The Shy Girl's Guide to Making Friends in College

Being shy is hard, but don't let it stop you from having the best college experience.
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All my life, people told me that I was shy. I never really knew what they meant. In high school I would raise my hand in class and I made friendly conversation with my desk partner. The only times I was really shy was when I was in a large group but, I mean, who doesn’t get intimidated by large groups of people?

Throughout high school, I had many friends and, although it took me a while to get close to them, once I did, they were there for life. So, when I got to college, I thought everything would be the same. I thought that I would meet a group of friends during orientation week and we would immediately become best friends.

Before I got to college, I started talking to a few people in a similar major to me. I figured that this would be good because once school started, I would already have broken the ice between my new friends and me.

Once I got to school, I did have an initial group of friends to talk to. For the first few weeks, we hung out all the time, but after a while we started to realize that we had less in common with each other. Each person began to branch out and make new friends, eventually leaving me to feel as if I was the only one who hadn't found her “clique”.

By this point, it felt like everybody had already found their group of best friends and that I wasn’t invited to join them. I’m sure this was not the case, as it is common for the first people you meet in college to not end up being your friends, but I wasn’t aware of this. I was too shy to go up to the group of girls in the cafeteria and ask to sit with them, too nervous to go to a club meeting by myself, and wouldn’t dream of approaching people in the lobby.

I spent the first year of college in my room, generally feeling like I would never fit in. However, by my second-year things started to turn around, and with a few key tips, I started to branch out of my comfort zone and began to make genuine connections with those around me.

If you’re nervous about going into college while being a shy girl or are just looking to find more friends, read the tips below. It might take a bit of work but eventually, you will make best friends.

Sorority girls in front of green vine sitting on floor

My sisters and I at recruitment 2018

1. Join as many clubs as possible

I know this may seem obvious, but it really is a tried-and-true technique. My freshman year I joined a sorority and although it helped me to make basic connections to people, it didn’t really lead to the sisters that sororities are all about. 

It wasn’t until I joined other clubs that my sorority sisters were also in that I began to become closer to my sisters. With this extra connection between them and I, we were able to see each other more consistently and had more things to talk about. In fact, I started talking to two of my closest friends in the sorority through the leadership club that I joined, and I met my little through a writing club that she joined her freshman year.

Clubs also help you to find people with similar interests as you and who you are guaranteed to see at least once a week. Although it may be scary to join a club by yourself, it’s worth it in the end, because after a few meetings you may find yourself approaching people that you never would have met before. 

Try out as many clubs as you can; just because you go to one meeting doesn’t mean that you are committed for life.

2. Invite yourself to hang out with people

This is by far one of the most stressful things to do, but it can help to make friends. My freshman year, I saw that the people around me were making plans without me. They would either talk about plans that they had later in the week or would Snapchat me pictures of them hanging out. If I would have asked to join them in their plans, then it may have led to me meeting new people or becoming closer to the friends I had. 

It can be super scary to invite yourself to do something with other people, since you don’t want to seem annoying, but the worst thing they can say is no. At least you tried to put yourself out there and that may give you the confidence to invite yourself to lunch with girls from your class or to a party with the girl who is dressed up down the hall.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no

This was a mistake I made my sophomore year. I found that I was so busy making time to find friends that I didn’t focus on myself. Due to this, I was overstretched and therefore not as motivated to go out on the weekends or wake up early to go on that morning hike. 

Although it can feel important to make as many plans as possible so you can find your core group of friends, it is also important to take time for yourself. So, say no to going out to grab dinner and just heat up some mac and cheese in your dorm, or stay in and watch a movie rather than going out to a party.

On that same note, say no if you aren’t comfortable with something. If the people you are hanging out with like to drink and that’s not your thing or are willing to spend more money than you are, it’s okay to say no to them when they are taking part in those activities. 

It can seem like you have to fit into a certain culture in college, but eventually you will find your people who like to do the same things that you do. Don’t be afraid to turn people down because you need to focus on your own wants and needs.

Friends standing with sunflowers in the background

A pumpkin patch with my club, HerCampus

4. Make as many plans with different people as you can

This contradicts what I said above, but it’s important to find a balance between staying in and focusing on yourself and meeting new people. If you’re struggling to make friends, try to hang out with as many people as you can. Ask that girl in your class to study for the test together and then the next night ask the girl in the dorm next to you to grab dinner.

The more people you meet, the more potential you have to meet your group of friends. You can even combine some of these people and see if a group of you hit it off. In my mind, the more the merrier! It can also take some of the pressure off of you to always have a topic to talk about as there is a third or even a fourth person who can chime in.

Also, don’t be afraid to send the message first. In the digital age, it can feel frustrating if it seems like you are always the one to reach out or if the other person never replied to your last response. However, you might have to be the one to initiate a conversation and to make the plans. Eventually, it will pay off.

5. It’s okay to be alone

This is one of the most important elements to surviving as a shy girl. You need to accept that for a while you might be alone. This can be so scary, especially if you went from having a lot of friends in high school to knowing no one in college. 

Some nights, you might be sitting in your dorm room without plans or you might have to go to the cafeteria by yourself. This is okay, we’ve all been there. It’s important to learn to be comfortable with yourself and your own company. Eventually you will find your group of people.

3 women in Greek Letters

Me, my little, and my big on Greek letter reveal day (yes, we revealed in McDonald's)

Being a shy girl in college isn’t easy. Although I have settled in and made some best friends, I also struggle with making friends on a daily basis. I’m trying to become closer to people I’m friends with and still hope to find more friends who I can hang out with. 

Making friends takes time and although friendships may seem easy with some people, it may take a lot of work and patience with others. Just remember to be confident and be yourself, and with enough time, you will find your best friends. 

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