A Transfer Student’s Guide to Making Friends

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Transferring from one college to another can be intimidating, to say the least. You're thrown headfirst into a completely new environment, with new routines and schedules to match.

Not to mention the various expectations put on us — by ourselves and others — to maintain perfectly balanced lives in the midst of an intense transitional period, all while trying to figure out who you are and meet people.

Dealing with so much change all at once can feel extremely daunting, which is why finding your community is an essential step — it ensures you won't be alone in the process. And the good news is that between classes, clubs, and housing, there are tons of opportunities to make friends on campus.

Luckily for me, being a transfer student was nothing new. If there was one lesson I learned from moving states and changing high schools my sophomore year, it was that people are not going to reach out and ask you to sit with them at lunch if you haven't tried bonding with them over a boring class lecture.

What I mean is, making friends is a two-way street — one my anxious mind has always been scared to drive down for fear of rejection. As a result, I kept my head down throughout the rest of my high school career.

After graduation, finding myself not quite ready to attend a four-year university, I opted for my local community college instead, with the knowledge that after two years I'd inevitably find myself yet again in the awkward position of being a transfer student.

And so, when I transferred from my local community college to a four-year liberal arts school in the mountains, I decided I'd do everything in my power to meet people and make friends, even if it meant leaving my comfort zone. In fact, especially then.

“Dealing with so much change all at once can feel extremely daunting, which is why finding your community is an essential step — it ensures you won't be alone in the process.”

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One way I practiced this was to reach out to classmates — a revolutionary idea, I know. But hear me out: As a transfer student in my junior year of college, I'd already completed all my prerequisite classes, which meant the courses I was taking were all for my major and minor. As such, I was practically guaranteed to find peers who shared similar interests with me.

Even if you're transferring colleges your first or second year, reaching out to classmates is a great way to make friends because, if nothing else, you already know you have something in common: You're both in the same class!

Bonding with others through common ground is an easy way to make connections. And if you're like me and have a hard time meeting others in academic settings (I mean, how am I expected to listen, take notes, and engage with my peers?), I encourage you to seek out other opportunities to meet students who share your interests.

One great way to do this is to peruse your college's student club catalog and look for organizations that resonate with your passions, hobbies, or values. Maybe you're interested in politics or chess or exploring the great outdoors. Whatever it is, you're sure to find like-minded people by joining a student group that aligns with your interests.

You also have the opportunity to try something totally new by joining a club just because it sounds cool! College is the perfect time and place to get curious and explore new things, and you'll likely meet others doing the same.

Another great way to find community at your college is through your living situation. Many schools provide a variety of housing options to choose from.

When it was time for me to choose on-campus housing, I came across a unique opportunity that would most definitely push me out of my comfort zone. My school offered something called living-learning communities, which are dorms dedicated to specific interests, experiences, and student populations, including transfer students.

Carly (left) and her friend enjoy hammocking on campus. Image Credit: Carly Galinkin

Joining my college's transfer dorm allowed me — even forced me — to interact with students like myself. Students who understood the unique challenges that moving to a new school, city, and state can bring.

My time in the transfer dorm was invaluable and formative for my college experience. Not only was it where I met my best friends and future roommates, but it was also a space where I could exercise my independence. In doing this, I learned a lot about myself and what I'm capable of.

Unfortunately, not every school is lucky enough to have an entire living community devoted to transfer students. However, I want to emphasize the importance of taking advantage of the resources your school does offer.

For instance, another resource my school offered was a transfer student union, which gave students the opportunity to meet other transfer students beyond the living-learning community.

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Even if your college doesn't have a space specifically intended for transfer students, it may provide other specialized residential communities and clubs through which you can interact with others who have similar interests and lived experiences. It never hurts to do some digging on your college's website to see what options are available to you.

The opportunities to meet people on campus are relatively endless. This might sound overwhelming, but rest assured you're not alone in feeling this way. It's so important to find a sense of belonging and lean on community when navigating the unique challenges that transferring colleges throws at you. And a great way to do this is to reach out to others undergoing a similar transition.

Whether you decide to join a student club, apply to live in transfer student housing, or simply ask another student in class if they'd like to form a study group, you're laying the foundation for meaningful relationships.

And remember: Most everybody in college is looking to make connections, regardless of how long they've been on campus. So give yourself some grace. Times of transition can be tough, but as long as you stay true to yourself and your interests, you'll find your people.


Meet the Author

Portrait of Carly Galinkin

Carly Galinkin

Carly Galinkin (she/they) is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where they earned a BA in sociology with a focus on women, gender, and sexuality studies. They have experience working with nonprofits as a health and wellness intern and volunteer coordinator. They are passionate about connecting community members to accessible health and education resources and hope to pursue a master's in community social work. In the meantime, Carly enjoys writing, playing music, and going on walks with her roommate's chihuahua.