As we get older, it can become increasingly difficult to make friends. Many can experience this phenomenon as grad students. Having recently graduated with your bachelor’s degree, you want to make connections with other grad students. You want to develop strong friendships with people who understand the challenges and rewards you experience throughout grad school. After all, a support network can keep you motivated when the going gets tough — and these friends will continue to have your back long after you've graduated. However, because of the way that many grad schools operate, particularly online programs, it can be difficult to know where to start your friend-making journey.

First, of course, you need to find potential friends. This can prove surprisingly challenging, regardless of whether you attend grad school online or in-person. From busy schedules to the simple (and common) fear of rejection, numerous roadblocks stand in the way. If you overcome these obstacles, however, you could build an amazing social network.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed as you seek friendships, but sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of vulnerability and a leap of faith. To help you out, we've outlined a few ways to meet people in grad school.

How to Make Friends in Online Grad School

It's easy to make excuses for neglecting your social life when you attend school online. While you may interact with fellow students regularly via discussion boards or video chat, there's something special about in-person conversations — both casual and in-depth. It’s typically easier to foster stronger connections face-to-face, rather than when chatting exclusively online.

The good news? It's possible to span the divide between digital discussions and real-world friendships. It simply takes a bit more initiative on your end. These ideas should help:

  • Host a digital movie or game night.
    You rely on video chat to take the place of traditional classroom discussions, but why should it end there? These days, opportunities abound for socializing online. Virtual game nights, for example, encourage you and your fellow grad students to have fun in an interactive way from the comfort of your own home. Virtual watch parties are also possible, thanks to services such as Twitch, Netflix Watch Party, and Scener, allowing you to simultaneously view a movie from separate locations.
  • Find friends from local grad schools.
    If you're attending an online program but like the idea of meeting like-minded students in person, look to nearby grad schools to bridge the divide. If a local school has a similar program, you could seek out students willing to let you join their study groups or social outings. Some may even be interested to learn about your experience as an online grad student.
  • Learn where fellow students are located.
    If you're like many exclusively online graduate students, you live far away from your school's physical location. This may be true of other students enrolled in your program. Some may even live in your state or hometown. There's only one way to find out: ask! As you interact with other students on discussion boards or via video chat, talk about your little corner of the world — and don't hesitate to ask about the places these other students call home. If you discover that somebody lives nearby, you can follow up and arrange for an in-person meetup.
  • Start a Discord channel for your graduate school program.
    Resources like Discord make it easier to recreate the casual interactions that often prompt friendships at brick and mortar schools. First, check whether the Discord community already has the specific type of group you desire. If it doesn't, this is the perfect opportunity to start one of your own. This online hangout space will allow you and other grad students to discuss classes, theories, or any number of off-topic discussions. It's easy to branch out from the main Discord group and create smaller discussion circles, which will help you continue to cultivate friendships. If you're unfamiliar with Discord, a Facebook group would also do the trick.

How to Make In-Person Friends During Grad School

On campus grad school programs ostensibly offer ample opportunities for meeting new friends. After all, if you attend classes in person, you'll see the same people on a regular basis. Despite this, many students struggle to make the leap from academic acquaintance to friend. If you're ready to take the next step and meet people in grad school, give these strategies a try:

  • Form a study group.
    If you and your fellow students can find time to meet face-to-face, an in-person study group can provide an extra source of motivation. Volunteer to host at a local coffee shop. In your study group you can use flashcards to study, proofread one another’s work, or even practice presentations if you're nervous about public speaking. Make sure to build in time for socializing so your group isn't exclusively dedicated to studying.
  • Organize a potluck.
    Chances are, other students are just as eager as you are for somebody to break the ice. Don't be afraid to take on this role. A potluck party is the perfect solution, as food is a universal language. With people from all different backgrounds attending grad school, you're sure to stumble across an intriguing new dish or recipe.
  • Host a game night.
    From classic board games to modern card games and trivia contests, there are a variety of options to get you laughing alongside fellow students and colleagues. If you already have a robust game collection, you can invite your new friends over for a game night. If you're not already equipped with games, you can host the potluck version of a game night, in which each guest brings a game. Video games represent another great option if other students are interested.
  • Cheer on school sports teams.
    Show your school spirit while attending local football or basketball games. College sports are a bonding experience, with people from all walks of life gathered to cheer on their team. It doesn't matter if you find the sporting events themselves interesting — it's about the camaraderie. A pre-game tailgate or post-game get-together at the local sports bar can also be a great way to get to know your fellow grad students.
  • Explore local attractions and restaurants.
    Perhaps you and the other students in your program moved for grad school. If you're still getting familiar with your new hometown, why not explore the area with cohorts in a similar situation? Take a break from studying and hit up the region's most acclaimed attractions together. Museums, parks, and historic houses are all fair game. Combine your expedition with a culinary adventure at a popular restaurant. If other students live in the area or are more familiar with local attractions, encourage them to act as hometown guides.
  • Get involved with relevant professional organizations.
    Professional organizations are worth joining regardless. After all, these groups allow you to learn about career opportunities while expanding your network. They can be so much more, though, as such organizations often host events encouraging you to let loose and build friendships with other members. Some of the attendees may be grad school students while others may already be working in the field and willing to give you advice. It never hurts to have a wide network of contacts in your chosen profession — and you'll quickly find that it's easier to make new friends if you share a common interest.

Numerous activities and platforms allow you to make friends virtually or in person. If you feel inspired by the options outlined above, set a goal of trying at least one approach before the end of the next semester. You might be surprised by how receptive and grateful your fellow grad students may be to your efforts.

If you are interested in learning more about the graduate degrees offered at University of the Cumberlands, contact an admissions counselor or request more information today.