What are the best ways to make friends as a graduate student if you don't like bars and loud social functions?

I'm attending a math education program. I live alone, about 30 minutes away from school and I only have to go to campus three days a week. It seems like the students who live nearer to campus all get more opportunities to bond.


Jessie Voigts, Travel writer, international educator, mom

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There are many ways to meet others and get involved on campus as a graduate student.

  • You can join clubs, especially networking ones for those in your major.
  • You can volunteer to help with international students, either to help them get acclimated to campus or to be a peer mentor. This will not only assist others who are looking for new friends, but also need help getting started in a new culture. (Bonus: More places around the world to visit lifelong friends!)
  • You can also get involved in interest-led groups and activities.

But I think one of the things you should consider as an equal part of your graduate education, and spend the time on campus to do so, is to bond. So those 3 days you're on campus, be sure to allocate extra time for study groups with classmates, volunteer opportunities, and department events. If your department doesn't have events for graduate students, or a graduate student forum/community, then offer to start one. Ask your classmates if they want to participate, and/or what they'd like to get out of it.

Taking a leadership role will also help you be more interesting as a friend and connection, and can lead to many good things down the road.

Can you spend more time on campus? It might be a good idea to study on campus, with a group or a classmate.

The connections that you make in graduate school - both with peers and with your professors, will lead to many important things over the course of your lifetime. It's worth investing time and energy to build these relationships, not only for the desirable short term effects of friendship and connections, but the long-term aspects, too, such as collaborating on papers, research, and projects, jobs, and your own students and colleagues once you're working in the field.

Sarah Rivera, Make the Most of it!

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I went to graduate school in my upper twenties and it took work to find my tribe. I studied mostly alone, but we would have study sessions before some of the more strenuous exams. It is worth it to kick around campus for extra time, not just for the social aspects, but academic and career benefits, too. You can learn a lot from your peers, just chatting as you leave class or wait for it to start. Some ideas we had were not shared during the discussion portion of class because they ran counter to a professor's viewpoint. As time-taxed graduate students, we learned to a be rather mercenary about our grades and preserving our professor's good opinion of ourselves. We saved the really free talk for Friday coffee klatches.

Also, most graduate students get benefits, say to the school gym or such. Try to exercise on campus.

Drop in on your professors' office hours, even if you have very little to say and particularly if there is no one waiting to talk to them. It was never a waste of time and they always clarified or expanded something in a more relaxed atmosphere. Profs are like museums -- they only display about one percent of what they have.

Sometimes it is the people who work in the offices who hold the keys to the kingdom of graduate school. We had a really great woman named Amy who worked in the registrars office. She gave monumental advice to students who asked for guidance. She knew the rules in and and out and allowed me to parlay that into a much richer academic experience ( I could take more interesting upper level coursework to satisfy missing credits. I was eligible to take a full-credit foreign language.). She also knew where the research jobs were in our major. Thanks to her, I wound up working a few hours a week as a research assistant. As such, I got to know a lot of other students and professors, along with sharpening some academic skills. I went to school 15 years ago and was in touch with a professor and colleague just last month.

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Anonymous, Former graduate student

I encountered a similar problem in graduate school. Fortunately, there's plenty of ways to make new friends that don't involve bars and loud social functions. Probably the most common way is through class. In my classes, I was often paired up for group projects and this was where I met most of my new friends. Aside from projects, we would hang outside of class and grab some food or explore the nearby area. This really helps with building teamwork for future group projects as well.

Other ways to meet new people is through school clubs. Even for graduate students, there are clubs you can join, both academic and social. Perhaps you can look for a math club that you can get involved in, or another club that matches with some of your interests.

Finally, there is also meetup.com, where other people looking to make new friends such as yourself can meetup in local areas. There, you can do activities such as hiking, or any other activities that you may enjoy. I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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I was in the same boat. My advice: attend events. Lunchtime talks, evening lectures, workshops. Anything that fits into the days that you are on campus. Commuting from afar means you have to make more of an effort to make friends. Ask a student out for coffee before class, and don't talk about class at all. I made some of my best friends during grad school, but it required effort. You can do it!

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I second the advice to get involved with an international student program. As an undergraduate who didn't enjoy loud partying, I found this to be an outlet that led to rich cultural experiences.

Pamela Petrease Felder, Life in Graduate School

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The other experts have provided great advice. I would add to this that attending professional conferences and meetings could be helpful in identifying new friendships. This is a great way to meet people within the context of your discipline. Many times professional conferences/meetings schedule functions, seminars, workshops for newcomers to strengthen socialization within the organization. There may be opportunities to attend lunch and dinner meetings where you can engage in meaningful dialogue. Also, there's often no pressure to make friends but rather an opportunity to participate, engage others, and build professional networking opportunities; facilitating the process of naturally connecting with individuals.

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