This can sometimes feel tricky. It may sound obvious, but a good way to approach someone is to simply say hello, tell them your name, and ask theirs. This is actually something that’s far more socially acceptable than we think, especially at college or university.

Another way is to pick out something happening at the moment and ask questions about it. For example, if they’re looking at an event poster, you can ask them, “Hey, anything that looks fun about that event? Are you thinking of going?”

You can also ask about shared experiences. For example, you might ask them how they’re liking being away at college.

Asking simple follow-up questions can help convey interest and engage the other person. For example, if they talk about a class they’re taking, you might ask a follow-up question like, “How are you liking it?” If they talk about a hobby or sport, you might respond with, “How long have you done that? What do you like about it?”

It’s helpful to intently listen to what they say without interrupting or inserting many personal opinions. You can then add statements to align with how they seem to feel about it.

For example, “Sounds like you did some great work in learning how to do that,” or even something like, “I’m glad you got into that class you wanted.” These can be very simple but go a long way in showing you’re interested in learning more about them.

Feeling lonely at college or university is actually very common. Studies consistently find high levels of loneliness and adjustment difficulties during the first semester of college. This can happen even if people have made multiple social connections or find they’re having fun experiences during that time.

Loneliness often occurs because it can be difficult to experience sudden changes like being away from family or friends from home. It can also be tough to get used to being self-sufficient without continuous, direct in-person support from parents or caregivers.

There are a few ways to balance studies with making social connections.

Try scheduling study time into certain blocks and reserving other times for social time. Social time might involve specific events where there might be people to meet or time aside to spend with certain people.

You can also combine studying with making social connections. For example, you might see if a potential friend or friends from a course might want to study together. This is also a great way to open up social connections in your study major. Your “study buddies” may be able to introduce you to others, too.

Most definitely! Many other students are actually in the same situation.

The setup of college campuses or college towns provides great places to make friends without alcohol because there are so many social things to do that don’t involve alcohol.

Some ideas to consider:

  • joining university organizations related to your interests like drama clubs or sports and music organizations
  • going to university-sponsored events on campus, many of which don’t serve alcohol or don’t emphasize it
  • chatting in a coffee shop or dorm areas

A good way to keep in touch with someone you’ve met is to propose some specific activity at a particular time you may want to do together or with a group. Some potential ideas include:

  • going to a sports game
  • seeing a play on campus
  • participating in free events on campus, like movie nights

You can then ask for their contact information to plan out the details.

If you don’t figure out something specific right away, you can propose hanging out at some point and ask for their contact information. You can later text them, suggesting something to do.

You can also send texts about things they might have mentioned to you. For example, “How’d that test go?” “What happened with the intramural game?” “Do you want to study this Thursday at [insert time and place]?”

This is a challenging situation and not uncommon.

First, you’re likely not doing something wrong because there usually isn’t a “right” way to go about social interactions. Not making lasting connections could occur for many reasons.

For feedback on your specific situation, you could try visiting your university counseling center, where you can speak to counselors who understand common challenges in college.

Making connections can be about doing things that might help your goals along in a balanced way versus doing things that inhibit those goals.

For example, if your goal is to spend more time with another person, but you never contact the other person to propose activities, then you’re unlikely to reach your goal.

Instead, making a few attempts to propose specific activities while allowing the other person to accept or decline is a better way to work toward the purpose of creating social connections.

Shyness and introversion are actually very common. And the good news is that you don’t have to change your personality!

There’s evidence that introverts still experience close interpersonal relationships and seek out closeness. Introverts also tend to interact well with other introverts, which is still a significant playing field.

The thing that tends to put people at a disadvantage when meeting others is how disagreeable a person is. Still, this effect is really only pronounced when both people are disagreeable.

Older research suggests that regardless of personality, it’s possible to build up a set of individual behaviors to help foster interpersonal closeness.

“Real” in this case can be a highly subjective term.

Extensive research has found that in-person social support is one of the most significant predictors of positive well-being.

However, research has also found that having online friends can also provide a sense of social support. So it’s actually most helpful to clarify what those relationships mean for you, regardless of whether others think they’re valid and what you want to experience from relationships in your life.

For instance, do these online relationships feel real and supportive to you, or would you like to have more in-person social contact?

If you find you want more in-person interactions and feelings of in-person closeness, then it might be helpful to seek more in-person connections.

Dr. Matt Boland is a licensed clinical psychologist who conducts structured assessment and psychotherapy with medical patients and mental health consumers in Reno, Nevada. He also conducts original research on posttraumatic stress and emotional regulation in clinical disorders, and he teaches university courses on related topics.