How easy is it to make friends at university?

students making friends while cooking

Not sure you'll make friends at uni? Here's some advice from other students

Before getting to uni, literally everyone worries about making friends. You’re coming from school or college where you already have your group of mates, so the prospect of starting from scratch can - understandably - feel a bit scary.

Those nerves affect even the most confident people, as images of a lonesome Fresher’s Week float through their minds. But - spoiler alert: you’re going to be fine.

Read on - and watch our videos from current uni students - to find out what it’s really like making friends at uni…

Before arriving at uni

You don't have to wait until you get to uni to start making friends. Before you even get there, there’s actually loads you can do. 

If you’ve had the same friends since school, this might feel a bit alien to you, but you can rest assured that literally EVERYONE will be up for chatting before you get to uni. 

You can expect your uni to have a bunch of fresher’s groups; keep an eye out for invites to these sent to you by the university. A quick search should unearth the ones you're looking for, otherwise.

Try joining the groups for your halls, department and even course. Here, you can expect to find people posting to introduce themselves, so be brave and do the same. 

This is great if you’re a bit shy, as it means you can get to know people before you meet them in person. You might even end up exploring your new surroundings with them during your first days.

Another option is to check the TSR forums. We’ve got a forum for every uni and you should be able to find a dedicated thread for freshers. Get chatting here and keep an eye out for other people who will be living in your halls or studying your course.

When you’re packing for uni, it pays to be prepared! Make sure your suitcase includes a door stop – so you can leave your door open and meet your flatmates faster – a pack of cards or some mini board games, and maybe a pack of biscuits or a couple of spare beers to share around with your new mates.

Meeting people during Freshers Week

Freshers Week is a great opportunity to bond with your fellow students – you’ll all be in the same places; everyone will want to make friends, and it’s one of the only times in your life it’ll be totally normal to walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself.

It's the ideal time to connect, even if you haven’t felt like the most popular person at college. TSR member ljkobrien says: “You might be shy and ‘unpopular’ in school, but once you go to uni everyone's slate is wiped clean. Everyone else will be in the same boat as you.”

The most important thing is just to get involved. When you move into your accommodation, leave your door open so you can introduce yourself to your new flatmates. Hang out in the communal areas. Suggest exploring the campus or a trip to the pub to get to know people better. As Pollyparrot23 says: “Use the shared experience of being lost and not knowing anyone as a talking point!”

“I made my first few friends in my flat, because I left my door open when I moved in and they could all come in and talk to me," says UEA student Becca. "Then we all went out as a flat in Fresher’s Week with the flat next door, and we’re all still friends now!”

You’ll also want to attend some of the Fresher’s Week events. It’s not all clubbing and drinking - there will also be lunches, talks, film nights and more. There should be plenty of choice - just make sure you snag any tickets or wristbands early, as they tend to sell out. 

And don’t forget about societies! Fresher’s Fair is your friend here, and it's a good trip to make with some of your new flatmates or coursemates. 

There are freebies everywhere and you'll get the chance to meet people and sign yourself up for some taster sessions. You’ll also quickly discover how diverse the student community is. Whether you’re into LARPing, rollerblading, salsa dancing or board games, there will be a society for you.

DCFCfan4eva says: “Joining societies is the best way to make friends, as you already have a common interest, and so automatically have a conversation starter.”

Settling in to uni life

Even once you’re into the swing of uni life, the opportunities to make new friends continue. In fact, many people find that their core friendship group doesn’t form until after Fresher’s Week. Make sure you actually go to those society tasters, and maybe join one or two of your favourites.

But for many people it can take a while for things to click into place. The first few weeks of uni can be a bit full-on, so don’t panic if you don’t take to uni life immediately or feel instantly ‘at home’ – this will come with time.

Reach out to your uni friends when you need to, and let them know how you’re feeling. They’ll be able to relate, and will be happy to talk about it or help distract you. 

If you’re more introverted, it can also feel particularly exhausting spending so much time meeting new people and being sociable, so make sure to build some quiet time into your schedule to recharge your batteries.

“Some people were worried that if they didn’t want to go out in Fresher’s Week, they wouldn’t be able to make any friends,” says George, a UEA medical student. 

“But I ended up making most of my friends by joining a sports club, and I made my best friends from around February onwards in my first year. 

"Just because you don’t have your closest friends by October, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen!”

A big difference between uni and college is that your uni campus will be much bigger. A lot of students also worry about their first lecture; finding the right place and walking into the lecture hall alone can feel a bit daunting, but this will be a great opportunity to start bonding with your course mates!

Arrive a bit early so you can chat to the other early birds before the lecture starts, and make sure you introduce yourself to the people sitting near you – most will be grateful for the company. You could also suggest swapping numbers or adding new friends on social media to share notes post-lecture, or grab some food in between your class breaks to get to know each other better.


How to make friends if you commute

Loads of students live at home and commute to a local uni. The experience then is a little different - you won't have flatmates to hang out with - but you’ll still have all your coursemates and people you meet in societies. 

“The first friends I managed to make were my coursemates," says UEA student Indira. "I’m studying the MA in creative writing, and we just happened to bond over our shared passion for books and writing. 

"I think we build it up in our heads, but most people are very approachable, so I think the trick is just to smile and say 'hi' to people.”

On the subject of societies, it can make sense to choose those which fit around your schedule as a commuter. That might mean looking for societies with more daytime activities and meetups, rather than a sport which meets for practice at 6.30am or a cheese and wine society that runs way past your last train. That way you've got the chance to attend meetups regularly.

Making an effort makes a difference when you’re commuting. That means suggesting lunches, coffee and drinks with your coursemates, not rushing off straight after lectures - maybe even arranging to crash with a friend sometimes so you can join in for a big night out. Social media and WhatsApp make it easy to keep in touch with mates over the weekends and holidays.

EmmaD97 says: “I commuted to uni in first year and still managed to make friends. I made the effort to get talking to people on my course in the first couple of days where we were having tours etc, and the first two people I got talking to I actually ended up living with in second year!”

What if you don’t drink?

Not drinking shouldn’t be an issue at all at uni. In fact, nearly 30% of young people don’t drink, so you’re definitely not going to be the only one. 

Going clubbing or going to the pub doesn't have to mean boozing - there’s nothing wrong with going along and enjoying a soft drink. You get to have a night out with your mates and wake up the next morning feeling fresh for that 9am lecture - result!

“As a non-drinker, I was so scared that I wasn’t going to make any friends at uni,” says UEA student Hani. “But uni is such a big community that there’s always someone who shares the same interests as you. 

"Because I don’t drink, I find societies the best way to find new friends - just go to some socials and start conversations with people.”

What you’ve seen of university on TV or in films can make it seem like the socialising completely revolves around booze, but that’s totally not the case. 

There are loads of alcohol-free activities to keep you entertained. You could take advantage of your student discount at the cinema, organise a games night or maybe find yourself a gym buddy. 

Once you've found the things you enjoy doing, it won’t matter whether there’s vodka in your lemonade.

Socialising outside of uni

It’s highly unlikely you won’t find anyone you click with at uni. Just like when you started school, everyone is in the same boat and will be keen to chat and make new friends. But if for some reason you’re finding it tricky to vibe with people, there are still options!

You might head back to those Freshers’ Facebook groups you joined and suggest an activity (like a group trip to a theme park or the beach). Or if you want to look outside your uni, there are sites like Meetup and Eventbrite where you can search for activities and events in your area, whether that’s a workshop, a class or a show. 

Dating apps are also good ways to meet people in your new city (just be safe!), or if you’re not looking for dates, you can try Bumble BFF to swipe right on people who look fun.

Finding a part-time job is also a good way to make new friends outside uni, or try your hand at volunteering for a local charity or community project. 

Not only will you gain new skills for your CV (and maybe make a few extra quid), but you’ll also be able to mix with people from all backgrounds to keep things interesting.

Watch more videos about student life

Our vloggers are sharing their experiences of student life direct from the campus. In this video playlist, we've collected their vlogs about first year accommodation, to help you get an idea of what it's like when you first start.

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