Coming into college, I expected to immediately make amazing friends without putting in a lot of effort. I dreamed of evenings exploring Siloam Springs, hiking local trails on Saturday afternoons and having late nights with lots of laughter and long conversations.
I made plenty of friends my first semester at JBU, but I only had one friendship that went beyond the surface level. I struggled to find anyone else that I really clicked well with. As a result, I found myself sitting in my room, lonely many afternoons and throughout my weekends when she wasn’t available. I couldn’t figure why I didn’t have all of the friends I dreamed of.
Making solid friends in college requires way more intentionality than you might think. Here are some things to consider when trying to develop strong relationships at JBU:
Follow up with acquaintances.
Throughout your first few months at JBU (and especially at orientation week), you’re going to meet oodles of cool people. However, if you don’t grab their number and make the effort to hang out with them, you might not get any meaningful friendships out of these acquaintances. Don’t wait for them to follow up with you. Take that extra step and say, “Hey, I want to get to know you better.” That will show them that you’re genuine.
That being said, it can be hard to balance social life and school work. Invite people to do homework with you silently at a coffee shop (or in the Walker lobby if you’re hurting for cash). Go with people to the Caf for meals (You might as well use that time to build up your friendships if you need that time to eat anyway!) Workout with people. Milk your strained schedule so that you can build your friendships and your GPA.
Gradually move beyond small talk
If you just talk about the surface things of life, you’re never going to make meaningful friendships. You have to talk about the heart. I found it really uncomfortable for me to start opening up to people when I was surrounded by strangers I only knew for a few weeks. But the reality is that everyone else is just as uncomfortable as you, and someone needs to take the first step to probe beneath the surface.
Moving to the deeper issues takes time, so if you’re like me and detest small talk, you’ll have to have some patience. Ask people questions about their families, future goals and the things that make them happy, But go beyond just asking for simple answers; ask them the big “why” questions. I’ve found that this is the key to important conversations.
Create a solid support system
College is hard. Your freshman year, you’re going to be faced with problems and situations you’ve never faced before. Many friendships will happen naturally, but some will take more work. Your school work is important, but I can’t stress enough the value of strong, Christ-centered friendships in college. Find people that are different from you and are willing to invest in you, and build you up. If you meet someone cool that you think you’ll click well with, pursue their friendship. You probably won’t be best friends with all the people you pursue, but having at least two people that you can talk to about everything makes a world of difference. Don’t let your friendships be built on just having fun or even getting along well; build your friendships on being real.