Going to college will probably be one of the most dramatic changes of your entire life. Gone are the days of living at home with mom and dad. Your circle of friends from high school has broken up and ventured to separate locations across the country. There’s no built-in set of friends and there definitely isn’t anybody keeping track of curfew.
This newfound freedom may be just what you’ve been looking for, but it’s a little intimidating, too. How can you possibly adjust and thrive in an environment where everything is completely new? Many college students would answer that question with one word: ALCOHOL. Whether its beer, liquor, or mixed drinks, there’s no denying that drinking is part of the college culture. Taken too far, alcohol use can result in some serious consequences and even the need for a criminal lawyer. It’s no wonder that some students prefer to stay away from drinking all together. So, are non-drinkers destined for four years of misery and loneliness? Definitely not! Lance Millis, a 20-year expert in the field of higher education, has offered five ways that students can fit in at college without picking up a drink.
1. Have an Outgoing Personality
Stop and smile at people in your dorm or on the way to class. Try to be polite and social to everyone you meet. People are naturally attracted to a positive attitude and it’s less intimidating to get to know someone who is easy-going.
2. Meet Friends in Class
Here’s a useful tip for getting to know your fellow classmates right off the bat. “Get to class early on the first day. If you get there early enough, you will be in the room or waiting outside the classroom with another student or a small group of people. You can introduce yourself and explain that you’re a freshman. Open up the conversation and ask them about their hometowns, their classes, or their majors. Do this in all of your classes and you’ll have a group of friends for study groups, note-taking, and hanging out after class.”
3. Get to Know Your Neighbors
If you’re living in a dorm, chances are that you’ll have a roommate. You two will be sharing the same space for the next nine months, so be friendly and see if you have any similar interests. Make sure to get to know the other students on your floor or wing, too. You will probably have mandatory floor meetings throughout the year. Take that time to meet new people and make plans. Many people hit it off with their freshman-year dorm-mates and become lifelong friends.
Outside of just your dorm room, most halls will organize group activities meant to help the students interact and have some fun. Look for events like pizza parties, movie nights, or sporting events. Grab your roommate and go to as many of these events as you can.
If you aren’t living in the dorms, try to share rides to campus with college friends in your neighborhood. The time in the car is perfect to get to know the other person. Plus, you’ll both save money on gas and parking fees.
4. Join a Club
“Joining an organization will help you make new friends quickly,” says Millis. “You’re already done with the first step because other people in the organization are already willing to be your friend.”
There are student groups and clubs available at each college based on a variety of interests:
- Volunteering Opportunities
- Multicultural Experiences
- Religious Fellowship
- Student Government
5. Get a Job
If you’re not ready to add an additional commitment to your already full class load, bypass this tip. However, if you have some extra space in your schedule and would like some extra cash in your hands, get a job. Many colleges offer work-study programs that make getting a job pretty simple. If you want to take a different route, you can apply at the mall or local restaurants.
Wherever you end up working, you’ll most likely have coworkers that are also college students. If you work two or three times per week, you’ll see these people frequently and quickly become friends.
Experts say that the first six weeks of college are the most critical. Being in a completely unfamiliar situation can really jolt even the most grounded person, but don’t succumb to peer pressure. You don’t have to drink to fit in and adjust to college life. With these five tips, you can find a solid group of friends with similar interests and social habits that will make the next four years the best time of your life.