How to Make Friends After College

Loneliness is a major theme in many of the letters I receive and in conversations in the forums. People date the wrong guys (or women) not because they necessarily are desperate for a relationship, but because they’re desperate for a companion — for company, for a friend.

Friends are so much harder to make once we’re out of school and fully immersed in the adult world of full-time work, partners, families of our own, and various other responsibilities and commitments. But quality friends in adulthood are every bit as important as they were in our childhood and they are worth the effort to make them. Keep reading for tips on how to find them and how to keep them.

Where To Meet Them
You’ve got to meet potential friends to make potential friends, and once you’re out of college meeting people isn’t as easy or as natural anymore. But, fear not, there are still plenty of places to meet them. Here are a few:

1. Book club
Or wine club! Or a supper club. Any club that has an activity that sounds at all appealing to you and allows for talking and interacting is a great way to meet people. Check Facebook pages in your neighborhood, Yahoo groups, and Meetup for existing groups or consider starting one of your own (this could be ask easy as inviting a few people you already know and asking them to invite co-workers, cousins, friends, etc. Again, Facebook or some other social network is a great way … well, to socially network.

2. On a team
An intramural sports team or league (think softball, bowling, soccer, roller derby, even kickball) attract people who like to be around other people — and, have time to be around other people. So find a sport you like and sign up/ try out for a team.

3. Places you frequent a lot
I mean, duh, right? But it’s easy to forget to, you know, talk to people when you’re at your favorite bar or park or beach or bookstore or coffee shop, which is a shame, because it’s exactly at those places where you’re likely to meet people who have stuff in common with you. Need a “pick-up line”? Here are a few: “Hey, I was thinking about reading that book. Is it any good?” “I need to break out of my drink rut. Any recommendations?” “What’s your dog’s name?”

4. At baby or bridal showers
Lots of women, a lot of whom you probably don’t know, stuck in the same place for two hours on a Sunday afternoon wishing the drinks were a wee bit stronger. Might as well mingle!

5. At volunteer gigs
Not only will you expand your personal and perhaps professional network, you’ll be a do-gooder in the process. Win-win!

6. In a moms’ (or parents’) group
Want friends? Have a baby! Already have a baby? Great! Then join your local parent listserv or put some flyers up at the grocery store and either advertise a new parents’ group or find an existing one and start weekly or monthly play dates or moms’ nights out. Parenthood has a way of bonding people in the same way college does. You may not have a ton else in common other, but there’s this big thing and this big thing is pretty much like 80% of your life right now.

7. At work
Hitting happy hour together after work is a great way to not only relieve work-related stress but also to get to know each other a little better outside the office environment. I also recommend lunch dates and carpooling, which is good for the environment and great for your social networking.

8. At a clothing swap
Invite any or all the women you know and like in your town — even if it’s just a couple of co-workers and a former high school classmate — and ask them to invite their friends to clean out their closets and come on over for an afternoon or evening of fashion, cocktails and snacks. Even if you don’t make a new friend, you’ll probably score a new outfit (and clean out some of your clutter in the process).

How to actually become friends

Now that you’ve met potential friends, here are a few ways to make it stick:

— Take initiative and make some effort. Organize dinner dates or movie nights. Let people know when a band you all like is coming to town, or when a cool art exhibit is opening, or when there’s a free night at your local museum. A simple group email with a link and “Anyone up for this?” in the subject link can get the ball rolling.

— Keep in touch between get-togethers. Just like with dating, short texts or email messages that let the other person know she’s on your radar, even if she’s not penciled into your busy schedule this week or next.

— Be a good listener and remember what you hear. If your friend confides that she’s worried about her job, upset with her boyfriend about something, or concerned about her mother’s health, for example, be sure to ask her about those things the next time you see or speak to her. It shows you care and are interested in her life and not just having company.

— Remember birthdays. Whether it’s an email, a call, or a small gift, remembering a friend’s birthday goes a long way.

— Friendship is a two-way street. If you find yourself doing all the reaching out, evaluate whether this is a person you really want to continue investing in.

— Don’t force it. Making friends is like dating — sometimes you meet someone who’s perfectly nice, but for whatever reason there just isn’t chemistry. Cut your losses and move on. And don’t take it personally if someone resists your attempts at friendship. People are busy or already have full lives and social calendars and aren’t in the market for new friends. It’s not a reflection on you! Just move on to the next person. Maybe she’ll be “the one.”


  1. I tell people this all the time but when asking someone to do something, give a specific date, time and activity. So say ” Do you want to go to happy hour Tuesday Night? Or there is a rummage sale on Saturday, want to hit it up? So many missed opportunities happen because people say “we should hang out sometime.” Sometime is too vague.

    I take the 5 year old approach. I say ” we should be friends.” It has worked 100% of the time.

  2. Ugh, I need this. I’ve been trying to make friends more recently, but it’s so hard. And I’m on a friend site!

    I mean, sometimes it doesn’t work out because I get social anxiety—like, one girl who I only spoke with once invited me to her birthday dinner (where like 10 other strangers, to me, would be)?? so for that, I was like, “Ummmmm…I… can’t…” but another girl, who seems really cool, & seems to frequent the same places I do, is always like “Oh you go there? We should go” but we never make plans. And another girl is always like, “We need to make plans to go to [popular bar town]!!” but, again, we never actually do? That’s partially their fault, partially mine, but the problem is what csp addressed above—SOMEBODY needs to just pick a date & time, any date & time. Even on DW, in the meetups, people are too vague sometimes (& again, I’m part of the problem usually, with this!). It’s just that I’m pretty go-with-the-flow-y when it comes to plans, so that’s how I operate. And with my core group of friends, that’s how we ALL operate, & it works. But it doesn’t so much work with two essential strangers hanging out for the first time?

    Also all of these things on the list, gah, I’ve NEVER made friends this way, & I really should try. It’s just my friends are either leftover from high school/college, or they’re from super weird situations that aren’t duplicatable.

    1. So, I have a new friend who lives/works from home in the building right next door to where I work. She moved here a few months ago and I met her through another good friend. I thought she was cool and I had a bit of a girl crush. She said she never gets out during the day because she doesn’t know a lot of people and she’s going a bit crazy. We exchanged numbers. The next week, I texted her and asked her to lunch on Friday. She happily did so and now we’re pretty good friends. Like, we’ve been texting all day today. And yesterday we had a coffee date. And she was one of the friend’s who went with me to the kid’s going away party.

      Essentially, we were strangers.

      So, I guess what I’m saying, is just ask people you meet and like to do something. Making the first move goes a long way because I think a lot of people are scared to do that.

      Ooh. another friend (the friend that introduced me and girl above). Well, I met her in a weird way too. She moved here from California and didn’t know a lot of people. I had never met her, but a friend we both shared who lives in another state e-mailed us, introduced us through e-mail and said we should hang out because she thought we would get along. We did. We had a brunch date. And now she’s a close friend.

      Sorry for the long stories. But I’m telling you, as long as someone makes the first move, it’s really that easy.

      1. I think that’s a great pointer too, because if you want to make more friends it can be as simple as asking an existing friend to “set you up!” Especially if you’re moving to a new area, just ask all your existing friends, “Hey, do you know anyone in that region?” You’ve got nothing to lose!

      2. It’s totally like a blind date! But with less pressure.

      3. I had so many friends do this when I moved to California. It was really helpful, and I’m still friends with many of the blind-friend-dates. It’s great when you have someone to vet each of you.

    2. You were so surprisingly quiet at the DW meetup in Central Park! I couldn’t believe you were that reserved IRL.

      1. Yeah, I am super quiet in person! Especially with people I don’t know, or groups numbered like that (I’m chattier one-on-one, or in small groups of 3 or 4). It’s a combination of feeling awkward/not knowing what to say, & having kind of a soft voice, & not knowing if people will hear me or talk over me if I DO start talking?? And I always start off quiet, like observing, but then I get hit with anxiety like, “omgggg I haven’t really talked, how do I start talking now?” (I’m making myself sound awful, but that’s my brain) So then, yeah, sort of like how GG said below— people assume I’m standoffish at first.

        And that brings me to another thought I had, while driving home yesterday— like, I like to meet new people THROUGH the friends I already have? Because then the friend does most of the initial work for me—“This is Fabelle, she’s ____ ____ ____” & then I feel more comfortable, not worrying about how I’m presenting myself because the context is already there? if that makes sense.

        I’m WAY better now than I was in, say, high school or early college though. I was the weirdest most quiet person in the world. I remember in one class, the teacher had us get in a circle & EVERYONE HAD TO PARTICIPATE in order to get points. And you were assigned to another student, & that student was the one who gave you points based on the quality of your comment in the circle, & the more things you said, the more points you got. (we were analyzing a book or something). The dude who was assigned to me KNEW I never talked in class, & passed me a note like, “Just say one thing, & I’ll give you like 100 points.” So the whole time I’m like, “oh god, when do I jump in?” & him & his friend were mouthing to me, chantingly, “One! Thing! One Thing!” (it was good-natured). So finally I said one totally inconsequential thing, & the dude turned in his points, which was a ridiculously high number, & the teacher looked super skeptical but wound up giving them to me. ahhh

        Sorry that was SUCH A LONG TANGENT

      2. Yes, I was a little shocked at how quiet you were, too!!
        But we still had fun 🙂

  3. I love all these tips. Another one I’ve found helpful is going to clubs/lounges (not the type where everyone is grinding against each other, but where there are couches to hang out on and talk). I’m not a big drinker anymore, but I’ve found they’re a good place to hang out with a few friends and make new friends (I’ve also met a lot of clients that way too).

    I met one of my best friends on the street one day when I was walking around the city. We run in such different social circles, I never would have met him otherwise, and I didn’t think he was my “friend type” at first. We weren’t lost in looking at our phones, we were aware to our surroundings and open to opportunities. It surprises me just how much we all ignore each other in public by texting other people (I’m guilty of it too).

  4. I moved to Chicago only knowing my sister and cousins. Since then, I’ve made quite a few new friends using a variety of Wendy’s suggestions and a lot of them are pretty great. I feel very fortunate. It wasn’t easy at first because I’m usually not one to put myself out there, at all. But I have and I do and have done so with great success.

    So, to reiterate Wendy’s advice . . . don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to ask people to hang out. Sometimes, it won’t work out, but a lot of the time, it will. Also, always smile. People like people who are positive.

  5. AliceInDairyland says:

    Start a Food Swap!

  6. thats me!!!!! im on DW!!!

    1. ok, cool! all great suggestions.

      i love the people i volunteer with. i actually sometimes want to change my volunteer day from saturday so i could see some other friends sometimes on the weekends but i just like the people on my shift so ive stayed. one guy, actually, is applying to grad school right now, and he is applying to jake’s hometown or the place that i will move for work if my work moves me again. i was like, well, ill hangout with you in either place. haha

      1. also, all the people i volunteer with are in school, so they are younger then me. two are in high school, one in college/applying to grad school, and that makes me feel weird. haha

    2. Me too! We’re so special. That was a fun meetup.

  7. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    These are all great tips – I have made good friends doing each of these things. Well, except book club, moms club, or baby showers because I avoid those like the plague. And actually ok I haven’t volunteered anywhwere in awhile except with people who were already my friends. And I haven’t been to a clothes swap. Geez I have a lot more friends to make.

    Next up I realy hope Wendy will do this list: How to Find a Good Boyfriend After School (When You Are No Longer Near 100s of Eligible Bachelors and Instead Now You Are Always at Work with Old Married People and When All the Guys You Do Meet Turn Out to Be Poo)

    1. Let’s go out. I’ll be your wingwoman.

      1. Addie Pray says:

        Let’s! Hey, weren’t you going to get a Chicago meetup going? Ahem.

      2. Haha. I need to! Things got busy there for a while. I’m a free woman again though . . .

      3. I have never been to one of the Chicago meet-ups because I am out in the SW suburbs and going into the city makes me nervous >_<

  8. I needed to read this. Honestly, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about a major fight I had with one of my best friends in the area. I posted it about it on the forums a while back…I had to cancel dinner at the last minute because I remembered a previous commitment and (after not cancelling anything on her for six solid months) she turned it into a huge issue about the quality of our friendship. We’ve been seeing each other again in group settings and we seem to be repairing things, but I don’t have an overwhelming desire to be individually close to her again, and I keep wondering if I’m the bad guy who screwed up a good thing. I might not miss her as a person, but I miss the role she played in my life — I hadn’t realized just how much of my social life revolved around her or how often we’d talked.

    But then I saw Wendy’s list of how to keep up a friendship and I realized…I did all those things. I did all those things REALLY well. In fact, I did all those things sometimes better than my friend did them for me. The only item on that list that didn’t apply to us was “don’t force it,” the last one. Because I realized that the only reason I was ever friends with that girl in the first place was that she forced it. When we first got to know each other, I sensed that early (three years ago!) that we weren’t really on the same page on a lot of things and she might be a fun social friend but not something I’d want to get super close with. But she just kept pursuing me…and pursuing me…and pursuing me…until I felt bad saying no. And then it just kept growing. And I was also in a bad place, emotionally, when I felt I owed everything to everyone and wasn’t allowed to just do what I wanted. So I realize how I might have “led her on” by accepting her friendship when we just weren’t a great fit. But it’s still really sad and confusing because I miss her at the same time that I don’t want to be super close with her again.

    1. I’ve also just had another fucky day which is continuing as I work late again, and contemplate returning to an apartment where my roommate’s FWB who has the flu is just, you know, chilling out, and I’m not really organizing my thoughts well and I feel sorry myself and I want another naked beer.

  9. ALSO! I’m not a religious person, but for those who are, church/temple can be a great place to make friends, and most religious communities have special clubs, get-togethers, and study groups for different age groups.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      Oh good point – also a great place to meet boyfriends I’ve heard. Damnit I wish I were religious.

      1. Go to a UU church (and then tell me about it so I know if I should find one)!

  10. Not that the goal of this is necessarily to meet a potential mate (vs meeting friends), but I did meet my husband on a softball team…

    As for the rest of my adult friends, they are mostly work friends, but I’m lucky to work in a place with a lot of people my age and we have a lot of common interests (aka we’re all giant space nerds… and we all like to drink).

  11. Avatar photo landygirl says:

    I’ve always made really good friends where I work.

  12. I feel lonely a lot, and I do have a fairly large, solid group of friends. Me and all of my best girl friends and guy friends from college moved to the same city, and live in the same complexes/down the road from each other… but damn it gets lonely regardless. A lot of them are in serious relationships, but quite a few are single/single again, and while we all hang out and do stuff every weekend and occasionally on weeknights… I can’t help but feel sometimes it’d be nice to have a partner. Friends are great, and I love mine so, so much, and I can’t really explain it, but yeah. I think I need a dog.

  13. Lately I’ve been making good friends with my neighbors. It’s nice because there isn’t a lot of pressure to really make plans with them, you just can hang out if you’re all home and wanting company.

  14. GatorGirl says:

    I am TERRIBLE at making new friends. So bad! I get quiet when I’m nervous, which to others often seems stand-off-ish, then I say weird things…basically I can’t make friends.

    Also it is f-ing freezing in PA. Holy cow.

    1. How long are you home for? We should meet up!

      1. GatorGirl says:

        I’ll facebook you! It’s a quick trip but if we have time!

    2. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      Ha see I’m like the opposite. When I’m nervous I’ll just talk, and talk, and talk. With people I know there is no such thing with an awkward silence but I can carry on an entire conversation by myself if I’m nervous and shy.

    3. A La Mode says:

      I would be friends with you! I want a friend like Ron Swanson’s, where they don’t talk and that’s just fine – we can go out and read books at the same time at the same table in a coffee shop or something.

      1. GatorGirl says:

        I kinda love the idea of going out together and not talking. GGuy and I do that sometimes, and I feel like other couples look at us weird, but idol chatter isn’t always needed!

      2. A La Mode says:

        Boyfriend and I do that too, we’re both obsessed with staying on top of our Feedly apps so entire dinners are sometimes spent with a fork in one hand and our phone in the other. Then we either listen to a podcast in the car, or discuss what we read. It works for us so I don’t care what other people might be thinking. Small talk is overrated.

  15. zombeyonce says:

    I like Wendy’s suggestions, but I’d like to add one that’s worked for me but I’ve never seen on any of these types of lists: host a regular “girls’ night in”. It can start with you and even just one other person. You’ll likely find that it grows quickly.

    What’s worked for me specifically is making plans for a regular night (we do it the first Tuesday of each month) and we each bring along a dish, group meal ingredient, or a bottle of wine so it’s a nice potluck. Making or buying one item is generally equal to the cost of a single drink out, so we like to stay in and save money. I have been hosting it at my house, but we’ll probably branch out eventually. I send out a reminder the week before so we all make sure we’ve go the menu covered and that it’s on our calendar.

    How it helps make new friends is that the two people it started with brought a friend at some point. Then I invited someone from work, and it snowballed. Now I’ve got ~8 women at my house once a month and since everyone is genuinely friends with at least one other person in the group, our personalities mesh really well. I’ve made some good friends from this and I think they all feel the same.

    1. I like this idea! I might try it out after the Holidays when people have more time.

  16. sarolabelle says:

    I still don’t get it. Okay so there I am in prenatal yoga class and everyone is pregnant right, I should/could be friends with them but no, no one talks to each other and what do you say? “hey, would it be alright if I texted you sometime?” Ew! Sounds like a pickup line.

    1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

      Initiate conversations before or after class. Little chit chat. Then build up to asking them to coffee or something after class.

    2. At prenatal yoga you already have a topic you both can talk about. Well actually two! Yoga and babies. I mean you could just ask, hey how far along are you as an opener!

    3. That’s how it is for me at Yoga, too!! I go to the same class every week, and sometimes in the locker room I’ll chit chat a little, like “Wow, that was a tough one” or something, but I can’t seem to take it to the next level. Especially since in Bikram, you are silent in the room and it’s not like Zumba or something where it seems a bit more social.

      1. sarolabelle says:

        Yes, no one really talks to anyone – I think it is because we must be designed to not be social. Like when students come to a class for the first time. They will separate themselves and sit far away from everyone else.

        But yeah, nothing gets farther than “boy that was a hard class”

    4. No one talks to each other just because no one has yet. Doesn’t mean they don’t want to. Might be worth a shot if you’re interested in making friends. Not with pickup lines though. 😉

  17. I’ve actually had an easier time making friends after college than during. I think it’s because my attitude has changed, and I’ve been more confident about trying to make it happen. I also have moved a lot, so I’ve had to get good at it or I’d literally have no friends.

    The key is just putting yourself out there. Be social wherever you go: work, book club, classes, whatever. And then if someone seems cool, just invite them to hang out or something. Show an interest. The fact that so many people here find this whole thing so hard means that most likely, the person will be glad you asked. And hosting things is good too — invite a few people from work or people who chat with from yoga class over for lunch or something.

  18. A La Mode says:

    I need Instant Friends like Sea Monkeys or something because I am either too busy or too sick to deal with all these clubs and friendship development and whatnot.

  19. I don’t have a problem making acquaintances, I have a problem making friends. I chat up people all the time and it goes no where.

    I even got on the girlfriend site Fabelle referred to a few months ago. I met 2 ladies in my age group. I have gone for dinner/drinks with them several times & we are still just acquaintances. I will be meeting them again next week for more of the same. I find the whole thing very odd – and depressing.

  20. A La Mode says:

    Another thing is the rejection. Oh, the rejection. It stings even worse (for me) when a possible friend does the slow fade or just stops making plans than when I go on a few dates with a guy and it’s obvious it won’t work out. I’m constantly worried – does she not know how much I respect the Girl Code? Did I come off too weird? Did I wear too much makeup and she thinks I’m a princess type? Does she not know that I am like fuckin Leslie Knope when it comes to gifts and will always wish the clap upon anybody who hurts her feelings? Damn it, why doesn’t she want to be my friend?!

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