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As we navigate the world of change and opportunity in college, friendship can serve as the backbone of our experiences. Friends can make us feel happier, healthier, and more optimistic—but how do we break past “acquaintance” status and get a bit closer?

Classroom Companions

Classes are great places to meet new people with similar interests. A simple “What did you think of the homework?” can easily spark a conversation. Class content is an instant thing you have in common!

Chatting for just a few minutes before or after class can add up to quite a bit of time spent socializing by the end of a semester. It’s also an easy segue into getting together outside of school. “Organizing study groups helped me get to know people in my program,” says Molly C., a senior at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It makes studying more bearable, too.”

Getting together after class can encourage the natural progression from acquaintances to friends. Ask study buddies to grab a bite to eat after comparing notes; chances are everyone will be tired of talking schoolwork and the conversation can move past the curriculum.

More conversation starters

Ask a question about the situation you’re both in.
“What made you decide to try out for the soccer team?”
“Who do you know at this party?”

Make a comment about the other person.
“I see you have the new iPad. How do you like it?”
“You’re in a lot of my classes! What’s your major?”

Ask for a simple favor.
“Do you have an extra pen I could borrow?”
“Would you like to exchange emails so we can swap notes if one of us misses a class?”

Ask about the other person’s interests or preferences.
“What do you think about the article we read in class the other day?”
“What kind of music are you into?”

Connect and share opinions.
“I liked that article too! I’m a big fan of the author’s work.”
“I haven’t heard this band before but they sound great. Can you suggest others that are similar?”

Make plans to follow up.
“I’ll let you know what I think when I check out that band!”
“Let me know how your test goes tomorrow.”

Succeeding at Social Gatherings

Parties or get-togethers can be a great opportunity to mingle with people you don’t normally run into on campus. Though it may feel intimidating to approach someone with whom you might have little in common, the flip side is that you’ll have that much more to talk about. As Peter Welch, a wellness educator and counselor at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, says, “Some friendships are created because of our differences.”

Showing that you’re interested and engaged in another person’s experiences is one way to make a great first impression. It also opens up the opportunity to expand on what the person says and form a conversation around something that you know he or she likes.

Getting Beyond “What’s Up?”

So you’ve made a connection with someone. Now what? Instead of leaving things at a Facebook friend request, consider using what you learn to continue the conversation off-screen.

Tips on recognizing what you have to offer a frienship

You’re a Conversation Piece

Sharing your interests and values is a critical part of building relationships. But sometimes people lose touch with their unique qualities or feel sheepish about sharing them. Become aware of what you have to offer by asking yourself the questions below:
  1. What’s a unique skill I possess that others would never guess I have?
  2. What motivates me to succeed?
  3. What’s my favorite thing to do in my spare time?
  4. What made me choose my college or major?
  5. What do I want to do after graduation?
  6. What are some accomplishments that I’m proud of?
  7. What’s something interesting about my family or where I come from?
One way to explore these is to strike up a conversation about them with some friends. This serves a dual purpose: You’ll learn about them and also yourself.

“I started talking more to [my current boyfriend] when I noticed on Facebook that we had the same taste in music,” says Annie P., a junior at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, continuing, “He invited me to go see a band we both liked for our first date.”

As you learn more about new friends, don’t forget to let them learn about you, too. Welch stresses the importance of self-disclosure when building relationships. “Feeling that you don’t have anything unique to offer is the most important barrier to overcome,” he emphasizes. “See your own life story as unique and extraordinary, and [that you’re] worthy of meaningful friendship with others.”

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