Lauren Richards Headshot

With my first year in college almost under my belt, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to succeed at NC State. I learned the value of choosing work over Netflix, the necessity of self-care and the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone.​​ The most profound lesson I’ve learned, however, is the value of a good support system, in whatever shape or size it may come in.

Coming to college, there’s this notion you have to make scores of new friends, and if you’re not doing so, you’re doing it wrong. When the school year first started, I fell victim to this mindset. I felt guilty; I wasn’t forming new friendships at the same pace as my peers because my social circle didn’t extend beyond a few people.

However, as I went along and my bond with my friends grew stronger, I discovered it wasn’t a big deal if I befriended many new people or not. I had a solid support system whom I could trust and depend on. While it may not be the size I initially wanted it to be, my circle has been enough to get me through the challenges of college life so far.

There is even scientific evidence to support this idea of quality over quantity. In one study from 2020, researchers found the quality of social interactions was a better predictor of greater social satisfaction and well-being, rather than quantity. Even when age differences between participants were accounted for, this finding still held up.

To determine if you’re surrounded by the right people, it’s important to understand what makes a quality relationship. A healthy friendship is one where the parties involved feel cared for, are open with each other, listen to one another and maintain respect. When a friendship contains all these elements, everyone reaps the benefits — a real friendship has no strings attached.

Furthermore, a friend doesn’t have to come from your immediate environment. Someone you met through social media is no less a friend than someone you meet in college. It doesn’t matter where you find and build your close relationships, as long as they’re quality relationships, you’re in good shape.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t open yourself up to new connections. College is the prime time to forge relationships, as they can not only benefit you emotionally but also academically and professionally. Furthermore, seeking out new friends can challenge you to break routine, introduce you to different perspectives and it gives you an opportunity to reinvent yourself. 

However, if you’re not making friends left and right, don’t blame yourself; the size of your social circle doesn’t determine your worth as a human being. There’s no quota you have to fill when it comes to friendships, so you don’t need to force the process. Besides, there are plenty of opportunities at NC State to meet new people in an organic way.

NC State is home to over 600 student organizations, not to mention a plethora of on-campus jobs and campus-wide events. With so many options to choose from, there is guaranteed to be a place somewhere for you at NC State. Finding a place that suits your interests is a great way to start cultivating your social network.

If you have trouble making friends due to health concerns, NC State also offers valuable resources that will support you along your college journey. The Counseling Center provides an array of mental health services where you can build people skills, from workshops on healthy relationships to individualized and group therapy. 

The pandemic has taken a detrimental toll on our collective well-being, not only physically but also mentally. As social creatures, we need other people to thrive. Without social interaction it’s harder to face all that life has to throw at us. When we nourish our support systems, in whatever form they take, only then can we have a fulfilling time in college and beyond.

Staff Columnist

My name is Lauren Richards and I am a first-year in Exploratory Studies. I joined Technician as a correspondent for the Opinion section as I'm interested in weaving stories that resonate with the student body and spark dialogue around issues that matter.