accepted to a university that tons of my friends also attended. These were people that I basically grew up with and have known for years and years. This made the transition from moving away from my parents much easier. That being said, what I thought was a perk gradually turned out to be a bit of a handicap.
Now don’t get me wrong, my friends are awesome and I still look forward to talking to them. However, I lacked the incentive to meet new people and I found myself becoming too comfortable. Every time I was presented with an opportunity to socialize, I just made up an excuse and sat around in my dorm.
If you are someone who loves socializing, that’s awesome :D. But if you are one of the many college students who refuse to take a step outside their comfort zone, take a look at what you may be missing out on.
We have always been compelled to use the excuse “I have tons of homework” or “I have to study for an exam” or even the occasional “I’m allergic to loud music”. Excluding that last one, these may be valid. But what about when you need to take your mind off of homework and release a little stress? If you are having specific issues or just feel buried up to your eyes in work, odds are other college students are experiencing the same thing and can give you some perspective on how to conquer your assignments.
A lot of people think of this as “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” but that’s not the whole picture. A lot of opportunities like information sessions, cool events, and even job openings travel through word-of-mouth. This is a much more effective and enjoyable way to get informed than plugging things into a search bar or reading every single newsletter that comes your way.
It is easy to think that “you’re not good enough” but like I mentioned before, having people around you that are going through the same things will help you put your situation into perspective. I have always found that knowing I’m not alone in some circumstances feels like a giant weight being lifted off of my back. You might even come across someone who you could end up helping!
When entering the job market and being a part of the professional world, having social skills can make the difference between getting a job and not. Being sociable takes practice just like other difficult things in life, so the more practice you can get the better.
When in college, there are more people around you with similar interests at a similar age than anywhere else. Take advantage of the time you have to meet people that may benefit you down the road or become lifelong friends.
Hopefully you have found that one or two of these reasons really resonate with you. You may even be thinking, “Ok, I gotta get my butt in gear and meet some people. But how do I even go about doing that???”. Trust me, if this is something you don’t know, you are not alone. Here are a few things that have worked for me and if you give some of them a try, you will be on your way to reaping some of the benefits I mentioned above.
Whether it’s related to your major or not, it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests. Depending on the size of your school, there are a lot of groups to choose from. I took part in Society for Energy Engineers, Engineering Without Borders, and even helped out in some engineering competitions. To find these, you can check out your school’s website, attend an activity fair, or mosey over to the nearest hallway bulletin board. You’re bound to stumble upon something that peaks your interest.
This is just like a school club, but more active! Playing a sport will keep you healthy and lower your stress levels. Being part of a team is a sure build close relationships and if anything, it will help you shed that freshman 15.
There are way more benefits to working part-time in college, but this is definitely one of the more important ones. Even if it isn’t related to your major, it still puts you in a position to work with others (most of the time) and earn a few bucks at the same time. Alternatively, there are always organizations that could use more help. If you have a passion and want to give back to the community, volunteering is another great way to find others with similar goals and interests.
Take an elective of something that really interests you
Don’t worry if it isn’t directly relevant to your major. You will still find tons of people that may differ in career goals but share a common interest with you. You’re going to have to take general education courses anyway, you might as well use them to make friends!
This was my all-time most rewarding way to meet people. Studying alone is extremely exhausting and discouraging but if you find a way to make it fun and have people around you to help, it will go much faster and you will learn much more effectively. You can either ask around, look for a facebook group, or start one yourself.
No matter your personality type, gender, or background, being social and making social connections is super valuable to being successful as a college student (and even more so as a professional). If you are like me and had trouble socializing and feel a bit trapped in your comfort zone, here a few things you can do to work your way up to meeting awesome people just like you! 😉
- Make it a point to reach out to one person per class per day. It can be really simple like asking them a question about the homework or commenting on a piece of news. A connection has to start somewhere and mentioning something that relates you to another person is a classic conversation starter. This will help you work out your social muscles.
- Say yes. If someone invites you to do something when you would otherwise be sitting around, just say yes. Even if it isn’t your cup of tea, it is better than wasting time on the internet or napping. You really never know what could come out of it, so take a deep breath and go with it.
- Do something worth talking about. Have you ever found yourself answering “what do you do for fun?” with “Umm…netflix I guess…” That was pretty much my answer Freshman year. It’s great if you are really interested in what you are studying, but it’s sometimes hard to create a connection with someone who isn’t in your major. Do something with your spare time that you can talk for a few minutes about with a wide variety of people. It’s easy and it works. Give it a try!
Like I said, these are all tips that I have tried myself and through college I have gradually built onto more and more. If you are still worried about putting yourself out there and making some new friends, just ask yourself “What do I honestly have to lose?”.
Ken Palamara is a recent graduate from Penn State University with a degree in Energy Engineering. Currently, Ken works as an instrumentation engineer improving industrial processes to be up to date and efficient. He is active in the engineering development community and seeks to help student engineers maximize their potential before entering their industry. To get engineering news, tips, and motivations, visit Uncharted Engineering or follow Ken on twitter!