I think this is one subject that nontraditional students think about a lot, but don’t talk about much.
I know one thing I wanted to do when I was in school was to make new friends, no matter what their age. The reason? I just like people. All kinds. Besides, it always makes it more fun to have a friendly face or faces in class. And making new friends... it makes everything about being in college better.
I know I am not alone in wanting to make friends in college. And it might come easy for you. Hopefully, you will make friends in class just being there. But sometimes younger students can be more silent around older people. It can be difficult to make new friends when you are different.
Many nontraditional students aren't much older than "traditional" students. But some are a lot older. It can make younger students kind of shy to talk to some nontraditional students because they remind them of their parents – you know, people who might not always accept them for who they are. Like everyone, younger students don’t want to be judged too harshly. And perhaps they are cautious around you because of that.
Here are just a few ideas you might like to help make friends in college - whether you are in a face-to-face OR online class.
Hints for face-to-face classes:
1. Introduce yourself to the people sitting by you in class. This might not come naturally to you if you are a shy person, but go ahead and try it. You can also ask the person if they want to start a study group. Then when you start meeting, you can get to know these new people in a natural way. I know that’s what happened when I did it. The more you get to know the people, the easier it is to talk to them, too.
2. Don’t hog the class conversation. This can help the people in your classes like you better. Share the talk time. And don’t act like a know-it-all. You may have a lot to say, and this suggestion might be the hardest of all. But sit on those hands. Let others in your classes have their say.
3. Be in a good mood. Smile. This can let your fellow classmates know that you are an OK person and might help them open up to a friendship with you. Keep an extra pen and pencil around to lend. It can't hurt!
4. Make friends with younger people, yes, but also make friends with other, older nontraditional students. Join a nontrad group or start one at your college. You can also join other groups in your areas of interest. Groups at colleges are becoming more and more open to nontraditional students all the time, plus they are fun.
Hints for Online Classes
1. Try getting your classmate's phone numbers and meeting in person if this is possible. You can then study together and get to know each other. It could be fun. This is only possible when most of the students live in the same area, which doesn't always happen. The alternative: email or phone a classmate - help him or her with class assignments and be friendly.
2. Read the introductions that are sometimes posted on online class sites. Send an occasional email comment to people about the class, assignments, or just something you read on the class site. You might be pleasantly surprised and make a friend this way.
3. If your class allows for class discussions online, be there early and introduce yourself a little to your classmates, if possible.
4. If you are in a class that encourages comments on your classmate's work on the site, be sure to season any words of criticism with words of praise. Don't be too hard on fellow classmates when you critique their work, and they may return the favor. You might also make a friend this way!
I'm sure I just scratched the surface here with this subject. Do you have another suggestion? Please add it as a comment. Thank you!
My Related Blog Posts:
Relationships – and College
Two Top Nontrad Issues – One is Connecting with Younger Students
You Can’t Peg a Nontraditional Student
Or what younger students might be thinking about you…
Study Groups for Nontraditional Students
Here are some more articles to read:
Making Friends – from the Cal Tech Counseling Center
Here WikiHow’s How to Make Friends in College
This is for younger students, but many hints apply to nontrads as well.