One of college freshmen’s biggest concerns is how they will make friends and who they will make friends with. Joining a new community with so many people is overwhelming. The start of college often means we’re alone, or at least it feels that way. All of us are going through the same experience of starting college for the first time. However, with the introduction of the first full online semester, this can create feelings of isolation and fear.
I have been told by upperclassmen that during a typical year, making friends in college is easy. From living in a dorm on a floor filled with others to taking classes to walking across campus and attending events, people are everywhere. That is not the case this year.
In a digital-first world, it is easy to assume that younger generations do not need in-person connections and that all of our friendships start online, but the truth is many friendships start in person. Those friendships, rooted in face-to-face interactions, are often enhanced by staying in touch online. There needs to be a balance between in-person and online friendships.
A world of purely online classes creates the need for a new approach to meeting others. For me, I have found that seeing familiar faces in different Zoom classes is helpful. For example, there is a girl I knew from a summer course I took, and now she is in one of my fall classes. I felt comfortable messaging her on social media to comment on something she said in class. There are also countless group chats that freshmen are using to get to know one another. Many of us follow each other on Instagram or have gotten to know each other over the Class of 2024 Facebook page. Networking is no longer just for professional development — we have to use social media in order to make social connections now, too.
Nonetheless, there is still distance among us. For some, making lasting connections and friendships is a challenge. Group chats often die out, and people might stop replying. This is daunting but should not be a deterrent.
So maybe sitting next to someone in class is not an option, but through social media and technology, we are still able to make connections. I recommend reaching out to someone even if it is intimidating at first. Chances are there is someone on the other side of the screen who feels isolated and wants to make a connection too.
Mikayla Tolliver is a current freshman at Ithaca College. In her column, “Ask a Freshman,” she answers questions about her freshman experience. Have a question you want answered? Email opinion editor John Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.