How to Make Friends?

(I try to balance my blog posts between academics and social life to appropriately represent my experience at Pomona so far. Currently, I’m uncomfortably close to my first thesis deadline and would rather not talk about that, so social life it is!)

Something that will happen to you a lot at Pomona is the Friend-Crush™. Arriving my first year, I was astonished at the sheer number of people I met who I instantly wanted to get to know. For better or for worse, Pomona is full of friend-crush material. You know who I’m talking about. She contributes beautifully crafted thoughts in your seminar. He’s in that club you recently joined and he seems so… mysterious. They seem good at everything you can think of. He always posts hilarious things on Facebook. She is so easy to talk to. You want to be their friend sooooo badly, but you don’t know how to make it happen. Three long years ago, my first-year roomie and I bonded over this beautiful, awkward feeling, the feeling that makes you want to shout:

Friend-crushes happen differently as you move through your experience at Pomona. As a first-year, you’ll meet a zillion and one potential friends, likely befriend lots of them, and spend a lot of time gushing about how everyone is so interesting. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I do remember having a lot of these kinds of conversations.) By the time you become a senior, the balance has shifted some. Many of the seniors I know are still finding out interesting things about each other. After three years of immersion, it’s pretty easy to forget that everyone around you, even people you feel like you’ve gotten to know, have super interesting stories and hobbies and skills. Try asking. Most likely, the person sitting next to you has been to Mars, holds the world record in speed-folding laundry, or is president of a youth environmental association.

Great, you say. Pomona is full of interesting people! How do I befriend them? Glad you asked! I’ve compiled a list of my “dos and don’ts” on befriending college friend-crushes. I’m currently trying some of these on my list of approximately five friend-crushes. (If any of you read this list and recognize many of my behaviors, I probably think we should be friends. Consider it? :D) So it’s important to note that the “dos” are still in the testing process and are not 100% guaranteed to achieve successful results.

(Also, in some weird circumstances, the don’ts can actually work! I met one of my friends by having an explosive tearful breakdown in his room during my first year. Don’t knock it ‘till you try it.)

On good questions

I like to think of getting-to-know-you questions in three tiers. The first tier consists of questions about the weather, your classes, your major, and how busy you are. These may help you converse but are not really that useful if you’re trying to make friends. The third tier consists of really intensely personal questions and dark secrets. You probably shouldn’t open with these. What I usually shoot for is the Goldilocks tier in the middle: What do you think of this issue? How do you describe yourself? What things do or do not bother you?

In summary,

DON’T: “Do you like to listen to music lol”

DON’T: “So has anyone close to you died recently? How did that make you feel?”

DO ask about things they care about and talk to them about why, or ask what makes or breaks a class for them, or ask about their pet peeves. One of my favorite Tier 2 icebreakers right now is “What are you good at that totally doesn’t matter?” (In case you’re wondering, I excel at stamping lots of envelopes quickly.)

Clark I and Clark III... maybe Frary Dining Hall is Clark II?
Clark I and Clark III… maybe Frary Dining Hall is Clark II?

On reading the vibes

If the person doesn’t seem interested in talking to you or says they live in Clark II (Attn. Pomona prospies: there are dorms named Clark I, III, and V, but no II and IV), DON’T keep bothering them.

DO take note of who’s acting friendly toward you and take initiative to show you care.

On appropriate activities and how to ask

DON’T ask them to go to dinner and a movie in the Village with you. (Unless you’re trying to date them, but that’s a different list.) DO ask them to grab lunch in the dining hall or do an activity with you and one of your mutual friends. Also, DON’T set up a long heartfelt speech about your desire to spend time with the person. DO casually bring up a specific possible activity to do together.

On conversational barriers

DON’T get scared and only ever talk to them about the one thing you have in common (like a class or club). DO use what you have in common as a starting point. Also (!!!!!), do NOT open with your life story. DO be open and share a little bit of personal stuff to show that you trust the person.

On greetings

DON’T stop and try and have an extended conversation every time you pass them in the SCC. DO always smile, wave, and say hello. If the person does want to stop and chat, DON’T complain to them about how busy you are and DO ask “how are you?” genuinely.

On one-on-one time

DON’T try to corner the person alone so you can bond with them. If you’re more like me, DON’T be too shy and only talk to the person by loudly talking about hopefully interesting things in the conversation next to them. DO try and talk to them both in groups and 1-1, if you get the opportunity.

Last week's destress baking endeavour may have gained me a few friendship points
Last week’s de-stress baking endeavour may have gained me a few friendship points

On kindness

DON’T: “I brought you a loaf of homemade bread! I baked it in the dorm kitchen an hour ago in honor of our reunion.”

DON’T: “Lol I ‘found’ this wrapped gift. Maybe you should have it.”

DO make sure to do nice things that don’t appear to take too much effort. My classic excuse here is using my regular Sunday de-stress baking as an excuse to give people scones and muffins.

On initiative

DON’T constantly bombard them with your attention. DON’T ignore them to seem cool and aloof. DO try and balance times you talk to them with times they talk to you (though you don’t need to keep score).

An example of appropriate friend activity with my blog boss Feather, who didn't know I was going to use this picture for my post
An example of appropriate friend activity with my blog boss Feather, who didn’t know I was going to use this picture for my post

On leaving an “out”

DON’T: “Hey, I heard you and ___ are grabbing dinner at Scripps! Can I join you guys?”

DO leave an out whenever you ask for commitments: “Hey, would you mind if I join? It’s cool if you guys are having a one-on-one lunch, we can always catch up another time.” If they do reject your offer, it’s especially important to say “Yeah, no problem!”, exit very casually, and conspicuously do homework or eat with another person so they don’t feel bad. (…I may have overthought this one a little.)

On memory

DON’T remember everything they tell you, even if you’re the kind of person who does that automatically.

So yeah, DON’T: “Hey, you wore that shirt at the ballroom event a couple weeks ago! That was a good time, yeah?”

DON’T remember their birthday the first time they tell you (month, maybe, not day).

DON’T: “I was talking to __ about how you said you like Raisin Bran but almost never eat it.”

DO remember enough about them to show that you care: “I heard you’re in the choir? Do you take voice lessons?” or “Hey, how was that presentation you were worried about?”


If you follow all these instructions, you may succeed in befriending a friend-crush! If it all seems too complicated, never fear — you always have the option of waiting around, since odds are at least one other student has a friend-crush on you, too.