Moving schools in senior high is fairly common, but that doesn’t make it any less daunting — you have a new uniform, new bell times, new teachers. On top of all this, you need to make new friends. Even for the most social of students, this can be a big undertaking.
Whether you’ve just started at a new school or you’re considering a move next year, we’ve combined research with personal experience to give you the best tips on making friends.
We also chatted to Lynette Tuckwell, a school Careers Advisor, who helped us understand this better.
Check it out!
Before we get into practical advice, there are two important things to consider.
Who are you?
The first thing you ought to think about is who you are. This may sound cheesy, but it’s important that you have a good sense of self before introducing yourself to others!
The University of Sydney has a great article on learning about yourself at university, but we think it’s also relevant to high school.
Extracted from this article, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I like about myself? (physically, emotionally, intellectually)
- What am I passionate about?
- How do I generally cope with change?
- What would I like to keep improving in senior high?
As you consider these questions and think more about yourself, you don’t have to have everything figured out!
High school is a massive growing curve, both for yourself and your friends. You will make some mistakes and grow out of old habits, but it’s still great if you have an understanding of who you are as a person.
“It is important to mix with people who have similar values and attitudes. It is also a way to make mistakes and learn about life and people. That’s what shapes us into the people we end up as,” she explained.
Once you’ve worked this out, you’ll be in a much better position to find the kind of people who will grow with you, and who you want to spend time with.
What is the culture of your new school?
This question isn’t designed to contradict the last. As much as it’s great to be yourself, it’s also important to consider how you fit into a broader school culture.
Is your school one of academic rigour, or is it focused primarily on sport? Do a lot of students get to school early to socialise? Is this school particularly keen on clubs and extracurricular activities?
To figure out the culture of your new school, pay attention to social media trends and school announcements. You can also chat to people in older years!
You will find the nuances of your school as you spend longer there, but it can be really useful to know little things like the common coffee shops people go to, or bigger notions like if there’s a worldview most people share.
You don’t have to try and fit into every element of your school’s culture. This is almost impossible, and chances are there’s plenty of diverse groups to choose from.
However, it is useful if you find some parts of school life that your personality clicks with to focus on in your early days. In time, you may even help to improve negative parts of the culture!
Okay — with that pep talk out of the way, it’s onto the practical tips!
7 Tips for Making New Friends
Tip #1: Chat to people in class
This one is pretty straight forward. If you’re taking the same subject as someone in senior high, there’s a decent chance you have at least some interests in common.
The first step is getting involved in collaborative activities. More senior subjects will involve group work, especially in scientific and creative subjects.
Intentionally sitting yourself on a chatty table can also be useful. If you don’t feel ready for that, begin by talking to the person next to you. Discussing course work is a really easy ice-breaker before moving onto more personal topics in later classes!
It is great to have friends in each of your classes, even if you don’t see them during breaks. In fact, some of the strongest friendships often form during class-time.
Tip #2: Join clubs or sport teams
Most Australian schools have sports teams that you can join or try out for (and you should!).
Teams encourage you to show up consistently, to work with others and to strive towards a common goal. That screams ‘friendship builder’ like nothing else.
If sport really isn’t your thing, we get it. You could try a different kind of club, like debating or art. These also encourage firm friendships to be formed.
Lynnette suggested that these clubs can be great opportunities for growth.
“Trying new things and meeting new people is how we learn and grow. It’s not just teenagers, it’s lifelong. [Events] won’t always work out but that is part of the journey and helps us to build resilience and a better understanding of what is important to us,” she said.
Reachout.com suggests a great way for students to feel comfortable in a club is by approaching the organiser and discussing what they’re all about. Most clubs are fairly laid back, and many participants are probably also there to make new friends.
Tip #3: Get involved on social media
Believe it or not, most schools are active on socials!
It is worth following your new school to find out about upcoming events and opportunities. By liking or commenting on posts, you’ll establish initial rapport with the social admins.
Even better, get involved in student group chats, Facebook groups and the rest!
Being added to (or even creating) a casual group chat is a great way to communicate with your peers outside of school time. It’s also far less confrontational than messaging someone individually, so this could be a great way to slowly build your confidence.
You all know how socials work, so we won’t bang on with any more advice here. We will, however, give you two quick words of warning; don’t let social media replace in-person friendships, and don’t be the person who uses socials as an outlet for gossip. It’s easy to do as the new person, but you will likely damage friendships in the long-term.
Tip #4: Catch public transport
This one has two great perks!
In New South Wales, travel to and from school on public transport is free for school students, so you’ll be cutting petrol costs.
More importantly, the commute to and from school can be a really great way to diversify your friendships across years and interest groups. It also provides consistency, because you know you’ll be seeing these people twice a day, five days a week.
A great morning commute group can really make a difference to the mood of your day. Starting off positive is only ever going to be beneficial.
If you live too far from school for this, carpooling can also be a great option. This is especially fun once people start getting their licenses and you can grab brekkie on the way to school.
Tip #5: Talk to other new people
If you’re starting at a senior high school, this step will be pretty easy for you because everyone else will also be new.
However, even at a Years 7-12 school, there’s likely to be a few other new students. You may not stay friends with them for a long time, but joining together initially can really help you all gain confidence to chat to new people.
If someone else has moved from your previous school, it can be useful to communicate with each other and find how you are both going. Even if you’ve never been amazing friends, the shared experience is likely something you will be grateful for.
Tip #6: Don’t just have one group of friends
As you move out of high school and into university or work, you will likely have several different groups of friends. Senior high is a great place to start developing this!
It’s great to maintain friendships across many areas of your school life, like class and clubs we’ve mentioned. However, it is also great to keep an open friendship group during breaks and out of school hours, too.
Many senior high schools are already pretty good at fostering open friendships, where people are flexible to move between groups.
If your school isn’t so crash hot at this, or if you’ve moved to another Year 7-12 school, you can help create a better friendship environment.
Cliques may seem great for a little while, but they are problematic if a fight happens, or if people are left out (and as the new kid, you don’t want that to be you).
We think the biggest thing to note is having the maturity to figure out healthy friendships. You don’t want to be such a floater that you don’t establish great connections, but you also don’t want to end up as Regina George 2.0.
This may seem kind of daunting, but don’t worry — you’ll figure it out!
Tip #7: Be intentional and flexible
The final tip, and probably the most important, is to follow through on your friendships.
There’s a couple of elements to this. Most simply, you should remember people’s names, interests and what you recently spoke about. This will show your new friends that you care, making them far more likely to invite you into their lives.
Remembering common interests can also be a great way of building connections between your friends, so you can start forming a bit of a social web, so to speak.
Reachout.com lays out some basic formula for being a good, intentional friend. Here’s what we think are the most important actions in a new friendship:
|Show up for your friends||If they’ve had a really tough day, you make sure to see them after class or follow through with a message.|
|Be loyal||Your friends need to be able to trust you, knowing that you will be there when you say you are and meeting them where they are at.|
|Willingly make plans||Find common interests, or common venues, set a time, and be on time.|
|Invest in what they value||If your friend really values active listening, make sure you listen to what they say and follow through with that they ask of you. If they really love gifts, perhaps shout them a coffee.|
|Don’t be judgemental||Listen to what your friends are telling you with an open mind. Even if you don’t agree, be willing to consider their opinion. Be careful to be respectful.|
To be a good friend, you also need to look after yourself.
“Young people really need to address any mental health issues such as anxiety and stress. These problems can get in the way of making connections. There needs to be a strong wellness ethos in the school to look after our students,” Lynette explained.
Finally, be flexible! Your new friends will make mistakes just like you do. They will have tough days where they aren’t at their best.
They are also still high school students and are learning just like you are.
Making new friends may be tiring and complex, but it is rewarding. We hope you finish off your high school experience surrounded by great people!
Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.