Making friends in college is harder than ever.
Thinking back to my own freshman year experience reminds me of this all too often. I used to have the epitome of a college life—the constant carousing on my parents' income, joining clubs and organizations, drinking (though not as often as my friends)—the whole American college experience.
And, of course, lots of friends, but that's not the case anymore.
Nowadays, I start my day with a long commute, hoping I'll be early enough to find a parking spot near the UREC. Already flustered, my days aren't nearly as fulfilling as they used to be. I spend them rushing from one activity to the next, only to get home and spend my nights studying. Then there's rent, car insurance and what seems like an infinite list of bills that just keep piling up.
Making friends, an activity that once yielded high returns with little effort, is now yet another arduous job. I've really had to work hard for it, even though I don't have the time. I'd say that for every 10 friends that I made as a freshman, I now make one or two.
To be clear, I have some great friends, but very few of them are friends that I’ve recently met. Many of my old friends have graduated, moved out of town or are still online, and this decaying number of friends has really taken a toll on me.
At times, I've felt lonely, but I worry even more about my peers. What about the abundance of other students struggling with mental health?
How does my friend who revealed to me the other day she struggles with depression, feel about this growing epidemic of loneliness?
A large-scale 2017 survey reported that 64% of college students felt “very lonely” in the past year. Another 62% reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety,” and 69% of them were “very sad.” Half of students believed “things were hopeless” and more than 10% said they had seriously considered suicide.
COVID-19 has aggravated every one of these problems. The university’s online transition has been tough on all of us, especially those of us trying to make new friends.
For the class of 2024, who began college with all-online classes, making friends has been one grueling odyssey. If making friends in real life is already hard, I cannot even imagine what it’s like to start your college career trying to make friends through Zoom.
The cliché that college is the “time of your life” feels hollower than ever.
Making friends, especially in college, is extremely important. Friends increase your sense of belonging and purpose, make you happier and help you cope with stress from school.
In college and beyond, making friends also serves a practical purpose. It helps you build your professional network, which is key when you apply for jobs or ask for letters of recommendations. Having connections to a company is perhaps the most important predictor in securing a dream job.
I’d love to make more friends, and would love for other people to make more friends.
Does anyone have any tips?
Samuel Camacho is a 21-year-old economics junior from Maracaibo, Venezuela.