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Making Friends in Graduate School


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#1 mppgal55

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 12:48 PM

Now that the applications are done and the acceptances/rejects are done, I actually have time to think about the rest of graduate student life. For anyone already attending, how did you meet your group of friends? I'm planning on going to a city I've never lived in where I know no-one. Moreover, I'm coming directly from undergrad, which is a bit abnormal for my field (public policy - MPP).

At my undergraduate university, it was super easy to meet people because of the abundance of clubs, greek life, and dorm life, plus everyone was kind of in the same boat of wanting to meet new people. In graduate school, people live off campus, there aren't that many organizations, classes keep people busy, and I feel like people are either 1) going to want to focus only on classes, 2) be married and want to dedicate time to that person rather than a group of friends, or 3) will be much older than myself and thus be uninterested in being my friend in particular. I've considered having a roommate as a person to get to know, but on the other hand my roommates now are terrible and I'd really like to avoid miserable living situations.

This could just be my anxiety running rampant, but what suggestions do you people out there have for making friends in grad school?
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#2 UnlikelyGrad

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 02:30 PM

Now that the applications are done and the acceptances/rejects are done, I actually have time to think about the rest of graduate student life. For anyone already attending, how did you meet your group of friends?

This could just be my anxiety running rampant, but what suggestions do you people out there have for making friends in grad school?


(1) Don't assume anyone will not want to be your friend! Just because they're older than you doesn't mean that you won't have anything in common. I'm going back as an "oldster"--my officemates are all 10-15 years younger than I am--but I get along with them just fine.

(2) Don't wait for them to come to you. The best way to make friends is to be one. I met my first friend at grad school on orientation day, when I was wandering around looking for a particular room. "You look lost, too," I said. "Are you looking for ____ Hall?" She was. We started talking as we combed the building, and by coincidence we discovered that we were both in the Chemistry program. Our orientation schedule was the same, so we spent the whole day together, and now we're good friends. Don't get me wrong, I've had dozens of encounters like this that don't lead to lasting friendship. But I still feel like stepping outside my comfort zone (I'm an introvert) is what helps me make friends. Talking to people before/after class is a great way to find people.

(3) Get involved. There are more organizations out there than you may think. They may not be part of your department, but they are there nevertheless: drama club, music clubs, space society, whatever...surely you can find one to suit your interests!
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#3 rogue

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 02:39 PM

There are grad student organizations, too -- maybe not as many as undergrad, but it's still a chance to meet people. And on many campuses, clubs are open to students at any level. Get involved in the community, too; you don't just have to meet other students. Find somewhere to volunteer, join a rec league if you play sports, or look on Craigslist in the community section for other clubs/orgs/events.

I only took a year off between undergrad and my master's, and I ended up going to a school where my brother was an undergrad. Most of the people in my MBA program were older, married and had busy lives outside school, so I hung out with my brother and his friends a lot. They turned out to be a nice counterbalance to my classmates and program.
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#4 pea-jay

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 07:53 AM

Try not to worry.

Now that the applications are done and the acceptances/rejects are done, I actually have time to think about the rest of graduate student life. For anyone already attending, how did you meet your group of friends? I'm planning on going to a city I've never lived in where I know no-one. Moreover, I'm coming directly from undergrad, which is a bit abnormal for my field (public policy - MPP).


Yeah, while the avg MPP student IS older, it isnt by a whole lot (though it does vary from school to school). There will be others your age/situation too, especially given the economy inducing/forcing UG graduates straight into Grad school. What is more important is the school itself. Is it a fulltime cohort-style program or is it more of a commuter school. The former will be easier to form friendships, the latter will be more difficult. My previous experience in grad school was at a commuter-style school and I never formed a single friendship. Of course I never plugged into the activities and only showed up at night at class time. But at least I was familiar with the city and had an unrelated social life. Bottom line, get involved.

At my undergraduate university, it was super easy to meet people because of the abundance of clubs, greek life, and dorm life, plus everyone was kind of in the same boat of wanting to meet new people. In graduate school, people live off campus, there aren't that many organizations, classes keep people busy, and I feel like people are either 1) going to want to focus only on classes, 2) be married and want to dedicate time to that person rather than a group of friends, or 3) will be much older than myself and thus be uninterested in being my friend in particular. I've considered having a roommate as a person to get to know, but on the other hand my roommates now are terrible and I'd really like to avoid miserable living situations.


To hit other concerns, 1) You will probably have to work with fellow students on group work. (most MPP programs have some classes with a group component) So you can get to know fellow students in your group...offer/suggest going to a bar/cafe/whatever to relax after. 2) Married students arent necessarily unavailable or unwilling to socialize, they just have a more significant significant other. Yes that may make heading out for a late night drink more difficult, but that doesnt mean they'll ignore you either if you dont have a partner. 3) I'm in this category, probably a dozen years older than a graduating senior. So, I'll say some things from personal experience. Yes I have a family and all the obligations that go with it. It will make socialization with my cohort more difficult (this actually concerns me because, I will also be new to the school and city). But it doesnt mean I'm going to ignore someone younger either. It's always good to have a friend ten years older (or in another stage of life). It can help broaden your perspectives. One of the first friendships I had in Chicago was with my immediate supervisor. While he was only my supervisor for several months, we remained friends for more than a decade since (was in my wedding and when I took my family to Chicago for vacation, he offered to let us stay at his house). So sure, an older friend probably isnt going to hit the clubs with you on the spur of the moment thing on a thursday evening. I know I wont. But I'll hang out after class when I can. I'll respect you as an adult, just as I do with my cousins who are all in their early 20s. I'd even host a group study session, if time and space permit.

So hopefully you can relax a bit.

Good luck
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#5 aginath

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 12:02 PM

I am a terribly social creature and one of the worst things about grad school was leaving 15 years worth of memories and friends behind while I moved 900 miles away to start anew. My assistantship is with the Grad School. I see people through there all the time and hear about all kinds of events. That has helped me pass info on to others. Pay attention to FB pages, Twitter accounts, and RSS feeds for the local/campus paper. Knowing about events means the potential for getting active. I follow the Athens Chamber of Commerce, College of Education Research Council, Graduate Student Association, and various local establishments (favorite restaurants and bars) on Twitter. I also got active in my department. When an email comes through about volunteering (and I'm free), I jump at it. That gets me around faculty and other students to make friends and find out about picnics, parties, and other events.

Just doing these things, I've made a number of wonderful friends in my first year. I've been to tailgates hosted by a faculty member and got invited to a UGA football game with his family when there was an extra ticket. I've hiked up Stone Mountain in Atlanta with another faculty member and his family the week of Fall Break. Our graduate student association in the department hosts monthly happy hours at different bars around town and we always have fun. A group of friends and I are planning a trip to Gatlinburg, TN for the 4th of July to see the annual parade that happens at midnight.

I'll add in the general disclaimer that "these results are not typical," but considering I was terribly homesick and wanted to cry for most of August, I'm very pleased with how things have turned out.
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#6 NorthernStar

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 05:51 PM

Don't worry.
No one I know ended up alone.
You get to meet people in different (and often unexpected) circumstances, so it's not something you can really plan. It will happen.
Almost three years ago, when I started grad school, I was afraid I'd end up friendless, especially because everyone else would be so much younger than me.
Well, first day of orientation, and I was seated near a vivacious, pretty redhead. We started chatting and I voiced my fear about the age gap, to which she replied: "I'm 30 and proud of it." I decided right there and then I totally heart her. And we're still good friends.
Once courses actually started, a small group of grad students formed - we had a few courses in common, similar interests and the same advisor. Almost three years later, and we still hang out even outside the classroom, throw birthday parties for one another, go out for drinks and so on.
I can't imagine my (grad) life without them.
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#7 Dith Vader

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 05:36 AM

Same here, I'm worried about finding friends too as I'll be moving to NYC and it might be overwhelming to be studying and working there all alone.

What worries me the most is the fact that I'm an international student. Not accusing anyone of being racist here, not at all, but I know that some people might be more awkward about being friends with someone from another country than they would be with someone from the same country.

But I think I'll follow people's advice and make the first move. Say hi first and all that :)
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#8 prolixity

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 06:17 AM

Same here, I'm worried about finding friends too as I'll be moving to NYC and it might be overwhelming to be studying and working there all alone.

What worries me the most is the fact that I'm an international student. Not accusing anyone of being racist here, not at all, but I know that some people might be more awkward about being friends with someone from another country than they would be with someone from the same country.

But I think I'll follow people's advice and make the first move. Say hi first and all that :)


You kidding? You've got a special accent and novelty going for you. People will be interested in you.. all you have to do is remain interesting after the novelty wears off. Trust me, you'll be fine.
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#9 pea-jay

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 08:24 AM

Same here, I'm worried about finding friends too as I'll be moving to NYC and it might be overwhelming to be studying and working there all alone.

What worries me the most is the fact that I'm an international student. Not accusing anyone of being racist here, not at all, but I know that some people might be more awkward about being friends with someone from another country than they would be with someone from the same country.

But I think I'll follow people's advice and make the first move. Say hi first and all that :)


NYC is probably the most internationally oriented place you could have picked. You'll probably wind up meeting people from places you never heard of or gave a second thought about. Definitely don't worry about that. And some US-born citizens you may run into may even have been to where you are from (or atleast know about it).

Edited by pea-jay, 12 April 2010 - 08:25 AM.

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#10 Jae B.

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 09:42 AM

You kidding? You've got a special accent and novelty going for you. People will be interested in you.. all you have to do is remain interesting after the novelty wears off. Trust me, you'll be fine.


^… Ditto!

I'm not too worried about making friends, but if I were, I'd try to use housing to my advantage. I'd live in a grad student apartment building, co-op or international house for my first semester or year. You don't need to have a roommate to be close enough to other grad students to build friendships.

Also, attend lots of beginning-year events, shamelessly message students with your school listed on Facebook, ask your current friends if they have any acquaintances who are attending (there could be surprises!), find alumni of your undergrad institution there, people from your hometown area, etc., ask your new advisers and professors about students with interests similar to yours, and learn the best grad student food and drink spots early. :) It could be as simple as connecting with someone who received the same fellowship as you, but you'll find new friends soon enough.
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#11 Dith Vader

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 09:48 AM

I thought so too!

I'm so excited about jumping into the melting pot and meeting people with names I can't pronounce --or who can't pronounce mine ;)
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#12 waldorf1975

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 07:37 PM

Living in grad student housing will make it loads easier to meet other grad students. This way, you still have a lot in common, but you won't feel like you are completely immersed in your department.

I don't know if you are of a political bent or if your school has a union, but I met a bunch of interesting people while canvassing for the TA's union. You make friends quickly when your marching for hours in a picket line!

That said, whether you are political or not, grad school is actually one of the best places to make friends, and you'll have fun.
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#13 Dith Vader

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 04:45 AM

Agreed! I'm heavily considering International House in Manhattan: www.ihouse-nyc.com
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"For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach." --J.R.R. Tolkien

#14 lunarem

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Posted 15 April 2010 - 08:54 PM

In my experience (Masters program) you don't really have to try to make friends, it just happens. Grad school is like summer camp... on crack. You are around the same people all day every day, inevitably you will become friends. My whole cohort was like one big family, we all got along and did social things together. Within the cohort people kind of found their cliques, not that anyone was exclusive but obviously some people will gravitate to each other moreso than others. I made a few new best friends in grad school who I would not have made it through without. The first few weeks of the first semester everyone was really into organizing things and trying to meet each other. Just think that everyone else is in the same position as you so they'll be just as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them. There were a few events at the beginning of the first semester organized by the department that helped, but then we kind of took it into our own hands (I think someone made a facebook group which helped).

oh and there were SEVERAL couples that formed... which I wouldn't necessarily recommend :)

Edited by LuLa, 15 April 2010 - 08:56 PM.

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