Caroline Haywood spent most of the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Southwestern University in Georgetown buzzing with excitement to begin her freshman year. But when she caught a peek of the campus last August, she tensed up. She does not know how to make friends in a new school.
“It was really scary,” said Haywood, 19, a Klein Forest High School graduate. “At first it did not hit me until I was driving, and I saw the school and I was like, ‘Oh my God. I actually have to talk to people and make friends. I don’t know how I am going to do this.’ ”
But while it seemed overwhelming at the time, the self-proclaimed social butterfly now feels it wasn’t so hard after all.
Haywood and others offer these nine tips to make friends in a new school:
Get out of your head
“It is pretty typical when you start a new school to be anxious. There is uncertainty, and you are not yet sure where you are going to fit in,” said Jamie Howard, director of the stress and resilience program at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. But it is important not to let that uncertainty turn into a roadblock.
“For typical kids who are worried about making new friends, we say you should be friendly and force yourself to say hello to people, and put yourself out there a little bit, even though there’s uncertainty involved,” she said. Sound scary? It shouldn’t. Howard suggested picturing a typical classroom and estimating the likelihood of at least one friendly student in the class. The odds are in your favor.
“I would say to incoming freshmen to find a club. That’s how you’re going to make the most friends,” said Rosy Murphy, a sophomore at Pearland High School, where her grade has about four times as many students as her eighth-grade class. It took Murphy until late October to find the student organization that felt like home to her – her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance – but once she joined, she said she found her “tribe.”
Clubs are a great place to make genuine connections that don’t feel forced “because that is where you’ll find people with the same interests,” she said.
Fake it till you make it
Confidenceis one ofthe most significanttraits in achieving a happy and successful life. That can be tough for teens who often find themselves lacking confidence during high school, he noted. But if you don’t have the self-assurance to strike up a conversation, you may lose an opportunity to forge a connection. So summon the courage in your depths, and if that’s depleted, just pretend it’s there.
“If you can’t go up to people and start making friends, you’ll be friendless,” Carter said. “So yeah, fake it till you make it. You have to at least try sometimes.”
Get over yourself
“You just kind of have to get rid of your fears, honestly,” said Murphy, who knows that is easy advice to dish out but can be incredibly hard in practice.
Also, “You have to get to the point where you don’t have a comfort zone. You have to get out there. You can’t care what they are going to think of you,” she said. “I know you will, but you have to pretend like you don’t care.”
It’s OK to be selective
“You can be a little choosier about who you spend your time with, and since we are in high school, our personalities are more developed and we know ourselves better and we know the people to surround ourselves with,” Carter said.
Also, “You can’t just surround yourself with a bunch of people. You see kids all the time on social media with 6,000 followers, and not even 1,000 people in their school, and it is like, they do not even know any of these people,” he said, noting he is learned in recent years to value quality over quantity. “You have to know they are going to be good for you and keep you grounded.”
Don’t compare yourself to others on social media
“I know for a fact that I take pictures when I am happiest and when I look the prettiest, and when my acne is at its kindest, and far away from my face – and the lighting has to be ideal,” Murphy said. “It can be hard to remember that other people are doing that, too.”
When you spot someone doing something effortlessly, remember there is likely plenty of effort involved – it is just hidden. Howard, the psychologist, cautions teens not to let someone else’s social-media persona be a benchmark for their life. By doing this, most of us can easily make friends in a new school.
Haywood spent the first several weeks of college video-chatting with her friends from home on FaceTime and texting them a slew of “wish you were here” messages as the homesickness set in and she found herself without a large group of friends.
“It is just kind of a slow process, but you just have to put your foot forward and keep going and not, like, freak out all the time since you do not have too many friends,” said Haywood, who acknowledged that is easier said than done. But a little faith can go a long way with this, she said.
“Even if you are a super shy person, you’ll meet at least one person who thinks you are awesome and will listen to you,” she said. “It is impossible to go to school and not meet that person in your life. It will happen – even if it’s in the middle of the year.”
Do not be afraid to be a protégé
At Texas A&M’s annual Fish Camp, where thousands of first-year students spend a long weekend learning Aggie traditions before the beginning of the year, upperclassmen take freshmen under their wings. And it is not just a weekend-long commitment. The groups meet for lunches, coffee dates and other outings throughout the year, said Chase Young, camp adviser, and a former counselor who graduated with the class of 2008.
“It is that pay-it-forward mentality,” said Young. “It’s ‘I have been in your shoes, and here is my story.’ Letting students know that it is not weird what they are going through, and if anything, it is part of the normal process.”
Freshmen reaching out to their counselor shouldn’t feel like they are bugging that cool, older student, he added. That is what the program is there for, and counselors like to feel needed, too.
If you are not part of a program with a built-in network like Fish Camp, Haywood recommends searching out friends on your dorm floor. She met her soon-to-be-roommate and best friend standing in the doorway of another friend’s dorm room while canvassing her neighbors to see who wanted to eat lunch with her in the dining hall one day.
New beginnings are often seen as a chance to reinvent yourself. But pretending to be anything other than the truest version of yourself is not going to attract truly compatible friends.
“You shouldn’t become a different person in college. I think you should just be the best version of yourself that you like because you don’t have the pressure you used to have,” Haywood said.
“If you know you are super funny, just go out there and be funny, even if your friends from high school didn’t appreciate it,” she continued. “Be yourself as hard as you can.”
We hope that you can easily make friends in a new school!