Group of students talking a photo together

Justine Written by Justine (she/her), student

How do you make friends at university? Is it easy? What do you do if you're struggling to make friends when you get here? Have these questions been on your mind?

It’s completely normal to have these thoughts leading up to university (or even once you’ve started).

After taking a gap year between high school and university, I was worried about making friends and not knowing anyone. I chose to live at home — which only added to my concerns. Now in my third year, I have a great group of friends and I’ve met some amazing people. Take it from someone who was once in your place and figured it all out — here are my five tips for meeting people.

1. Get involved

Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard that before, haven’t you? But it’s true! Clubs are a great way to meet like-minded people. There are so many clubs at Waterloo that range from crafts to gaming to something you would have never thought of.

Throughout my time at university, I have met so many great people through a variety of clubs. In second year, I joined the CommArts Society, which is a club that encourages Communication Arts students to meet one another, plan fun events, and build a community outside of our classes. Joining this group has led me to some of my closest friends.

Getting involved at university is especially important when you’re living at home or off campus. One of my biggest concerns in first year while living at home was that I would miss out on so much. But with the help of the Off Campus Community (OCC), I was introduced to other off-campus students which helped me create a space of shared interest that spurred many friendships. We had bonfires, went to escape rooms, and hung out in the OCC office between classes.

Students playing basketball

If you enjoy a more active lifestyle and find clubs aren't really your thing, fear not! Intramurals or other sports and recreation activities are also a great way to meet new people!

Allow me to let you in on a secret. People are a lot friendlier than you think and a lot of students are in the same position wanting to make friends!

2. Strike up a conversation

In first year, a lot of my classes had 100+ people in them (scary at first, no doubt), so I sat with someone who made eye contact with me, asked their name, their program, and anything else to get the conversation going. Talking about the class and asking if this was the right room for the lecture broke the ice and got a conversation flowing. More times than not, by the end of class I would have bonded over something with my classmate. This typically led to an exchange of contact info which helps lay the foundation for a new and budding friendship.

Here are my go-to icebreaker questions for any type of student:

  • The starter: "Can I sit here?"
  • The funny: "Is this ECON 101?" (Knowing it’s not ECON 101)
  • The fit check: "I love your coat, where’s it from?"
  • The athlete: "Great season the [insert team name] are having, eh?"
  • The academic: "What do you think of this class?"

In upper years, my class sizes were a lot smaller (sometimes as small as eight people), so I got to know everyone, but this technique works great in either setting or anything in between. Once you meet people in a class, you can form study groups, or if you miss a class, you’ll know someone who can help you catch up.

I would advise first-year students to be proactive! Don’t be scared or shy away from new opportunities or unfamiliar settings. Take the first step to introduce yourself in class to other students, make genuine connections in your small-sized labs, attend UW-hosted events, and join clubs that pique your interest as you most definitely will find other students with similar passions.

Denis (he/him), Biomedical Sciences student

3. Leave your door open

Here’s a tip for you if you choose to live in residence. Living on campus is like having a giant sleepover with your friends and leaving your door open when you’re home lets people pop in, say hi, or ask if you want to join them for a snack.

Get involved with your floor's movie nights, events, or anything else that's being hosted. Spend time in common areas, do your work, or just relax there and someone is bound to stop by and hang out. This is a quick and fun way to meet new people and immerse yourself in a new community.

4. Attend orientation

Orientation is the perfect environment for making friends. With others in the same boat as you and just as eager to meet new people, you're bound to make a friend in no time. And why not do that while participating in some fun activities?

A great thing about attending is you’ll likely see the same people again in your classes, which is such a relief when you walk into a huge lecture hall. Orientation was three years ago for me, but my friends and I still talk about it. Like when we got covered in colourful chalk dust or the time we had to learn a dance in the middle of a field.

Group of students covered in purple dust from an orientation activity

It’s important to adopt the mindset that everyone is open to making friends. And soon enough you’ll be laughing with those first-year friends as you reminisce about the events you all participated in.

The best way I have found to make new friends is to put myself in situations that surround me with new people. Such as becoming a student ambassador or attending events like Engineering Day. There is so much variety of groups and gatherings, that if you put in the effort, you will never be lonely on campus.

Rand (she/her), Architectural Engineering student

5. Make use of the internet

Once you get to campus there will always be plenty of opportunities to meet new people, but if you want to get a head start, you can reach out to people on social media.

There are often Instagram pages specifically for the incoming class where you can send a photo and a brief introduction about yourself. You'll be able to see who shares similar interests and follow each other to get a conversation started. As always, be safe while online, but I've met a lot of people this way and you'd be surprised by how many of them end up in your classes.

After I accepted my offer, I followed an account on Instagram called UWaterloo 2026. Not affiliated with the university, this account is for first years to meet one another. After my post was shared, a lot of Waterloo students (almost 300 people) added me. Most people were incoming students, and some were upper year students. Since I like sharing my daily life on social media, some followers were interested in my posts and replied to my stories. Our friendships started from that moment! Some of them asked me to meet in person and we became close friends!

Charlotte (she/her), MATH/FARM Joint Statistics Major student

There you have it, the five tips you need to get started on the friend-making path. Use these to feel confident and ready to meet people in any situation university life might throw at you.


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