Making friends after college can be a difficult challenge for those of who have just finished up school.
College is an incredibly exciting experience. It’s a time where we finally feel truly independent from our parents – the shackles that were placed on us in high school are off.
It’s also an environment that fosters social connection. We take classes with large groups of fellow students. Various clubs and groups provide opportunities to network with like-minded people.
Most importantly though, most people have the same exact goal as you – meet new people and get the most out of the college experience/
However, what happens when we graduate? Well, we grow up.
We get jobs and all of the sudden have an increased workload day in and day out. Many of our friends take jobs in different cities so we barely get to see them anymore.
Our environment shifts, and in order to maintain solid personal relationships, we need to shift right along with it. This article will discuss practical tips for how to make friends after college and continually expand your social circle even after you’ve gotten your diploma.
Why Is It Hard To Make Friends After College?
Before getting into how to make friends after college, let’s talk about the social challenges that we all face after we’ve gotten out of school.
Here are some of the reasons why making friends feels more challenging after our four years of freedom are up.
#1: Finding Balance With Work
One of the biggest problems that we all face coming out of college is that our career becomes a bigger part of our lives.
Our self-defined goals start to shift. We take jobs and realize that we want to excel in our chosen field, which requires working hard and re-defining our priorities. We start looking towards the future and imagine a higher salary, a better title, etc.
This creates a delicate balancing act between our own personal ambitions and our need for social connection.
Managing these two desires isn’t easy for those of us with big goals. Being great at something requires outworking our peers, and it’s easy for social connection to move down a peg on the priority ladder.
#2: We Lose Friends To Other Cities
As more of our friends get jobs and start their new life, they often move to cities that are hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
It’s tough when someone you’ve seen every single week is no longer a part of your life. It’s even more difficult when your closest friends are the ones moving away.
It’s not like you hold it against them. After all, they’re just doing what’s best for them. But deep down, you begin to realize that a big part of your life is now gone.
#3: Reduced Opportunity
For many who struggle with how to make friends after college, environment plays a big role.
In college, we’re surrounded by opportunities to connect with others. We join fraternities or sororities. We join intramural sports teams and clubs that align with our certain interests. We live in dorms with dozens of other students.
We simply have more opportunities to socialize. When we get out of school, things change. We get our own apartments and spend more time alone. We start working in professional environments where the main objective isn’t to be everyone’s best friend.
Environment is often the invisible hand that shapes our behavior, and our social lives are no different.
7 Tips For How to Make Friends After College
Is it a little more difficult to make friends after college? Definitely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find new ways to enrich your social circle.
If you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, you can establish new relationships with ease and regain the interconnected nature of your college experience. Here’s a list of seven tips for making friends after college that you can start implementing today.
#1: Leverage Your Existing Social Circle
It’s completely natural for people to move in and out of our lives. Just recently, one of my best friends moved to a new city over 1,1000 miles away. It sucked, but ultimately it’s where he felt he wanted to start his new life.
All of us are going to experience this after college. However, it’s also likely that a few people you know will stay close to you.
So the first thing you need to do if you’re feeling anxious about your social life after college is this – start reaching out to people you know that didn’t go anywhere.
The people you meet in college typically fall into three groups:
- Your best friends: These are the people you saw weekly or even daily like clockwork. They are your ride or die friends, the yin to your yang, etc.
- Acquaintances: These are people who you hung out with from time to time but didn’t see very often, maybe a couple of times per month.
- Ghosts: These are the people you met once and then barely ever socialized with again. Maybe you exchanged numbers at a bar, party, or gym and then never followed up.
If some of your close friends move away, then start reaching out to acquaintances. Like you, some of their best friends have left too, which means they may be experiencing some of the same feelings you are.
And because they know who you are and have consistently seen your face, they’ll likely be open to spending more time with you.
So think of a few people you’d like to spend more time with and begin reaching out to them more often. Grab some drinks and catch up with them about your life. Invite them out to a social event you’re already attending.
Put in some effort to build a stronger connection with them and they’ll likely start reciprocating. (provided you’re not a nightmare to hang out with)
#2: Improve Your Social Skills
In college, we all knew those people who could talk to anyone at any time. Wherever they went, people seemed to latch onto them like a pack of hyenas eating a carcass.
During my college years, I spent more time than I care to admit wanting to be one of those people.
It just seemed like making friends came so easy to them. I wanted to be that kind of person too, but my social anxiety always had something to say about it.
There was always some excuse or reason as to why I couldn’t venture out of my comfort zone and meet new people. It wasn’t until I began to address my social anxiety that my social circle began to expand.
So take an honest look at yourself and ask yourself some questions:
- Am I fun to be around?
- Are my conversations with others engaging or do I relegate to basic small talk?
- Do I feel like myself in social situations, or am I petrified about what others think?
- Do I feel comfortable talking to strangers and meeting new people?
Answering those questions will tell you a lot about who you are. If you’re willing to do the private work of improving your social skills, people will begin to naturally gravitate towards you.
If you think that your lack of social skills are holding you back, here are a few things that I did to overcome my social anxiety and get more comfortable around people.
- I’d go on walks and simply just say “hello” to strangers
- I’d give out compliments to people as they walked by
- After getting comfortable with these two things, I’d stop cute girls and have conversations with them, and if it went well ask them for their number
All of these daily habits made me less afraid of rejection. Building up my social muscle made it easier to make friends and feel comfortable in my own skin.
It wasn’t easy, but the rewards were well worth it. The beauty of working on your social skills is that you can start small and go at your own pace.
Begin with easy things like saying hello and good afternoon to people. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with that, start giving compliments to strangers as they walk by.
If you’re a guy, start stopping cute girls and get comfortable socializing with them. If you’re a girl, start doing the same thing to guys that you find attractive.
What you’ll realize is that most people have just as much social fear as you, and that talking to new people isn’t as scary as you’re making it out to be.
#3: Use Dating Apps In A Non-Sexual Way
Dating apps aren’t just a place for flirty banter, you can use them to expand your social circle as well!
As a single 22 year old, I’m on dating apps frequently. 95% of the people you come across are there to find romantic partners, and let’s be honest here, short flings or one night stands.
Yet I’ve come across several profiles where someone will say something like: “Hey, I just moved to Chicago a month ago. Looking to meet new people!”
This may not be your goal with apps like Tinder, Hinge, or Bumble, and full disclosure I’ve never tried this out. But it’s worth a shot for a week or two to see if it’s a viable way to spark connections with new people.
Change up your bio and see how many responses you get. It may not work, and if it doesn’t, who cares? I’m sure that the week you spend on dating apps looking to establish social connections won’t mean missing out on the love of your life.
#4: Get Closer To People That You Work With
Socialize. Socialize. Socialize. You’ll notice a common theme here with these tips – none of them work if you stay in your shell.
Every single person on this earth is wired for social connection. That hard-wired survival instinct doesn’t just go away when we clock in at our 9-5.
Leveraging your work environment is probably the easiest way to expand your social circle after getting out of college. One of the main reasons for this is because you can always find some common ground with the people you work with.
After all, you all work for the same company and sit through the same type of meetings, get the same kinds of memos, and maybe even do the same kinds of tasks on a daily basis.
It’s a perfect segway to spark conversations and get people talking. The barrier to entry is lower because there’s built in similarities between you and the people that you work with.
Here are some simple ways to make your workplace a more social atmosphere:
- Say simple things like “hello” or “good morning.” to people when you walk in.
- Find some people that you bond with and start taking coffee/lunch breaks with them.
- Use Mondays & Fridays to your advantage – ask people about their weekend plans or what they did over the weekend
- If you’re invited to a social gathering after work, always say yes unless you have other plans or something that you really need to take care of
Establishing a network of people at work that you can hang out with after clocking out will open up endless opportunities for social connection.
Your friends at work might eventually introduce you to their friends, who will introduce you to their friends, who will introduce you to their friends….(you see where the compound effect is going by now)
#5: Use Meetup
When tackling the challenge of how to make friends after college, technology is your friend. One of the best websites out there for expanding your social circle is Meetup.
Meetup was founded by Scott Heiferman and Matt Meeker. Heiferman cited that a big inspiration for creating the app was to make it easier for people in the New York area to come together after 9/11.
Meetup allows you to get together with people who enjoy the same activities that you do. By signing up and creating a profile, you can find groups of people in your area who share similar interests and attend organized “meet-ups” that align with those interests.
What if you enjoy yoga but don’t have anyone to do it with? What if you enjoy tennis but are struggling to find a group of people to rally with you?
Meetup solves these problems by offering a chance to do what you like with people who have the same goal of connecting with others.
#6: Take The Initiative When Making Plans
If you want people to gravitate towards you, then it’s important to make the first move when it comes to making plans.
This doesn’t just apply to friendships, it applies to any area of life. If you’re in sales, prospects don’t fall into your lap, you’ve gotta make the calls and go find them.
If you’re opening a store, people don’t just flock to your doors, you’ve gotta take the initiative and build a marketing plan that attracts customers.
Life doesn’t just hand you the things you want on a silver platter. You have to learn how to take what you want and become the creator of your life.
I used to sit back on my couch every Friday night and wait for people to message me about plans. It would happen sometimes, but more often than not my nights would be spent watching Netflix or playing video games.
Believe me too, it wasn’t by choice. It was because it was easier to settle for the social life I had rather than go after the one I wanted.
That’s what hurt the most – it was 100% my fault, and I knew it. So keep in mind that if you’re not satisfied with your personal relationships, it’s because you’re choosing to lose in that area of your life.
Deep down, everyone you know wants to live a more spontaneous life, what better person to encourage that then you?
Start orchestrating plans as opposed to just being a participant. Ask your friends to get drinks. don’t wait for them to ask you. Ask your friends to go on a weekend trip, don’t wait to be invited to one.
Want to improve your social life? Stop waiting for other people to make it happen.
#7: Consider Removing Distractions That Keep You Inside
The technologically advanced nature of our world makes being an introvert easier than ever.
We can access our favorite shows and movies in a matter of seconds. Sites like Youtube provide a never-ending supply of videos that peak our curiosity. Video games provide a temporary release from boredom whenever we need it.
Are any of these mediums having an impact on the amount of time you spend inside? Would it be easier to make friends if you weren’t bogged down by endless distraction?
If the answer is yes, maybe it’s time you consider minimizing your life and removing them.
You obviously can’t get rid of your phone, but do you really need the 27 different time-wasting apps that fill your homescreen? Do you really need the video game console that sucks hours of your time each week?
Changing your life and reinventing who you are requires making tough choices. Start thinking about how responsible your environment is for keeping you stuck in your own home. And if you have the courage, get rid of these distractions permanently.
It’s far easier to resist temptation when it’s not present. It might suck at first, but due to a psychological process called habituation, we adapt to changes in our environment very quickly.
The first couple of weeks after selling my Playstation were brutal. I genuinely didn’t know what to do with myself.
But after a while, I got used to not having it around. It forced me to spend more time engaged in meaningful pursuits like writing content for this blog and meeting new people.
When I didn’t have the safety net of a gaming console on a Friday night, I realized that getting out of the house for a night out wasn’t such a bad alternative.
If this seems way too drastic for you, don’t worry about it. Getting rid of your TV isn’t a prerequisite for improving your social circle. However, if you’re really committed to improving the quality of your relationships, it may be the very thing that sets you free.
Final Note On How To Make Friends After College
Expanding your social circle after college can be a challenge, especially when you consider the drastic shift in environment that occurs after we get our diplomas. After college, some of our friends start new lives elsewhere and our exposure to other people decreases.
We can’t control this, but we can control how we respond. We can choose to improve our social skills, reach out to acquaintances, and take the initiative when making plans.
All of these choices are within our power. If you have the courage to start applying some of the tips included in this article, I can guarantee that making new friends won’t feel like such a struggle.