Ready to Make Friends — but How?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am supposedly starting college in august after 2 years of going through financial aid hell. I had to get a job straight after high school and I have saved up my money.
I’ve never really been one to make friends; I had maybe a small group of people I talked to in high school, but I’ve always sat alone. Unfortunately for me, everyone left high school and went off to enjoy their lives in college while I was stuck working and not living the college life I wanted. I began to cut myself off from the world and burned all my bridges.

I have been on my job almost 2 years now, and it’s a retail job. While everyone I work with are nice, they are far older than me and I would never be able to hang out with them, I mean, it would not be likely that they would want to come to a comic-book convention with me, now would they?

So I’m starting college, and since my financial aid only pays for classes, I will be commuting from home to school all the time. I really wanted to find a way to meet new people because I’m very lonely, I have no one to talk to, but I’m also a walking contradiction; I want to make friends and have people to talk to but whenever someone comes to talk to me I seem to have this “get out of my face” persona.

It’s always been hard for me to trust people, because I have been ruthlessly teased, bullied, betrayed, and even belittled by people who I thought were my friends, so to this day I don’t talk to anyone. But I’m almost 20! I want someone to talk to! And I thought that going to school would make it easier for me to make friends and meet people but knowing myself….I don’t have very high hopes for that even happening because I’m so socially inept, I’ll probably run straight to my car after class instead of stopping to talk to anyone. What do I do?

A: First – the good news: Colleges these days are full of non-traditional students, people who didn’t go to college straight out of high school. Due to the state of the economy, lots of people take time out to work, to go to a gap year program, or do volunteer work so they can get some experience before starting school. You are not that much older than the norm anyway.

College isn’t like high school. The social rules are different. People do form friend groups but those groups usually aren’t closed like high school cliques. You will have a whole new universe of people to choose from. It’s a great place to start over. Give your classmates and yourself a chance.

As you so clearly articulated, the solution to your problem lies with you. Here are a few articles from the PsychCentral Library that might help you:

“Freshmen Friends:” http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/college-life-freshman-friends/

“Making the Most of Your Freshman Year at College:” http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/making-the-most-of-your-freshman-year-of-college/all/1/

“College Activities: Not So Incidental Learning:” http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/college-activities-not-so-incidental-learning/

Still feeling scared? Act as if you’re not. Say hello to people who are sitting around you in class. Invite an interesting person to go for coffee. Often enough, if we pretend we are confident, our feelings eventually catch up with the act.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Ready to Make Friends — but How?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/09/18/ready-to-make-friends-but-how/