Mar 15, 2021 09:54 AM EDT
Expanding Your Social Circle in College -- Even When You're Off-Campus
Whether you are taking college courses online due to personal choice or the pandemic, you've undoubtedly developed new ways to manage your studies and get the most out of your reading, lectures, and assignments.
But one area where many students struggle with online education is the social aspect. Meeting new people and expanding your social circle is one of the benefits of going to college, after all, but it's challenging to establish new friendships when everyone in your classes are studying from different corners of the country.
That doesn't mean it's impossible, though. Making new friends and growing your network might require some different techniques and a little more effort when you go to a school like The University of Arizona Global Campus but with these tips, you can graduate with a degree and a healthy network.
How to Put Yourself Out There When Taking Classes Online
When you're taking classes on campus, especially when you live in a dorm, it's easy to meet people and make friends almost by default. Online, you need to make the effort to make those connections. Every semester, keep these ideas in mind.
Take Advantage of Introductions
It's likely that your instructors are going to start the class with a discussion centered on introductions. Don't skip this conversation! Introduce yourself to the rest of the class, and take the time to read their introductions as well. Don't hesitate to respond to your classmates, either. Ask questions, point out common interests, and make an effort to engage. It's very likely you'll encounter these same classmates again, so be friendly and try to get to know them from the beginning.
Actively Participate in Discussions
Class discussions are a key part of online learning, and may even be part of your grade. Aim to go beyond the minimum requirements, though. Actively participating in the discussions allows you to get to know people a little better and build stronger relationships. Not to mention, listening to other perspectives helps you learn and refine your own thoughts.
Use Social Media
Connecting with classmates on social media can help you gain insight into their personalities and interests outside of class. Don't be afraid to reach out to classmates, or start a discussion thread where people can share their usernames on Twitter, Instagram, and other social sites so their classmates can follow them. If you aren't comfortable connecting with people at first, consider starting a private Facebook group for your cohort or class where people can hang out and share information, resources, and make connections.
Get Active with University Resources
It's likely that your school or program has online resources to help students stay connected already. Seek them out and get involved. Participating in your university's online conversations and activities will get you noticed by other students -- and by those who can help you grow your career after graduation.
One of the advantages of online classrooms and discussions is that you have the chance to collect your thoughts before responding to others or answering questions. While this is helpful to those who may be a bit anxious or shy when it comes to participating, it can also affect how authentic you are in your responses, and how others perceive you.
Therefore, when communicating online, it's important to be empathetic and focused on allowing your true self to come through. This means listening to your classmates and being sensitive to their different perspectives, cultural norms, and commitments outside of school. It also means taking care with your writing and speaking to be clear and concise, and being cognizant of your tone and how you convey your thoughts.
With that in mind, keep things simple; don't over complicate your ideas by using jargon, buzzwords, or complex language when it's not called for. How you communicate with others online plays a major role in their perceptions of you, so be authentic so you can attract attention for the right reasons -- and make new friends.
Start a study group
Study groups are where many friendships are formed in on-campus students, and there's no reason online students can't have the same experience. Video conferencing tools and collaboration software can make studying with a small group of classmates simple. Even if you don't become lifelong friends with your study mates, you can give your grades a boost.
Join social activities
An online "cocktail party" with a bunch of strangers might seem awkward, but give it a chance. Your school may home other online options for students to get to know each other, such as book clubs, clubs or societies for specific majors, and online concerts, art exhibits, and more. Make a point of participating when you can. You never know who you will meet.
Meeting people when you're taking classes online requires a bit more effort than you might be used to putting in, but the payoff is more than worthwhile. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. You just might inspire someone else to do the same.
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