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How to Make Friends After College

By Jessica Goodman

Graduation season is bittersweet for many college students, who spent the past few years living and learning among their closest friends. But as “real life” looms, some recent grads find themselves anxious about the future, where their friendships don’t seem as predestined as they might have been in the dorms and the classrooms.

“The college years are among the easiest times to make friends, because people are in the same place, doing many of the same things, and seeing each other repeatedly,” says psychologist and friendship expert Dr. Irene S. Levine. “After graduation, your life is likely to diverge from those of your college friends as people move, get involved with romantic relationships, and follow different career paths.”

Finding new friends in new cities and a new life stage, where your lives aren’t as structured or as confined to one location, can be tricky and can leave you feeling lonely or isolated. Ahead, here are five ways to help you make friends as you embark on post-grad life. 

Expect making friends to take time

In college it might have been simpler for you to make friends, as you probably met people just by existing on your campus, where everyone was looking to branch out. However, that’s less likely to be the case post-graduation. This might be hard to comprehend as a new college grad, but “don’t assume that making new friends happens organically,” says Dr. Marisa G. Franco, author of Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends. “Assume you’re going to have to be proactive.” This means trying not to get discouraged if you don’t find your new bestie within two weeks of moving into a new apartment, and instead focusing on ways to broaden your network and your experiences. If you know you’re going to have to put in the effort, doing so will feel easier.  

Remember that other people are open to making new friends

It’s easy to get down on yourself and assume that you’re the only one who may be struggling socially—but that’s rarely the case. “Sometimes people have this assumption that everyone has their cliques,” says Franco. “What’s more typical is that everyone’s lonely and would be very happy to have you initiate some sort of connection.” So if you meet someone who seems like a potential new friend in your yoga class, don’t immediately think they’re too busy to get coffee after class one day. Challenge yourself to ask to exchange numbers and make a plan to hang out. “There are always people seeking new friendships,” says Levine. Also, don’t be shy about saying you’re new in town, says Danielle Bayard Jackson, Bumble’s Friendship Expert. “Locals are often eager to share ways to get plugged in and love giving their opinions on the best spots.” 

Be proactive digitally

Putting yourself out there online can feel vulnerable, but it’s a great way to find potential new besties before you even get to town. Try posting on social media that you’re moving and that you’re looking for new buds, says Jackson. “You might be surprised by the insights you have in your network, and how their knowledge can help connect you with people and spaces. Leverage their intel!” 

Another resource? Bumble For Friends, which connects you with like-minded people who are also open to new friendships. “Bumble For Friends is a great way to be connected to people who are in the same life season as you are, understand your worldviews, and share your goals,” says Jackson. She suggests adding that you’re a recent grad and a new transplant to your bio. “This will grab the attention of other newbies and recent grads who are happy to explore the city together.” Also, make sure to mention what kinds of activities you might want to do with a new friend, like brunch or trips to museums in town. “This helps others to understand what you find interesting and gives a preview of the experience you might have together,” adds Jackson.

Join a regular activity

If you sign up for a weekly activity like kickball or pottery classes, this “capitalizes on something called the exposure effect,” says Franco. “This means we tend to like people who are familiar to us so if you’re exposed to people repeatedly over time, even if they don’t talk to you, you’re going to like them more.” She advises that even though the first meeting might feel “uncomfortable,” over time you’ll grow to feel more at home in the space and with those people. Commit to two or three months of consistent interactions and try to be present both mentally and physically—that is, don’t spend the whole time on your phone—while you’re in those activities. During these experiences you can engage in small talk that might lead to deeper, meaningful connections. Try starting with something like “Why did you join this class?” or “How have you liked this softball league so far?”

Jackson also recommends making sure the activity is something you’re actually into because attending will mean that you likely meet someone who has at least one thing in common. “If you want to meet people who craft, play tennis, or thrift, you have to show up in those spaces because that’s likely where they will be.”

Ask your existing friends for set-ups

Reach out to your friends from college and see if they have any recommendations for folks you should meet from other areas of their lives who might live near you, suggests Franco. If you have one friend in common, breaking the ice is a lot easier. “The work of making friends and finding connections can start before you even get out of college,” says Franco. “When you know where you’re going, start asking around.” 

Even if new friendships take time to form, putting yourself out there and initiating the connections can lead to real, lasting bonds that will help you feel settled in your new post-grad home and excited for the future.