How to make friends after college

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When I left college it got harder to make friends. I wasn’t overly social or interested in going out partying every weekend, and my old friends either moved or got busy with work and family.

The secret to making friends after college is to go to places where you can find like-minded people and meet with them regularly. Here’s how to do it:

1. Know that you don’t have to go out partying to make friends

Parties are great for quick hello’s but it’s hard to have a more in-depth conversation when there’s loud music and drinks flowing. To make a connection with someone you need a chance to get to know each other.

It was frustrating trying to push myself to go out every weekend and still not make new friends. If you have social anxiety, it’s even more painful. I was relieved when I realized that parties aren’t even a place where people make new friends – it’s mainly a place where you go to have fun with your existing ones. Let’s look at better ways to make friends after college.

2. Join a group that interests you and meets up regularly

Do you have any interests or hobbies you’d like to pursue? They don’t need to be life passions, just something you enjoy doing.

Here’s some inspiration to find like-minded friends after college, or if you, for example, move to a new city:

hobbies for finding new friends

A great way to meet like-minded people is to look up the groups or events that meet regularly in your city. Why should they meet regularly? Well, to establish a real connection with someone you need to regularly spend time with them.

Meetup.com and Eventbright.com are good sites to visit to see if there are groups that get together weekly. Weekly is ideal because then you have a chance to develop a real friendship over several meetings and a reason to see them often.

Click here for the filters I use to make sure the meet-up is regular.

3. Avoid meetups that aren’t related to a specific interest

You have a higher chance of finding like-minded people at events focused on your specific interests. When there is a common interest at a meeting, there’s also a natural opening for chatting with your neighbor and trading ideas. Like “Did you try that recipe last week? “Did you book your hiking trip yet?”

4. Look for community college classes

Courses are great places to find like-minded people. You are guaranteed to see them over a longer period of time, usually 3-4 months, so you’ll have time to make connections. You’ll also likely have similar reasons for taking it based on the subject. And you are sharing an experience together that you can talk about (tests, assignments, thoughts about the professor/college). It’s usually not too expensive and it could even be free – particularly Community Centre courses.

To get some ideas, try Googling: courses [your city] or: classes [your city]

5. Volunteer

Volunteering can connect you with people who share the same values and outlook as you. You can join Big Brothers or Big Sisters and befriend a disadvantaged child, work in a homeless shelter or a retirement home. There are lots of non-profit groups out there and they always need people to make the load easier. It’s also good for the soul.

To find these opportunities, it works the same way as finding interest groups or courses in your city.

Google these 2 phrases: [your city] community service or: [your city] volunteer.

6. Join a recreational sports team

Sports, if you are into them, are great for making close friends. Joining a team, particularly a recreational team doesn’t mean that you have to be great at it. You just want to do your best and get out there. Could it be potentially embarrassing? Maybe, but nothing bonds people like talking about their best/worst plays after the game with a beer.

A woman I know joined her office hockey team having never really played before. She explained to me that people loved the fact that she did it even though she had almost zero skill. She got to know a bunch of new friends at work.

7. Make it a habit to say yes, even when you don’t feel like it

So, you’ve talked to that girl or guy in your hiking group a few times and they invited you to come to a get-together this weekend. You want to go but know it will be a bit stressful as you don’t really know anyone else. Let’s face it – it’s easier to say no.

Try this: Say yes to at least 2 out of 3 invitations. You can still reserve a ‘no’ if you really don’t feel comfortable. Here’s the rub: Every time you say no, you probably won’t get a second invite from that person. No one likes to be turned down. By saying yes you’ll meet a bunch of new people which may turn into invitations to do more things later.

8. Take the initiative

I felt uncomfortable taking the initiative around new people. To me, it came down to fear of rejection. That’s a normal thing to worry about, as no one likes rejection. Because rejection is so uncomfortable, few people dare to take the initiative and countless opportunities to make friends are lost. If you take initiatives, you’ll be able to make new friends much more easily.

Here are some examples of taking initiative:

  • At social events, walk up and say “Hi, how are you?”
  • Ask people for their number so that you can keep in touch.
  • If you are going to an event, invite people who might be interested to join you.
  • Ask acquaintances if they want to meet up.

9. When you come across someone you click with, dare to ask for their number

It’s cool to have a conversation with someone and think “we really clicked”. However, you just met them and it’s a one-off kind of event. Now’s your chance to take the initiative and say “That was really fun to talk about, let’s exchange phone numbers so we can keep in touch.”

We’re not in college anymore where we see the same people every day. Therefore, we have to make an active decision to keep in touch with people we like.

10. Have a reason for keeping in touch

When you get someone’s number, make sure that you do keep in touch with them. As long as you have a reason, it won’t feel forced. Use whatever you bonded over when you met as the reason to call/text. When you come across something related, like an article or a Youtube clip, text them and say, “Hey, saw this and thought about our conversation..”

The next time you’re doing something related, text them and ask. “I’m going to a philosophy group on Thursday, do you want to join?”

11. Start your own meet-up

I started a group on Meetup.com last week and I can recommend you to try it out. It costs 24 dollars a month to be an Arranger, and in return, they promote your group in their newsletter to everyone who’s in related groups. 6 people joined my group on the first day they sent out the promotion.

Ask people you know to join and ask new Attendants to bring others they think might be interested. Write every attendant personally and they’ll be more likely to show up.

12. Know that you need to meet lots of people to make just a few real friends

Sometimes it takes a while to meet someone you really click with. It’s a numbers game of sorts. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find someone who shares the same interests and values as you do. Not everyone is going to turn into a good friend. Even if you’ve come across lots of people that you don’t click with, it doesn’t mean that “your kind” aren’t out there. You may need to meet dozens of people before you make a close friend…

13. Start or join a book club

Book clubs combine people’s passion for story-telling, ideas, human experience, words, culture, drama, and conflict. In many ways, you are talking about your values and who you are when you discuss the merits of a book. You also learn about your book club member’s thoughts, ideas, and values. This is a good basis for a friendship.

14. Move to a larger city

This is a more radical option to consider, but perhaps your town is just too small and you’ve met everyone in your age group. Big cities have more people and more things to do which can better your chances to meet new friends. Before you take this step though, consider that you may just need to widen your net at home with a few of the strategies discussed above.

15. Learn some strategies for turning people you meet into close friends

We’ve talked about some of these ideas above. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. When you meet someone, tell them you want to keep it touch especially after a good conversation where you both enjoyed talking.
  2. Ask them for their phone number or email and make sure to follow up with them soon afterward.
  3. Use your mutual interests to follow up by sending an article or a video clip.
  4. Invite them to a group event.
  5. The better you know each other the more casual the meet-up can be. The first few times a group meeting is good, after that go for coffee. Then, “want to get together Saturday?”

There are more detailed ideas in our guide on how to make new friends. Check out Chapter 3 specifically.

16. Know that there are LOADS of people in your position

I get emails from people every week telling me how after college or uni all their friends suddenly got busy with work and family. In a way, that’s a good thing: There’s a huge number of people out there who are also looking for friends.

46% of Americans feel lonely. Only 53% say that they have meaningful in-person interactions every day.[1] So when it feels like everyone else is busy, it’s not true. 1 in 2 people are looking to have a good conversation every day and will probably go out of their way to make new friends, just like you.

References

  1. Polack, E. (2018). New Cigna Study Reveals Loneliness at Epidemic Levels in America. Business Wire.

Viktor is SocialPro's expert in communication and relationships.

He has a B.A. with a major in Psychology at University of Gothenburg and a B.Sc. with a major in Biological engineering at Chalmers University of Technology

Before he joined SocialPro, he worked as a relationship and dating coach.

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