High school can be a difficult place to make friends. On the one hand, you see the same people every day. We’re more likely to like people when we see each other regularly. This is known as the proximity principle.
On the other hand, high school can be stressful. Everyone is figuring out who they are, and there may be bullying going on. The stress of school and things that may be going on at home can make it an unpleasant place where it may feel like everyone is just trying to get through the day.
Some general tips for making friends may not apply in high school. For example, in high school, you aren’t fully independent. You may have to rely on your parents or public transportation to get around, and you likely don’t have much spending money. If you live in a small town, there may not be many events you can attend.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the experience of making friends in high school can vary wildly from year to year. In freshman year, everyone is new and more likely to be nervous. People may know each other from before or not.
In the junior year and sophomore year, people may already be split up into groups. If you’re at a new school during those years, it may feel harder to meet people. Often, by senior year, people relax a lot more. With graduation on the horizon, people may feel more open to new people and experiences.
Of course, every school is different, and it’s possible to make new friends as a teenager at any stage. Here are our best tips for meeting people and making friends in high school, no matter which year you are in.
1. Focus on getting to know one person
While your intention is to get more friends eventually, it’s usually easier to get to know one person first. Once you feel more secure in your ability to make friends, you can branch out and get to know more people.
Make sure you’re not putting all your hopes on one person, though. The first person you try to befriend may not be interested in becoming friends. Or they may want to be your friend, but won’t be able to meet as often as you like. Remember that this is a practice rather than trying to push for a specific goal.
2. Look for others who are sitting alone
You may be focused on wanting to become popular and making lots of new friends. The popular kids who are surrounded by friends tend to draw our attention. But often, it’s easier to make friends one by one rather than trying to make several at once or joining groups.
It’s worth considering whether some of those kids sitting alone at lunch or recess may be good friends. When you see someone sitting alone, ask if you can join them. Strike up a conversation to see if you have any mutual hobbies.
3. Make eye contact and smile
Making friends isn’t just about talking to people. Working on your body language to look friendly will help others feel more comfortable around you and even increase the chances that others will approach you.
If you have social anxiety, you may be having trouble with eye contact. We have an in-depth guide on how to become more comfortable making eye contact in conversation.
4. Join a club or team
Find like-minded friends and develop new skills by joining an after-school activity. Check out which clubs and teams your high school has and see if you can join any of them. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll enjoy something, give it a try. You can try or sit in on most clubs before deciding to join.
5. Sit with a group of people at lunch
Joining a group of people can be intimidating, but it can be a good way to get to know new people without the pressure of needing to lead the conversation.
If you see a group of people who seem nice and friendly, ask if you can join them. When you join a group, don’t try to dominate the conversation. After introducing yourself, you can take a mental step back and see how they are communicating with each other. If you’re joining a group, make sure you’re being nice to everyone instead of focusing on only one person, which can make others feel left out.
6. Be yourself
If you’re feeling different than your peers, it’s tempting to try and fit in by tweaking a few things about yourself. But this can often backfire. Even if you make friends with your “new and improved” version of yourself, you’ll likely still have nagging doubts that your friends wouldn’t like the real you.
For more, read 15 practical tips on being yourself.
7. Invite someone to meet outside of school
Once you feel comfortable talking to someone in school (after a few conversations or several weeks, depending on how the conversations went and your comfort level), consider asking them to meet up after school. For example, you could say, “do you want to meet up and work on the history essay together?” or “I have this new co-op game, would you like to try it?”
Inviting people over can be intimidating, particularly when you don’t know them very well. Having short conversations is one thing, but you may not know if you can keep it up for a few hours. Keep in mind that many kids feel just as shy or awkward as you do. They may be afraid to take the first step, too.
It can help to prepare some conversation topics or activities for you and your friend to fall back on in case there’s a lull when you invite someone over for the first time. Look at some conversation starters in advance so you’ll have some ideas of things to talk about in case you get nervous. Suggest doing homework together, playing video games, or going to the pool.
If you ask someone if they’re free to hang out and they say no, try not to take it personally. Instead, identify someone else you think you may want to be friends with.
8. Avoid gossiping
In high school, it may seem like everyone around you is gossiping. Even if everyone seems to be doing it, gossiping can easily backfire, not to mention hurt others.
Don’t engage when people around you are gossiping about others. It may be hard, but you can find friends who are more interested in building others up rather than bringing them down.
9. Show others that you like them
Make people feel good about themselves by giving sincere compliments. Studies show that liking is often reciprocated when said liking is authentic and appropriate.
If you truly appreciate something about someone, let them know! Tell someone you liked what they said in class. To keep things appropriate, make sure you compliment people for things they have chosen to wear or do. For example, it’s always better to tell someone you like their shirt rather than compliment a body part. Also, always refrain from commenting on someone’s weight, as it is a sensitive topic for many.
If you give someone a compliment and they seem uncomfortable, take a step back. Don’t give someone many compliments if they don’t show appreciation or mutual interest, as they may consider it overwhelming.
10. Ask questions
People generally like talking about themselves and feel flattered when others show interest. Pay attention to the things your new friends bring up and ask more about them.
For example, if someone you’re talking to keeps talking about anime, you can understand that it means something to them. Ask questions to understand more.
Some questions you can ask are:
- When did you start getting into anime?
- What is your favorite anime?
- What do you like about anime compared to live-action shows?
- Do you also read mangas?
Keep in mind that some people are more closed-off and private than others and may feel uncomfortable with questions. Don’t take it personally, but do pay attention to signs that the questions are making them feel uncomfortable (for example, they are avoiding eye contact or giving very short answers). Ideally, your questions will lead to a back-and-forth conversation where your conversation partner will volunteer information and show interest in you.
You might get some inspiration from this list of questions to ask a new friend.
11. Avoid compromising situations
If you’re lonely, it can be tempting to jump on to any invitation or social opportunity. It’s important to stay true to yourself and avoid situations that are dangerous or make you feel uncomfortable. Steer clear of drug-fuelled parties and people who try to pressure you to do things you’re not comfortable with. Those friendships aren’t worth it.
12. Choose who you want to be friends with
Having few friends doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be discerning about who you are friends with. After all, your friendships should add good things to your life rather than stress.
If you’re not sure whether you want to be friends with someone, our article 22 signs it’s time to stop being friends with someone may help.
13. Go to social events
Going to school events alone can be scary, but give it a shot. It can be a good opportunity to get to know people in a different context than class.
Give yourself permission to leave early if you aren’t enjoying it, but don’t be afraid to try and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
14. Use social media
The Internet can be a great tool for making friends. Make a social media profile and post a bit about yourself and your hobbies. Add your classmates and send them a message to strike up a conversation.
You might also like this article on making friends online.
15. Be patient
It takes time to become friends; you probably won’t make close friends on the first day. Getting to know each other and building trust are processes that can’t be rushed. It can be tempting to try and rush it by oversharing or trying to talk every day. However, the intensity can also burn out quickly. It’s better to take the time to build a solid foundation first.
Is it hard to make friends in high school?
It can be hard to make friends in high school. Often, people stick to their friend groups and don’t seem open to getting to know new people. Some people can be judgmental, making it intimidating to try to talk to new people.
How do I make friends in the first few days of starting school?
Look around you in class and see who seems open to talking to new people. Take a chance and make the first move by saying hi to someone who is sitting alone or in a small group. Ask a question about class or homework to get a conversation going.
How can I be the nicest person in school?
Be the nicest person in school by saying hello and smiling at everyone. Treat everyone with respect, whether they seem successful or whether they are struggling. Remember that there are many reasons why someone may struggle, so try not to judge.
Why do I have no friends?
Common reasons for having no friends include low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression. You may need to brush up on some social skills such as good listening, asking questions, maintaining eye contact, and learning good boundaries.
Why can’t I make friends?
One common reason people can’t make friends is that they feel that they have nothing to offer. As a result, they are either too afraid to make the first move or come on too strong. Try to see yourself as equal to the people you try to befriend.
Is it normal to have no friends in high school?
It is normal not to have friends in high school. Many people find high school difficult. The good news is that you can learn to make friends. Some people who struggle socially in high school seem to bloom after they graduate and find making friends as an adult easier.
How can a loner survive high school?
If you’re a loner, get through high school by befriending yourself. Explore new hobbies and interests so that you enjoy your time by yourself. At the same time, stay open to the idea of meeting like-minded people. Be nice and friendly to people you meet. Give others a chance to surprise you.