The media-driven image of a student going off to college is often one of happiness, even elation, leaving home to make new friends and have wonderful experiences. However, what we know to be true is many college students struggle, at least to some degree, with the transition to college. In addition to homesickness, many students simply struggle to find their “place” in college as they navigate new relationships, how to spend their time, and the environment of college that may or may not fit their natural temperament.
For those students who have arrived at college and found their way academically and socially, that is to be celebrated. But, for those who are still working to carve out their journey, here are some strategies for finding connection on campus.
7 Strategies for Finding Connection on Campus
- Recognize you aren’t alone. If you haven’t been able to find connection at college, you may literally feel alone. However, it is important to realize that this is an experience many college students experience. Simply knowing that you aren’t alone in feeling alone can help you feel less isolated in your experience.
- Know your options. As inorganic as it may seem, it helps to know what options for belonging exist at your school. Most colleges have a list of the activities and interests of organizations on campus. This list will include information like when and where they meet, who the faculty advisor is, etc. It may be that there is already an existing group that shares your interests, you just don’t know about them yet!
- Reach out. Many students have never had to actively seek out friendships before. If you had a built-in group of friends at home, it may feel foreign to ask someone to grab lunch, meet for a study date, or go workout but, these are how connections and friendships are made. Remember, other people are looking for people to connect with too!
- Be flexible with expectations. Some students have a “picture” of college that they feel pressured to meet. While some students go out a lot and have many friends, you can certainly have a positive college experience with one or two friends who like to hang out at home. Try to dismiss any pressure to have a “certain” type of college connection.
- Create space for like-mindedness. Is there an activity or interest area that you do not see represented on campus? Is there something you want to do or make friends around that does not exist? Make it! Most colleges have a process for setting up clubs or groups or you can use social media for a more informal approach.
- Embrace your “mismatch.” As a college counselor, I met with many students who were either out of sync in age with the other students or were the typical age but were a bit of an “old soul” in their personality. It can help to realize there is nothing “wrong” with you that college doesn’t necessarily feel like a good “fit.” Not all ages and stages will feel super comfortable. Thankfully, it doesn’t last forever!
- Consider outside options. Some students just never really “gel” with the college scene. There are many students who simply use school for school, going to class to get their education but get their social needs met through work, volunteering, church, or an outside organization.
Belongingness is a central need for the human experience. And, that certainly extends to one’s college journey. There are a lot of ways to do college, and no one way is “right.” In the short time that you are there, consider your “why” for being there, your interests and personality, and then find a way forward that meets your needs. In doing so, you may not only meet some people but end up creating space for others who are feeling a bit out of water as well.
Post published September 18, 2023 by Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. www.annerulo.com. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo