“How to make friends in college with social anxiety?”

If you’re wondering how to make friends in college with social anxiety, you’ve come to the right post. We suggest reviewing the 14 steps below before you head to your next party or social event on campus.

And, before we get started it’s important to understand part of the process of making friends and overcoming social anxiety is to begin spending time working on yourself. We talk more about this below, but the more self-aware you become, the easier it’ll be to make friends.

Now, let’s get started on how you can start making friends in college with social anxiety.

In a hurry to make friends? Check out our quick 40-second video below 

1. Have a social plan so you know what to expect

The first step is knowing what type of social interaction you’ll be getting into. Have an idea of who you’ll be around and have conversation starters ready to use.

Don’t overthink this part, but have a good idea of:

● Who you’ll be meeting
● The reasons you want to go
● What are the things you’ll get out of socializing

2. Test and expose yourself slowly to reduce anxiety 

Social anxiety can be overwhelming, especially when meeting new people. Throwing yourself into overwhelming and uncomfortable situations can cause you to freak out a bit, scaring yourself because you jumped in too quickly. So, practice before you start.

Here are 3 ways: 

Put yourself in low-stakes social situations so if you make a mistake there aren’t many people around and rejection is low. For example, start a conversation with a barista or cashier. The worst-case scenario would be them not talking much or not answering your questions. 

Get your repetitions in. Continue to attempt to talk with people. Make it a habit to talk to one new person a day in different situations. It’s true that with experience, you feel more confident. 

Try to engage with different types of people and talk about different topics all the time. This will give you lots of practice in different situations.

Dr. Sasha Hernandez, clinical pychologist in NYC, recommends creating a hierarchy or a list of situations that make you anxious. From least anxious to most anxious.

Start with the lowest anxiety situation. Then, make a plan for engaging in that scenario for at least 25 minutes. Next, practice regulation before and after the scenario. When you feel you’ve overcome that anxiety, keep moving up the hierarchy or list using the same steps.

This is how we retrain our brains and bodies to deal with scary things.

3. Have an anxiety plan to manage emotions

It’s very overwhelming to talk to people when you have social anxiety. So it’s a good idea to have a plan if you feel crushed by feelings or you can’t continue to socialize anymore. Think about what steps you would want to take to feel safe and regulate emotionally.

So, it’s best to regulate your emotions and know when you’ve had enough socializing for one night. Here are a few things to consider to regulate your anxiety:

Make a choice about how to respond – In most situations, we have a choice about how to respond. Do you respond in leaving, taking space for 10 minutes, or taking a moment to breathe? 

Engage in positive self-talk – Our self-talk can become negative very easily. “I made another mistake” or “everyone is terrible.” Try to treat yourself with empathy and replace some of this negative talk with positive comments. “It’s going to be ok.” “I’m going to take some space and feel better.” “Today I’m grateful for seeing my friends tonight.”

Tune in  – Pay attention to how you are feeling or if emotions start stirring. Tuning into your emotions before they overcome you can give you time to manage yourself before you feel overwhelmed.

how to manage anxiety in college

4. Socialize where you feel comfortable and less anxious

Questions you should always be asking yourself are:

“How can I meet people where I’ll feel most confident.”

“Where do I thrive the most when out of the house?”

These are great questions to reflect on because it gives you an advantage compared to people who are just going from one social event to another without thinking too much.

Take 10 minutes to think about this. Maybe instead of a frat party, you’ll feel more confident going to a smaller campus event. 

Go onto your university website and search for campus events and take advantage of the free activities on campus.

Each year, there are more than 300 active student clubs on campus open to all students at NYU. From the Cheese Club to the Superhero Club, in addition to school-based clubs, which are exclusive to NYU schools or academic programs.

how to make friends in college

5. Join a student club, the fastest way to meet people

Campus clubs are usually safe spaces for people to interact with each other. So it’s highly recommended, but take your time deciding which to join. Usually, there’s no pressure to join, you can just observe to see if it’s a good fit. 

Most universities offer a range of clubs from cultural to faith-based. Performing arts to special interest.

Clubs can help students connect with one another who have similar interests. Also, you may feel a larger sense of community which can help you feel happier, more at home, and less anxious. 

Joining a college club is a great place to meet people who have the same major, and to make networking connections. People are always interested to help someone they’ve met through a mutual group, such as a college club. 


6. Create conversations by asking for suggestions

You can use this strategy in almost any situation. People love to share a suggestion. They light up and are very happy to offer what they think is best.

Ask a suggestion related to what’s around you or start with a benign observation. If you’d like to learn more about a new subject, ask for an opinion or help. This is an easy and natural way to make friends in college with social anxiety.

When in school there’s a big learning curve, so don’t hesitate too much to ask for help. There are a lot of resources, so take advantage of what’s available. Go to the student center to get guidance and see what you can use. 

making friends with anxiety

7. Bring up a mutual experience or friendship

Make it a point to start a conversation with something you have in common. 

For example, mentioning a mutual friend. Naming someone you both know will make the other person believe you’re a part of their extended social circle and someone who they should get to know.

This is a great way you can attempt to make friends or at least experience and learn how to make friends in college with social anxiety. 

8. Become a more interesting person 

People with social anxiety often feel as if they have nothing to talk to other people about. However, as we said before, with some planning before a social event, you can minimize this worry, so a conversation will come much easier.

Try new things and develop new hobbies. Even if it’s just a casual interest, it will give you something fun to talk about. 

9. Attempt to make plans with people you meet

If you have a good connection with someone and you feel safe, try to make plans with them. It’s a good idea to take an extra step to see them again. 

Are you still wondering, “how to make friends in college with social anxiety”? Then try to put aside any fears of rejection and just ask if they would like to get together.

When you meet someone you want to become friends with, try to get their contact information or mention you’ll connect on social media. Next, start with small plans, like a short coffee meet up, or any activity someone can join you on for company or meet before you go to an event and then invite them as you feel comfortable.

how to make plans with friends in college

10. Try not to turn down invitations

The most critical step in making friends is both accepting invitations and making plans with others.

Do your best not to turn down any invitations when trying to make friends. However, if you do turn people down repeatedly they’ll stop asking you to do things. Be patient as your friendship grows.

Research shows it can take 50 or more hours before an acquaintance becomes a true friend.

Also, you shouldn’t always expect the other person to make plans. It’s important to show others you’re interested in them too.

Once you’ve begun to form friendships, it is important to stay in touch. Over time you’ll learn how often certain people stay in touch. Be sure to do your part to contact your new friends and make plans. 

11. Anyone could be a potential friend

Anyone from work or a friend’s acquaintance can become a friend. Don’t be picky or judgmental about who should be a friend.

But likely, you’ll be more compatible with people who have a lot in common with you. That’s why we suggest getting involved in an activity that matters to you, where you’re likely to meet others with similar values and interests. Once you do this, you’ll have something to connect over and help evolve an acquaintance into a long-lasting friendship.


12. Set social goals to make friends in college

Setting specific goals and working on them is the best way to get results. Pick one or two specific social and work on them daily.

Once you’ve made enough progress, advance to other interpersonal skills. As your social skills build, you’ll feel more confident and connect easier with others. 

13. Be open to therapy if you have social anxiety

Building confidence to initiate a conversation is not easy. With a lot of things in life, the journey starts in our minds. But sometimes it’s hard to do it on your own and your insecurities are more complex than you thought.

Identifying what’s causing anxiety is one of the first steps in improving your social life. 

So definitely try talking to a therapist or some type of professional who can help you move forward emotionally. Even if you’ve had a bad experience in the past with therapy, give it another try because there are different forms of therapy or help.


how therapy helps

14. Learn how to have great conversations

Understanding how to start and carry conversations isn’t as hard as some people make it seem. You can pick up strategies and use them today. We want you to take a look at one of the posts below because we think there will be at least some information that can help you stress less or improve your conversation skills. 

How to start a conversation using 15 charming strategies

How to get better at socializing: 14 Easy Tips you can learn now

“I don’t know how to act in social situations” Here’s why.

“I never know what to talk about” The formula & 50+ openers

What you can do right now

Download our Tool Kit for free (mini-course, social blueprint, and more). Prepare more when you go out to socialize. We think if you join our community or read a few more blog posts, you won’t be saying, “how to make friends in college with social anxiety?”.

But you’ll feel more confident, prepared and you’ll know what to do next, especially, when it comes to socializing. 

More resources for you:

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Steve Anthony

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