Making friends when you start college

Daily Life

Articles for students and families transitioning into higher education.

Making friends when you start college

  • AsIAm
  • 30/04/2021
  • 2 minutes read

Starting college is an exciting time, with lots to look forward to. However, some autistic people may find it daunting to start up new friendships as well as take on all the other new aspects of college. 

Autistic people are four more times to be lonely than people who are not autistic. Many autistic adults find it hard to form relationships. 

The National Autistic Society found in previous research that 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated.*

Sometimes, autistic adults may find it hard to make and maintain friendships. This can be especially true when you start a new college, and it can feel overwhelming. Here are a few things that may help you when it comes to developing new friendships and making them last throughout your college years. 

  • It could be useful to plan your week so you know the times that you can meet existing friends or meet new friends, such as trying out a new society or go to an event at college. 
  • Focus on the places where it is possible to meet new people. Try out the new society, go to events where you could meet like-minded people. 
  • Practice a few bits of small talk before you attend an event. This may help reduce your anxiety. 
  • Being specific with your time, can help when meeting up with new people, and will help you feel less ‘trapped’. Saying ‘Let’s grab a coffee before my class at 2pm’ can give you way out if you start to feel uncomfortable. If it goes well, you will feel more at ease the next time. 
  • When meeting people with the same interests, you could come up with a list of go-to topics, questions and stories that you can talk about.  
  • Sit beside and introduce yourself to someone in your class that you do not know. You could ask for clarification of a class assignment, or their opinion about studying
  • Based on the different situations, you could find yourself an ally, to help you. It could be a friend, relative or counsellor at college. They could help brainstorm a plan of action to help you manage different scenarios. 
  • Look for someone sitting alone in the dining hall, coffee shop, student union and introduce yourself. Some ways to start a conversation include asking about an individual’s opinion or advice or asking about a specific event. 
  • Good conversations begin with listening to the others contribution and then responding appropriately, and not trying to take over the conversation. 

Check out Laocin Brennan’s video, where he shares his top tips on making friends at college, joining clubs and societies and founding the DCU Neurodivergent society.

Left stranded: The impact of coronavirus on autistic people and their families in the UK*


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