Back to school: Tips for dating, making new friends

Entering into college as a freshman can seem daunting as a new comer.

Navigating the campus, meeting with your roommate(s) for the first time, and interacting with different students from all walks of life away from your comfort zone is not easy task.

But college life is all about making connections, building your network, and hey if you are lucky you might find your “college sweetheart”.

Jonathan Kirkland, Dallas-based online dating expert and Head of Marketing and Branding for BLK, a dating and lifestyle app for Black singles, created a list of tips to help college students connect – both romantically and platonically – as they head back to school.

1. Leverage Dating Apps and Social Media: Don’t be afraid to use dating apps and social media to find new friends in college. Dating apps are increasingly moving into more of the lifestyle space by introducing new features like communities and group live chat, allowing you to connect with multiple people at the same time.  This allows you to find friends / potential dates with students who have similar interests, majors, and passions as you. Use these opportunities to break the ice virtually before meeting up in person.  The college campus environment provides several open and public spaces where you can safely meet someone IRL. 

2. Start Random Conversations: Keep this one in mind as you’re strolling through the yard or grabbing lunch in the dining hall. In the dining hall, spark a random conversation with the person in line next to you. But one key thing to note.  Do NOT ask a question that one can simply answer with a Yes or No, or one-word answer.  For example, if you see someone who looks familiar in the quad, instead of asking them, “Hey, aren’t you in my Biology class? Have you finished the assignment?,” say something more like “Hey, I think I saw you in my Biology class, what did you think about that assignment due next week?” Don’t be afraid to let go of any insecurities and talk to people. Once you break the ice, you’ll find that making friends is a lot easier with a conversation starter.   

3. Remember Names: This may be one of the hardest things to do, for me at least. But, always try to remember someone’s name after you meet them. Someone’s name is super important to them, and it’s a big part of their identity. When you remember someone’s name after meeting them, they feel respected, and more importantly, it makes a positive and lasting impression. When we don’t remember someone’s name, especially when they have had to repeat it several times, it may make a person feel slighted.  ProTip:  Associate their name with something that rhymes or something you will remember them by. If you two exchange phone numbers or social media accounts, add a little note next to their name to help you remember who they are (they don’t have to see it).  Trust me, if my friends knew some of the “clues” I had next to their names when we first met, we probably wouldn’t be friends anymore! lol

4. Birds of a Feather: It is highly unlikely that a fellow student randomly walks up to you and asks you to be their best friend, or offers to take you on a date. However, you can put yourself in situations where meeting people feel more natural and allow you to meet students with similar interests. To start, get involved in activities you love – so that you will meet people who share that interest – Student council, sports, civic organizations, etc. That way, you already know that they share the same interests and you now have the perfect conversation starter.

5. Be Yourself: This is definitely easier said than done. Being yourself is about knowing who you are and where your values, interests and beliefs lie. The good thing about college is that nobody knows who you were before you got there.  Didn’t like the nickname you had in high school?  Guess, what… you’re not in high school anymore!  You have a chance to start on a fresh slate when you get to college.  Change your name, change your hair, change your style… do you boo!  But just be authentic to who you are and who you are becoming.  College is one of life’s key transitional periods, and it is up to you to determine how you will take that ride.

6. Focus on a Few: Often, we think being “popular” is the way to go. This year, focus on creating solid connections and relationships with a handful of friends. This allows you to spend quality time with a select group, instead of trying to get to know the entire campus. You will have a much happier school life with a few quality friends than a friendly connection to the whole school. Find a small group of people who you can grow with and share experiences with during your college career and beyond. 


7. Finally, Be Open Minded:  Meeting new people is daunting, particularly in college. Keep an open mind when it comes to making potential new friends. Sometimes it’s good to have different interests than your friends. How else would you hear about new books, movies, and TV shows? If you hang out people are just like you, you’ll never escape a bubble, so don’t write off a potential new friend too quickly.  Be friendly, and open-minded, and give people a chance to show you who they are before passing judgment.  College brings together people from all walks of life and backgrounds and may be the only time in your life where you will be so closely exposed and intertwined with this amazing melting pot of people.  Take advantage of every single moment.  Regardless of where you came from, you all are there for the same shared goal of education, advancement, and growth. 

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...