How Can I Feel Less Lonely When I Have No Friends In College?

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Out of your entire educational career, the move to college may often present unique social challenges. You may leave behind old friends and enter a new, foreign setting that seems like starting over from scratch after ending a previous phase of life, whether you are leaving high school or home life. For some, freshman year can be an isolating experience. 

However, other people in college may be in a similar boat, and you may not be the only person looking to make a new friend. People entering college, whether they're a freshman or transfer students, may also be hoping to meet new people. Although it can be scary, there are ways to put yourself in a position to meet other students and make friends. 

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Are you lonely at college?

Ways to make friends in college 

Socializing in college may seem difficult at first. To get started, below are a few tips you can use to try to make it easier to make friends while you get used to this transition. 

Join a club

Colleges often involve many social, academic, sports, and hobby clubs. As these clubs are often focused on a wide variety of topics, almost anyone may be able to find a topic they enjoy. If there isn't a club for one of your hobbies, you might be able to form one by talking to whoever oversees clubs at your school. 

Once you've joined a club or organization, look around the room and pick a person to introduce yourself to. Volunteer as a leader or contribute your time by helping run events and attend planned activities. Being active in a club may help get you out and interact with students with similar interests. 

Go to campus events 

If you want to meet new people, getting involved and attending campus events is one way to do so. Whether it's a club, party, or networking event, talk to the people who show up. Show people the real you and try not to wait until conditions are "perfect," or you might miss an opportunity. Beginning-of-the-year events may be the best way to meet new friends, as people are new to the school and still haven't formed groups or made close ties. 

When you attend events, speak with as many people as you can. After the event, you can invite someone to walk home with you or grab a snack. If you have a roommate and live in the dorms, invite them along, too. Take a chance to build friendships, and you may make a friend for life. 

Keep in touch with friends and family from home

Transitioning from high school to college can be challenging, so having a support system in place when you are lonely can be vital. Maintaining friendships can benefit your mental and physical health and remind you of the people you love at home. Make established relationships a priority by scheduling regular phone or Skype time with your parents and past best friends. In this way, you can keep socializing while you work on making friends in your new area.

Plan visits in advance

Another way to make it through the school year when you are lonely is plan visits and holidays in advance. This way, you know when you will see the people you love, which may give you something to look forward to. You can also plan for friends and family to visit you at school. Showing your family and old friends around your new neighborhood could be fun if you moved away for college.

Work on your social skills

If you get nervous or shy when talking to new people, it may be a place to start when attempting to make new friends. Maybe you aren't making friends in college because you're misinterpreting people's behavior or sending the wrong signals. Working on your social skills involves pinpointing problem areas—like speaking too quickly when you get nervous, having poor posture, or acting self-conscious when meeting people. If you struggle to work on these challenges alone, you may benefit from talking to a therapist about social skills training. 

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How to cope with being alone or feeling lonely 

The tips above may help you meet new people. However, they may not solve the loneliness challenge when adjusting to your new life. Below are a few coping skills to use when you feel alone. 

Learn how to be comfortable alone

Some people are more scared than others of being alone, as they may view being alone as a negative. However, having alone time is vital to your health and well-being. Alone time gives you time to process your emotions, partake in your hobbies, and let down your guard so that you might keep up with others. Learning how to be alone can be a positive life skill that may help you during times in your life when you aren't around others as often. 

Use your loneliness as an opportunity

Rather than letting your loneliness control you, it may be beneficial to try turning it into an opportunity to connect with others. Loneliness can serve as a signal that you may benefit from more connection. Framing it as a need like hunger or tiredness can change how you react when it arises. 

Be around others 

Being around others can be essential for mental health and wellness. If you don't have new friends, consider spending time near other humans. Try going out in public and sitting near people in large spaces, even if it means eating lunch in the cafeteria. You might choose to be around others at a coffee shop, a public park, or a sporting event. 

Although you're alone, being alone in public offers an opportunity to be around others and potentially meet someone. Try pointing out something cool you see around you or complimenting someone. If you don't want to talk to others, being near them may also improve your mental health. 

Make meaningful connections

At first, you may be tempted to go out and meet as many people as possible to avoid loneliness. However, it may be helpful to try to develop more significant relationships with one friend or a group of peers instead of more superficial relationships with many people. When you are partaking in activities you're passionate about, you may meet like-minded people to form a connection with. 

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Are you lonely at college?

Talk to a therapist 

Being lonely for a long time can negatively affect your mental health. If you are stressed, anxious, or depressed, reaching out to a counselor for help can be healthy. Students are under a lot of pressure, and having someone to talk to who can put your situation into perspective may be valuable.

Students can often be busy due to their school and work schedules. In these cases, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be a valuable resource. With an online therapy platform, you can participate in therapy from the comfort and convenience of your apartment or dorm. You won't have to worry about potentially running into people you know post-therapy or discussing your treatment with others. In addition, you may be able to schedule your sessions quickly and for times outside of standard business hours, which may be helpful if you have a busy daily schedule.  

Research shows that online therapy is a valuable resource for people with difficult emotions, such as loneliness or isolation. In a study published in Behavior Therapy—a peer-reviewed academic journal—researchers examined the effectiveness of online therapy in reducing loneliness. The study begins by pointing out the issues associated with loneliness, including mental and physical health conditions. Participants took part in a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) program and experienced a significant reduction in loneliness. 

Takeaway

College is often a time of self-exploration and growth as you work on building your new life. If you believe you are alone in your experience, use the tips above to reach out to others and create a new social circle. You can also contact a therapist online or in your area at any time for further social support.
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