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How to Make Friends at Carleton

Leksi walks you through all the unorthodox ways she's made her friends here at Carleton and points you in the right direction for making your own!

Leksi walks you through all the unorthodox ways she's made her friends here at Carleton and points you in the right direction for making your own!

With college acceptances recently out and high school seniors everywhere making the infamous commitment decision, the incoming Carleton class of 2028 is starting to take shape. 

If those new admits are anything like me (and like most freshmen here that I’ve talked to, it seems), they’re obsessively pondering life in college and constantly trying to imagine what it will look like. Coming to Carleton from out of state meant that I would be moving in somewhere knowing next to no one, apart from the few classmates I’d briefly talked to on Instagram. It was definitely a nagging worry of mine that I’d struggle to make friends here.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

For the sake of the worried class of 2028 (and also just because I like these little romanticized anecdotes about friendships I’ve made so far this year), here are, in my *very* personal experience, some of the best ways to make friends at Carleton College, especially early on during your freshman fall term. 

1. Spill your drink on someone at your inaugural floor dinner

Picture this: it’s the Saturday after New Student Week, and this is the first time I’ve spent more than a moment without my NSW group. I’m sitting outside with a USEFULL box at a massive picnic table full of sophomores and freshmen on my floor, and I’ve never met a single one of them before. I’m nervous. I’m quiet (which is rare; I am fully ready to admit that generally, I’m quite a yapper). I scoot awkwardly into my spot and start eating. 

And then there’s sprite in my lap. 

I glance up to see the poor person across from me scrambling to grab the toppled cup from the table looking at me with panicked eyes. I stare for a second. And then I start laughing. And the person next to me starts laughing. And the person who spilled his cup smiles sheepishly at us so his roommate starts laughing. 

Ice = broken.

The rest of our lunch was filled with friendly banter, and I remember this as the exact moment that I physically felt myself relax at that dinner. Turns out the person who spilled his sprite on me and his roommate are my next-door neighbors. They’re some of my closest friends at Carleton to this day. Sorry to call you out with this story, Ian, but it had to be done. Thanks for spilling sprite on me so we could become friends!

2. Debate how bad a bad french fry can really be

Hanging out with your New Student Week group for a week straight can be a little daunting at first. Things will inevitably start out at least a little awkward while you get to know each other, but don’t count New Student Week out for that reason! It’s a great way to meet people who are, keep in mind, feeling JUST as homesick and displaced as you might be during what is for many of us a first week away from home. Realizing that makes it abundantly easier to connect with the other freshmen in your group.

Naturally, I did this by starting an argument about whether a french fry could ever truly be bad enough not to eat (someone across the table from me had eaten only ONE of their plate full of fries, and I couldn’t let that slide). Before long we had the whole table taking sides about whether even the worst french fry could actually be bad food. (Quick disclaimer: the dining hall french fries are actually pretty decent. I promise.)

The point is, start a conversation with the people you do everything with during that crucial first week! I know you and your new friend will both be thankful you did.

3. Butt into a random conversation on the new student week arb tour

This is how I met one of my really close friends here on campus! While walking through the arb with a massive pack of random freshmen on a tour, I found myself rather dismayed at the fact that my new friends didn’t seem overly interested in going to the upcoming football game with me. I pleaded as we continued to talk about it, but they remained on the fence. Thankfully I was saved from planning on going alone by the girl in front of me, who turned around and volunteered to come. So, in a more general sense, be outgoing! Striking up conversations with someone you don’t know can only help you, not hurt you. Put yourself out there, and if you think an event might be fun (like the football game), go for it!

  1. Come up with a terrible but hilarious costume for your floor to wear during Nolympics

NOlympics is THE event of the first few weeks at Carleton. Even after the fact, the buzz about who should’ve won, who deserved the spirit award, and whose costumes were the best lingers! My floor had the brilliant idea to dress up as pears; we all wore green and had little pipe cleaners and leaves in our hair… and because our RA’s name is Per, we all wore name tags with different spellings (including but not limited to Pear, Pair, Pare, Pejr, Peighr, and more ridiculous). Personally, I’m convinced we were robbed of that spirit award. Either way, though, tying pipe cleaners in each other’s hair, taking BeReals of our attire, and competing in the games was a real bonding experience, I guess, because this event is how I met many of my closest friends at Carleton, including my future roommate!

students dressed in green with leaves in hair
A BeReal post from NOlympics day! As you can see, our costumes were top tier, and we definitely should’ve won.

5. Spend wayyyyy too long stuck in the Libe writing a group paper for your A&I seminar

It’s a given at this point that Carleton students are driven. How driven? Definitely driven enough to slave away in the library for hours on a group essay for their A&I course, chasing a perfect score. Argument and Inquiry seminars are classes that all freshmen take during their first term at Carleton; we select our top choices and are randomly placed in one of them. They end up being small groups of about 15 students each. We were assigned two group essays in mine, and during the second one I’ll admit that the time my group spent writing and revising went a little overboard.

I remember meeting my two groupmates in the collaborative wing of 4th Libe to buckle down to work. By the end, it’s safe to say that all three of us were mentally exhausted. But, on the bright side, in the hours it took us to write our paper, we’d gotten very comfortable talking to each other! What started as a tense writing session ended up being a pretty relaxed conversation by the end. I guess we needed a little laughter to keep us sane while we wrote! One of those groupmates would turn out to be yet another member of my amazing close group of friends here. I’m so glad we were lucky enough to meet and work together during that first month of school!


Originally as I was writing this I planned on explaining all ten of these experiences in-depth, but I think you get the gist. Here’s four honorable mentions that have given me some truly amazing friendships this year.

6. Visit the superlounge and run up some Mario Kart!

7. Make a random iMessage group chat (or many random iMessage group chats)

8. Go to dinner with friends of friends (and compete to see who can beat the day’s Contexto the fastest!)

9. Walk around the club fair (and chat with people running the booths)!

10. Join a club sport!

The point is that there’s no blueprint for connecting with people here at Carleton College. As I’ve learned through my own experiences, the process is filled with all kinds of unexpected moments and opportunities to connect with some really amazing people. From spilling a drink at a floor dinner to artfully crafting your top-tier NOlympics costumes, embracing opportunities to engage with others is key. 

To the incoming class of 2028, remember that the journey of friendship is as unique and diverse as each individual on campus. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to making friends here, but I guarantee you’ll find people that fit you personally!

Leksi (she/her) is a first-year Carleton student from Colorado Springs, Colorado and a prospective pre-law Psychology or Cognitive Science major. So far, she could not be happier with her college decision! Northfield and Carleton have done an amazing job providing Leksi with the only five things she needs to thrive: local coffee, music, wilderness, the gym, ice hockey, and (of course!) her friends. She is involved in club ice hockey and the Carleton Association of Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts (CANOE). If you’re unsure where to find Leksi on campus, your best bet is the group tables on Fourth Libe or hopelessly lost somewhere deep in the arb. Meet the Other Bloggers!