15 Ways to Make Friends as an Online College Student

15 Ways to Make Friends as an Online College Student
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

There is not much to separate online classes from their traditional, face-to-face counterparts. The major difference, of course, is that students personally make their presence in physical classrooms and stick to fixed class schedules. But as with this setup, online classes require the composition of students and their instructor or professor.

Based on the latest university statistics, close to 98% of U.S. schools have switched to online learning since the COVID-19 outbreak last year (Think Impact, n.d.). However, many local and even international schools have already started offering courses online even before the pandemic started. In fact, worldwide distance education is expected to reach $350 billion by 2025.

We all know the importance of having friends, but how do you make or maintain one with time and distance in between? Let this article guide you on how to make friends as an online college student.

Ways to Gain Friends As an Online College Student Table of Contents

  1. Why make friends online
  2. 15 Ways to Gain Friends As an Online College Student
  3. Pointers for Making Friends Online

Why make friends online?

Psychologists confirm that online friendships bring about many emotional and psychological advantages and that they are as advantageous as face-to-face friendships (University of the People, n.d.). These kinds of friendships are also of great help to people who are shy or suffer from social anxiety, as the screen can serve as the mediator between the communication. In 2020, the National Health Council reported that anxiety and depression rates in the U.S. have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak started (Manning, 2021).

Loes G. M. van Rijsewijk et al. took a deeper look at one of the foundations of many friendships, especially among adolescents, in their paper “The Interplay Between Adolescents’ Friendships and the Exchange of Help: A Longitudinal Multiplex Social Network Study.” Published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, the 2019 research sought to discover the connection between friendship and help, and probe the attributes of friendship and help channels. “Adolescents seek independence from parents and teachers. In their relations with such ‘authority figures,’ adolescents typically take up a subordinate position. Adolescents are required to comply with parents’ or teachers’ wishes and often depend on their knowledge.

Therefore, in their peer relations, adolescents may want to ensure that they are not in this subordinate, dependent position. If an adolescent is being helped by friends but is not in a position to help in return, this resembles a non-egalitarian relationship in which the focal adolescent depends on his or her friends, but not vice versa. Mutual help makes friendships more egalitarian and can be expected to make adolescents feel more comfortable with their relationships. As such, egalitarian friendships, in which help is mutually exchanged, may be maintained longer.”

15 Ways to Gain Friends as an Online College Student

In college, it’s easy to lose track of the real benefits of college. You might think it’s all about grades and late-night studies. But it’s really more than that. Make your college experience just as socially healthy as what you would anticipate from a traditional campus. Below are some helpful tips for you.

number of students affected by school closures worldwide

Create vicinity.

The advantage of attending a traditional campus is vicinity. There, you can run into other college students in your dorm, along the corridors, in the library, on the grounds, inside the cafeteria, and at events. The best way to recreate this college life aspect is to create vicinity (Endsley, 2019).

Be around people through internships, sports leagues, Facebook events, volunteer works, book clubs, or attending in-person classes at some schools. You do not need a social work degree to volunteer for social causes. You can do any of these by thinking of something you are fond of doing, then looking online to check if others are also into that thing.

Source: Online Schools Center

Do not wait for the right time.

The previous suggestion may not be for everyone. But waiting to get the right timing may also be not advisable in these situations. Just attend one event or meet one group for once; it does not have to be a lifetime thing. If it looks fun, go back. If not, try something else.

Be kind.

You have to want to have friends. Be kind, be helpful, be welcoming, and be open to gaining new friends.

Promote yourself.

Let others know that you want to form new connections. Share your interests, what classes are you taking. or anything about yourself. Make it known that you are looking for study buddies, someone to go to an event with, or real-life friends.

Engage in social platforms.

Virtual social clubs and opportunities are everywhere in the internet space. They can provide you with your much-needed support and social channel. Do not be afraid to engage in one.

online management for education growth

Try and try.

There may not be a perfect group to join after all, and transferring from one group to another means that you are always the new member. Why not give some groups a chance? Sometimes, all it takes is showing up for more than one time. Those new people may then feel a lot more like old friends to you.


Waiting for someone to approach you is one of the reasons many people stay disconnected from each other. If you want to make friends with someone, lead by stepping up and introducing yourself.

Allow yourself to be bad at first.

Do not attempt to befriend an entire group, just one will be enough at first. Do not also assume that you can make a friend within a day, just at least plan to have a real conversation with someone.

Things will be awkward and scary, yes. You may struggle to come up with a sensible topic or leave feeling uncomfortable, too. Yet, the only way to get through these rough starts is to allow yourself to be bad at it. Along the way, it will all become what you wanted (Endsley, 2019).

Care about the other person.

First conversations are always uncomfortable, but that can be changed by caring about the person talking. Know him or her deeply and find a way to connect. Doing so will mean that you no longer have to talk just to survive the conversation, and you will actually enjoy the conversation.

Think that they care for you, too.

You do not have to do the asking all yourself; talk about yourself as well. Tell something about your own experiences, because this is where the natural connection begins.

Try to make friends with someone who is different from you.

Grab the opportunity of meeting someone totally different from you. There are best friends whose age gaps are huge, whose cultures are somehow conflicting, and whose life backgrounds do not seem like a perfect fit for each other.

College is all about new experiences—interacting with new and different kinds of people, learning new ideas, and even making friends with people you never would have thought for yourself (Endsley, 2019).

percentage of teachers who believe their technology skills improved

Reach out.

Do not hesitate to ask for help about some things you find hard. There may be others who are on the same path as you or others who are willing to help you. Aside from getting help, you may also find new friends.

Source: Think Impact

Level up your friendship to the next level.

Watch a movie together, meet up for a coffee, or host a game night. Alternatively, you can adopt some of the ideas for virtual team building activities to create and foster bonding moments. Taking things further will help you get to know your new friends better and will also let them realize that you are interested in making them your real-life friends.

Be friends with yourself first.

Before you begin forming long-lasting friendships, you have to deal with yourself for a long time first. Dealing with lonely nights or weekends alone is pretty normal; even those who have many friends experience this, too.

Also, be patient. Rushing into making friends will frustrate you. Try enjoying things alone first, like cooking, walking, going to new parks, eating at restaurants, and more. Doing things on your own can make you more patient and will allow things to happen at the right time.

Step out of your comfort zone, but slowly.

Do not join all the clubs or social spaces or pretend to be someone you are not. Start small by taking one step forward with that one thing beyond your comfort level.

Pointers for Making Friends Online

It is not enough to know how to make friends when you do online school; you also have to know how to do it effectively. Consider the pointers below.

Do not appear too needy.

Avoid messaging people consecutively. Appearing too needy or demanding may just prompt them to hold back. Just go with the flow of things and let them take place naturally.

Maintain the flow of conversations.

Focus on talking about your mutual interests. Asking earnest questions will also do.

Create your online profile.

Pick a username that explains who you are as a person. Then, include your passions, hobbies, what you are expecting upon joining a certain virtual space, and so on. You may also add a line that says you are glad for people to communicate with you.

Be careful online.

Remember that meeting strangers online can pose risks, and safety should always be prioritized.

Make Your Overall College Experience Worthwhile—Even Online

Many students look forward to attending college. Friendships formed at these times normally last for years and relationships made with peers and professors can prompt one’s professional path and life milestones (Leal, 2020). Having someone to talk to or share things with can give you a new and redefining experience and positively affect your quality of life.

Technology is here for a number of reasons. Among them is being able to make friends wherever they may be in the world.



  1. Contreras, S. (2018, May 28). 4 Tips for Making Friends in Your Online Class. Arizona State University.
  2. Endsley, A. (2019, November 22). How to Make Friends as an Online College Student. Pearson.
  3. Leal, L. (2020, August 26). The online student’s guide to making friends and finding peers in the age of COVID. Medium.
  4. Manning, A. (2021, March 3). Making Friends in College During a Pandemic. Best Colleges.
  5. van Rijsewijk, L. G. M. et al. (2019). The Interplay Between Adolescents’ Friendships and the Exchange of Help: A Longitudinal Multiplex Social Network Study. Journal of Research on Adolescence.
  6. Think Impact. (n.d.). eLearning Statistics. Think Impact.
  7. University of the People. (n.d.). How to Make Friends Online. University of the People.


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