Leaving the structure and routine of college life for the “real world” is supposed to be exciting. You have so much more freedom than you used to! Anything is possible, and the whole wide world is full of opportunities.
That’s what they tell you, at least. And while there are lots of fun things about life after college, there are downsides as well. Principle among these is the difficulty of making friends. College provides nearly unlimited opportunities for meeting new people, but life can feel much more isolated once you’ve left the campus bubble.
This experience leads many people to believe it’s “impossible” to make friends after college, particularly if you move to a new city where you don’t know anyone. But while making friends as an adult can be more challenging, it is possible.
To show you how possible it is, this article will examine different ways to make friends after college. Some of these ways may be familiar to you, but I bet there are some you haven’t considered.
Whatever your situation, the tips in this guide will help you to continue making friends and having a social life once your college days are behind you.
Still in college? Here’s how to make friends around campus.
Before we get to the list of ways to make friends, why is it so challenging to make friends after college?
Every person has their specific struggles, but we’ve identified two general reasons this process is so dang difficult:
Lack of Proximity
When you’re in college, you have constant opportunities to strike up conversations and bond over shared interests. Even at rather large universities, it’s common for everyone to live near each other during their first couple of years. This naturally makes it easier to find friends.
After college, however, people disperse. Even if you live with roommates, you’re still in contact with a much smaller pool of potential friends overall. Therefore, you have to be more intentional about your social life and meeting new people.
People Are Busier
Once you graduate, you most likely have a job that takes up 8-10 hours of your day (if you include commuting time). And after a stressful day of work, going out to socialize is the last thing many people want to do.
Additionally, after college people start to get married or more involved in serious relationships. These take up time on their own, and then free time virtually disappears once people have kids. Of course, these are generalizations, but they both contribute to people’s overall busyness.
Considering all this, it can be harder to find time to hang out with existing friends, let alone meet new people.
Now that we’ve established why it’s more challenging to make friends once you leave college, we can turn to ways to overcome that challenge.
Before you read further, I want you to remember this: making friends after college isn’t a smooth process. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling, as few people find this “easy.” And don’t expect instant results, either. Developing new friendships takes time, and you can’t rush the process.
With that said, here are eight methods we’ve found useful for making friends after college:
I’ve given this piece of advice many times, but it bears repeating. Joining an organization of some kind is one of the best ways to make new connections that can then develop into friendships.
The advantages are numerous. First, having a shared goal or interest makes it much easier to strike up a conversation. That isn’t to say you should only discuss whatever it is you’re part of (that can get weird after a while). But it’s much easier than starting from scratch with a stranger.
Beyond that, organizations provide structure and activities that can remove a lot of the pressure to constantly socialize. This is especially true if you’re shy by nature and are uncomfortable having long conversations with strangers.
What should you join? That’s up to you, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Adult sports leagues
- Climbing gym (or another social gym such as Crossfit)
- Volunteer organizations
- Local Meetup groups
- Your neighborhood association
- Your local chamber of commerce
- Religious organizations
- Book clubs
Hang Out in the Same Place
The most effective tactic I’ve found for meeting new people and making friends is to hang out in the same place(s) regularly. In my case, I go to the same coffee shop and brewery a couple of times a week. Through hanging out there and chatting with the staff and fellow patrons, I’ve met most of my current friends in Denver.
You can apply the same approach wherever you live. While you don’t have to pick a bar or cafe as your spot, those are some of the best places since they’re naturally social and tend to have repeat customers.
When you’re in such a space, of course, you have to put forth some effort. Show that you’re open to meeting new people by projecting open body language, smiling, and generally being friendly.
And, most importantly of all, take off your headphones! You can’t expect to strike up a conversation if your ears are closed.
Make Friends with Your Coworkers
No matter what you do for work, your coworkers are obvious potential friends. You already have something in common, and you already spend lots of time together. Therefore, you could do much worse when trying to find new people to hang out with.
One of the lowest commitment ways to initiate these friendships is by going to lunch together. It’s time-limited, a normal part of everyone’s day, and offers the chance to chat outside the formality of your workplace.
Beyond that, there’s the classic after-work happy hour. Some companies host their own at the office every week or month, meaning you can socialize without having to add an extra stop.
If your company doesn’t organize an official happy hour, be the one to suggest grabbing drinks or snacks after work. Most people would be happy to — they’re just waiting for someone to take the initiative.
Join a Coworking Space
Hanging out with your coworkers is pretty easy if you all share a workplace. But what if you work from home as part of a distributed team? Or what if you’re a freelancer or solo business owner who doesn’t even have coworkers?
In these cases, a coworking space can be a great place to get many of the social benefits of an office.
To start, you can strike up conversations with other members you meet. You already have an “unconventional” work style in common, which can be a great basis for further conversation.
Furthermore, many coworking spaces host parties and other social events for members. This offers yet another way to meet people with shared interests.
I’m not going to lie: I currently live on my own, and I generally prefer it to having roommates. However, if you’re new in a city, having a roommate or two can be a great way to meet people.
To start, there’s the obvious scenario in which you become friends with your roommate(s). Don’t expect this to happen all the time, and don’t try to force it. But if it happens, then great!
What’s more, roommates also open you up to different social circles and new experiences that can lead to new friendships in their own right. This happened at a house I used to share with three roommates. We’d all have friends come to visit or invite our different friend groups to parties. And through those experiences, many of us ended up making new friends.
This is less a specific tip than a general philosophy that will help you make friends.
Particularly when you’ve just moved to a new place, it’s impossible to tell which acquaintances and experiences will lead to friendships. Therefore, I advise you to say “yes” to as many social experiences as possible.
Here are some examples:
- See a poster for an event that looks cool? Check it out.
- Did one of your coworkers invite you out for drinks? Go along with them.
- Did a new acquaintance invite you to attend a concert? Go for it!
Not every social experience or new acquaintance will lead to a friendship. Indeed, many will turn out to be duds. But the few that do pan out are reason enough to say “yes” as much as you can, especially in the beginning.
Host (and Attend) Dinner Parties
Some of the most profound social experiences I’ve had as an adult haven’t been at cool bars, hip restaurants, or flashy events. Instead, they’ve been in the warmth and ease of other people’s homes.
Particularly if you’re looking to deepen existing friendships, dinner parties are one of the best ways to do it. They don’t have to be expensive, formal, or fancy, either. A tray of appetizers from Costco, a bowl of pasta, a few bottles of wine, and a willingness to invite people into your space are all you need.
What makes dinner parties so magical? I think it comes from how they put people at ease. Free of the public eye and the expectations that come with it, people come out of their shells. They reveal things they never would otherwise. And this process of sharing deepens friendships since it requires both vulnerability and trust.
Note: While sharing a meal is a powerful and ancient social ritual, you don’t have to have “dinner” for this to work. You can get similar benefits from hosting a movie night, BBQ, game night, etc.
Don’t Overthink It
As with anything involving people and all their complexity, writing about how to make friends can make it sound more complicated than it really is. And getting too trapped in your head can make it more difficult to connect with people than if you just relax.
Above all, if it feels like friendship, it probably is. Don’t dissect it too much; just let it happen and enjoy it.
I hope this article has shown you that you can make friends after college. The process won’t always be straightforward, and it will require you to get out of your comfort zone. But if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you’ll find your people.
For more on making friends as an adult, check out our guide to improving your social skills.
Image Credits: dinner party