A group of friends posing for a selfie in Washington Square Park on a sunny day.

For months before I moved into my first college dorm, I worried about how hard it might be to find friends. When you’re an introvert, this challenge can seem even more daunting. All I wanted was a recent, honest resource that helped introverts who struggled with putting themselves out there.

Of course, coming to college can be hard! All of a sudden you’re away from what’s familiar and trying to navigate a life on your own. Below are some tips that I learned forming friendships in college over the last three years at NYU!

1. Identify Your Friendship Goals

This is the most important tip here. Identifying what you’re looking for in friendship is imperative to your search. Do you work better with a quieter group? Louder friends? Do you need help getting out there? Do you want people you can just chill with? Would you like a balance of the two?

Ask yourself: Do I want a friend group or a few individual, close friends? For example, during my sophomore year when I tried to keep a group of friends, it didn’t fulfill me. I couldn’t get as close to each individual in the way that I wanted. Also, I felt like I had to perform when we all hung out. It took me a year to realize that a single group that I hung out with all the time wasn’t my cup of tea. In actuality, I preferred having a few close friends.

2. Say “The Thing”

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people! If you notice someone in one of your classes, say hi! Maybe you see the same person walking to and from your classes. Take the leap and try to form a connection.

In fact, compliments are great conversation starters. Opening up a conversation with a compliment or even being honest and saying you’ve seen them around, can be a great start to a connection. To elaborate, all through my first year I saw the same girl walking down the street every day. I didn’t have any classes with her, and she looked so cool I thought we would never be friends. Well, fast-forward a year and I saw her standing outside my residence hall. I immediately went up to her, complimented her outfit, and we sat on a shuttle to class together. We found out that we were going to the same class and ended up becoming best friends.

Don’t be worried about “bothering” someone. The social scene at NYU is a lot more independent than at other universities. The student body is filled with a lot of ambitious people who always have a lot on their plate. So, it goes without saying that it’s easy to fly under the radar. On the other hand, however, this means that students are a lot more open to new friends!

Two friends posing in front of a mirror.

3. Don’t Be A Stranger

Try sticking around after class to speak to some of your classmates. Courses are going to be one of your main points of contact for making outside friends. Even just getting someone’s number to ask future class-related questions is a great way to get to know someone.

Head to a club. Your first two years especially are the time to shop around and see what clubs you’re interested in. Even if you don’t end up being a permanent member, making yourself visible and getting to know the people around you can lead to friendships that transcend whatever club you’re in. For example, during my first year I went to the meetings of the Academic Achievement Program, a club designed to be a space for students in marginalized communities. There was one girl I saw there all the time, and I found out we lived in the same building. Now, we have known each other over two years, and I’m producing one of her short films.

Don’t discount public spaces as places to make new connections. The gym, the library, and residence hall lounges are great places to establish routine. As you spend more and more time there, you’ll start to notice what I like to call “recurring characters.” As you see the same people pop up again and again, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself.

Three friends wearing purple jackets and surrounded by purple and silver balloons smile at a work event.

4. Don’t Perform 24/7

Don’t compromise who you are to appeal to other people. It’s exhausting! Changing key parts of yourself to have more in common with people can work for a short time, but after a while it gets exhausting. At some point, the act needs to drop. For example, during my first semester I decided I was going to be a social butterfly. I said hi to everyone I saw, I was as outgoing and extroverted as I had the energy to be. After a few weeks, however, I was so tired that I couldn’t keep up the act. I retreated to my room to recoup some of that energy and ended up losing those connections. When I tried to reach back out, I realized that they were more interested in the version of myself I showed them and not really “me.”

When you act true to yourself right off the bat, it’s easier to identify who should and shouldn’t be your friend. If you’re pretending to be someone else, you’ll attract people more suited to that person.

Five friends posing for the camera at a dinner table.

In short, making friends on campus can be difficult. Some people will tell you it’s as easy as breathing, whereas others tend to get socially exhausted faster than they can meet someone new. It took me a year to find more than one person who I considered to be a friend, and another year to realize that having a large group wasn’t my cup of tea. As I’m finishing up my junior year, I’m realizing that I’ve never felt as fulfilled and satisfied with my friendships as I have these past couple of semesters. At the end of the day, the best advice I can offer is: take a deep breath.

Making friends in college isn’t a race. It can feel lonely at times, but sometimes stronger connections take a bit longer to find.

Cecily Johnson is a rising senior from the Philadelphia suburbs studying Film and TV Production, Producing, and French. While on campus she is an Admissions Ambassador, the Treasurer for Tisch-affiliated club The Collective, and a Resident Assistant in a first-year residence hall. Though Cecily loves living a busy lifestyle, she’s often making efforts to slow down a bit as she enjoys taking walks, photography, weightlifting at 404, and trying new foods. In the future, she hopes to work in the media and entertainment field, ideally as a television showrunner, and wants nothing more than to contribute to the creative sphere with her personal touch.