I’m going to start college next fall and the one thing that terrifies me is : how to make friends, and have fun when I don’t want to join a sorority, drink, party(frat style), etc. I’m so nervous about finding my niche
Live in a Dorm. Eat in the cafeteria and nod, smile, even say hello and respond to someone who acknowledges you.
Study in the library. Sit in snack bars and share your table. Go to campus lounges found in most buildings. Attend class regularly. Walk with students from one class going to a class in the same building as your class. Visit campus gym, pool, game rooms, etc. Often and about the same time. Join your church on campus and attend services and activities. Even on a small campus there are many opportunities to find friends. The part of a large that you go to class, whatever is your neighborhood. You will never know everyone on a large campus so look in your campus neighborhood. Most people in your neighborhood share you academic interests and frustrations. Attend ball games or even play sport.
If you have a chance to live in some kind of learning community (some colleges offer some kind of academic interest grouping for housing, for example), then do that. Join clubs on campus. Ask people in classes to study together, and/or trade contact info so you both have someone to ask if you get stuck or need to ask about an assignment or something. If you get invitations to do things that aren’t parties, take them. Leave your dorm room door open with some music playing. Organize a game of cards or board game in the common area on your floor or in your dorm. If there is a kitchen available, bake cookies on a Friday night (you likely will find people around to share them with).
Don’t fret: this is a common worry for many freshmen. There are usually a million different clubs on a college campus, and there are bound to be people like you: freshmen attempting to make connections/friends. Meetings/events within a structured setting might be easier than the casual making acquaintances. If you live in a dorm, you will find potential friends in your room, on your floor, in your dorm. Study groups are also a great way to meet people on a smaller scale than a classroom (if your class sizes are large). And remember, every friend you make will probably have other friends you will be introduced to that will widen your circle. D, an admitted introvert, has done wayyyy more social stuff than she ever did in a year of high school, and she is not a big partier at all: concerts, movies, trips to SF, museums, football games, etc. Finding like-minded people helps tremendously. Food - the acquisition and eating of - seems to be a great way to socialize.
I was in the same boat as you last year. For me, I knew my roommate since we were close friends and I’ve known him since freshman year of high school. Beyond that, I got involved in group chats for students like an accepted student chat and one for the people with the same major as me. Just by talking, I got to know a lot of people even before coming to campus. That way, a lot of people recognized me on move in day.
Additionally, get to know people from class! You don’t have to constantly talk about school stuff, find common ground. My chem lab partner introduced me to other people who were commuters and I would otherwise never have known existed. Be open to everything! Not everyone has to be a resident or a commuter. Find things to do with them. For me, I would spend the weekdays with my commuter friends and the weekends with my resident friends. However, whenever my resident friends went to parties (this happened every once every two weeks), I would just spend time with my roommate since he wasn’t the party type. We would watch Walking Dead or Family Guy on Friday and Saturday nights.
These are just suggestions, but there’s a lot that you can do to make friends on the college campus!
During Orientation, go to as many activities as you can. Ask people in your hall way if they are going. Introduce yourself…they are looking for friends too. “Hey, I am Pat…what are you majoring in?”
Go to the Activities Fair and sign up for a bunch of clubs that are of interest. They may not all pan out, but don’t eliminate anything yet. If you are into music/D&D/running/church/whatever, you can find other people who are interested too. Service clubs are great because you spend time working together.
Talk to the people on your floor…Get some cookies and offer them “Hey I have cookies, anyone want some?” and then strike up a conversation about where they are from, what they are majoring in, etc. People like to talk about themselves…let them. Don’t make it too long…move on to others.
At dinner time, ask your roommate/people on your hall if they are going to dining hall. Go with them. See if people in your dorm generally sit in the same area… Join them.
Go to any dorm activities your RA has set up. If you are still having issues, talk to your RA. See if they have ideas. If not suggest that they have one. Maybe a movie and pizza?
Join your dorm’s intramural (or any intramural) team.
Talk to others in your classes…exchange numbers so that if either of you miss you can exchange notes… Ask what someone got on a homework question (that you did too)…once you get to know them, ask if they want to form a study group.
If this isn’t working, go to the Counseling Center…they are ready to help freshman this time of year. Don’t think you are a loser because you have to go…this is something you pay for! Get the benefit! You may need to learn some new social skills. They may also have group talks on Homesickness or fitting in.
Go to ongoing campus activities…concerts/movies/lectures/parties. Invite someone/group of people or just sign up and meet people for activities that might be off campus.
See if your dorm/floor has a GroupMe Group set up…otherwise suggest to someone who is extraverted that it might be a good idea. Then people can send a group text that they are showing a movie in the lounge or are baking cupcakes in the kitchen.
You may notice that all of these things take some action…they are not passive. You have to take initiative. But the risk is small…if someone says no, then just say “Maybe another time”.
Honestly it is tough nowadays as the majority of kids will want to “experience the college lifestyle” and get trashed, etc.
However, I would not worry about finding your niche - you will certainly find people with shared interests. (Sports, clubs, hanging out with classmates/hallmates etc). Usually partying doesn’t interfere with a lot of the social groups too much (except frats/sororities - which doesn’t apply to you anyway).
Just find friends who won’t judge you for not drinking/going out frequently - if they do, dump them! And there are always people who don’t go out anyways, albeit probably not a huge amount. If you’re not into partying, don’t let people peer pressure you. People might be surprised at first but they will respect your decision if you stick to your own values and your own game plans.
Join clubs so you can find people with interests other than getting trashed fri night - sunday morning.
I am a complete nondrinker. I was at my admitted students’ orientation at Williams. There was a party my host took me to. Not really my thing. I met two other admitted students there for whom it was clearly not their thing either. We ended up really bonding that day, took all our sleeping bags into one common room and hung out together all night and had a great time.
So, it took me all of one day to find like-minded peers!
Once in college, I had some friends who drank and some who didn’t, and no one ever bothered me about not drinking. I went to the big parties for homecoming, winter carnival, etc., and some smaller ones, but mostly I did other things with my friends on the weekends and had a great time.
I met my friends through a combination of being in the same dorm together, being in class together, being in clubs together, and having mutual friends.
And this was in the days before “substance free dorms” and all the other things colleges have nowadays to cater to people like you and me!
You will be fine. Just be open to meeting people and having conversations. Almost everyone going to college is alone and looking for friends. Many colleges have some type of orientation program to help people meet. Take advantage of these opportunities.
Actually, many studies of college health and drinking show that only about half of college students drink regularly. It may vary a lot by campus - drinking culture may be bigger in some places than others - but at most colleges, significant swaths of the student body don’t drink and have wild alcohol-fueled parties. It’s a common stereotype about college students but is not universally true.
There are a myriad of different ways to make friends on campus besides going Greek, and there are lots of different things young people can do to have fun besides party. Don’t worry about this - just be yourself and get involved, and try to talk to people!