How to…make friends in grad school

Cultivating deep, meaningful relationships with friends after college can be really difficult. What’s your advice for how to make lasting friendships during graduate school?

This is a question I get a lot. After college it seems really confusing and difficult to figure out how to make friends. Well, I’ve got some tips for how to make friends during grad school!

Tip #1. Make study groups.

This may sound like a no brainer, but the first year of grad school can be really challenging for many students. For me, it was the first time I was taking a statistics course in over 3 years, and I hadn’t been in a classroom in 2 years. So there was a lot of adjustment that needed to happen during the first few weeks of the semester. It was so unbelievably invaluable to have study groups for hard stats exams with a group of students who were going through the same transition. Going through this similar experience can really bring people together. Use that commonality to your advantage and continue to hang out with your study group outside of school. Maybe propose a celebratory party after your exam is over, or make your study group a little more entertaining with snacks and sweet treats!

Tip #2. Room with an upper-level grad student (if possible) for your first year.

If possible, pick a roommate that is also in graduate school with you. Doesn’t have to be the same program or the same year as you, but this can be a great way to find a friend who is going through or went through something similar to what you’re experiencing. My first year I roomed with a student who was 2 years ahead of me in the program. She helped me on so many occasions with picking courses, learning how to prioritize (and de-prioritize) all my responsibilities, and provided me with sage advice on navigating some of the ins and outs of the program. She was invaluable to me and I’m not sure how I would have made it through without her. Engaging with these kinds of relationships can create lasting friendships. Since you have a roommate who is also a graduate student, you can relate on a similar level. Plan activities to do together that work well with your student schedule – this will help cultivate the friendship.

Tip #3. Don’t be afraid to ask senior students for help.

I have made a lot of my grad school friends from just seeking out help from more senior students (i.e. 3rd and 4th year students). Many of my friendships were born from my own sheer vulnerability, and others’ willingness to help. Often, during my first few years, I had to make decisions about my teaching and research, and having an older, more experienced, student give me advice really helped. Be interested in what older students are doing and about their journey to grad school. People love talking about themselves, use this to help you get to know another student and create that bond.

Tip #4. Cohort happy hours and get-togethers.

Get together at a local bar or restaurant with other students in your cohort or program. Head over to a local trivia night with the group. Or, put yourself out there and host a wine and cheese night at your place. If you don’t know everyone’s email addresses, just ask the department coordinator or any of the faculty for the email list for all students, and just go for it! In college, it’s easy to coordinate events and outings with your friends. Usually, college students all live together and can just make a spur-of-the-moment plan to get together. But, in grad school, it needs to be more of an intentional effort to make plans see each other outside of school. I guarantee you other students will want to hang out with you as well, so just dub yourself ‘organizer’ and bring the group together.

Tip #5. Start a club at school or volunteer together.

Graduate school is unique in that everyone around you has similar interests. Take advantage of this! Ask around and see what kinds of things people are interested in. Ask about their research interests, their hobbies, or their career goals. If you see a common thread among the students, start a journal club for people who have similar research interests across the labs in your department. Each week, or biweekly, you can get together and read a journal article that relates to your common interest. Or maybe you find that a small group of people who have similar volunteering interests (e.g. soup kitchens, children’s summer camps, or local preschool screening initiatives might be a good place to look) and then plan a trip together. Find a common interest and don’t be afraid to take the reins and plan the event.

Still want more advice? Check out these other bloggers’ tips on making friends post-college.

Advice from a twenty something

Making friends in a new city

Adult friendships

Feel free to post a comment below or email me with more questions!

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “How to…make friends in grad school

  1. Thanks so much, Tanya!! Before reading your post, I was afraid to think of the PhD students as “peers”, since I am only getting an Ed.M… but reading this has challenged my belief. I am definitely going to reach out to the PhD students as mentors and friends! x

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