Building a network at university

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Learn about steps you can take to build a social network while you’re at university.

Having a wide social network can help you to thrive while you are at university. This doesn’t mean you have to find dozens of close friends, but it may help to have a range of people to connect with in different ways.

Different social plans will work for different students. Here are some actions you can take to start building your network.

Seven steps to build your network

1. Identify places where you can meet people

Identify all of the places (online and face to face) where you can meet people, like in class, clubs and societies, and online forums. The social options available for you will depend on your university and personal circumstances. Use your university website to identify the online and in person options that are available for you.

2. Consider strategies to get started

Think about how you can use these online and in person places to meet other people. If you are socially confident, you may simply be happy to put yourself into these environments, knowing that you’ll be able to strike up conversations. If you don’t have this confidence, plan out a few strategies to get you started that are appropriate to each environment.

3. Consider how to continue conversations

Think about how you can continue conversations, beyond each place. Could you identify one or two people in class and ask to meet up for coffee or a walk? Or shout out on a forum to arrange a meet up? Or suggest a group of likeminded people engage in a hobby together?

4. Plan based on your interests

Alternatively, you may want to start by identifying the types of things you are interested in, or the kinds of people you may want to meet. Then you can identify where in the university you could meet them. Is there a club, society or online forum where you might meet similar minded people?

When at uni, join as many groups as possible, the weirder and less common the club the more likely there will be fellow newbies who you can bond with over inexperience.

Social anxiety and how to make friends at university - Astrid

5. Consider different areas of your life

Or you may want to think of your student life in segments and look for people to match against each segment. For example people:

  • You can study with
  • You can do sport with
  • You can have fun with
  • Who may help with your career

6. Write your plan down or draw it out

You are more likely to act on a plan you have committed to paper. Once you see it written down, you will also be able to see if there are gaps you want to address.

7. Act on your plan quickly

As soon as your plan is done, take one or two ideas and act on them as soon as possible. This will help to build your confidence and start to establish your network quickly

Other things to consider

Your network doesn’t have to consist only of students. Be willing to consider university staff (such as your tutor) or work colleagues as part of your network.

Try not to look for the perfect person or group of people. Remember, you are building a network, not seeking out the one absolute right person for you. People who are fun to be around are a useful part of your network, even if you don’t want to see them every day.

It can start to feel like everyone around you has lots of friends and you’re the odd one out. However, it is likely that the person you imagine is the centre of a tight friendship group is just as worried as you about socialising and making those initial connections.

#FressurePressure: Making friends
Page last reviewed: September 2022