I host family workshops to help kids transition to a new school, and it’s the best part of my job. The kids start the session uncertain where to sit and not knowing what to expect. By the end, they’re laughing and making friends with the other new kids in town. After my most recent workshop, two girls ran up to me and said, “We’re both eight and we’re starting at the same school AND WE HAVE THE SAME TEACHER!” Their smiles made my day. Even if you can’t make it to one of my workshops, you can learn how to make friends at a new school with these simple tips.
5 Ways to Make Friends at a New School
Gather your confidence before school starts
Whether you plan to start at the beginning of the school year or in the middle, you want to feel confident before you walk through the school entrance. You can get yourself ready at home by smiling and striking a power pose. Then, familiarize yourself with your new surroundings.
When you smile, it makes you feel happier . . . even if you’re faking it. So, when you brush your teeth in the morning, give yourself an extra big smile to help you get through any challenging days. Then, strike a power pose for fifteen seconds. To do this, put your hands on your hips, spread your feet shoulder width apart, and stick out your chest just like a super hero would. It will give you the confidence boost you need before starting at a new school. Finally, visit your school playground or ask to get a tour before school starts. If you aren’t able to go inside, check out the school’s website so you can see a picture of your teacher or figure out the lunch menu.
Photography by Evans Vestal Ward/NBC
2. Use your body language to attract friends to you
You don’t need to say a word to make friends at a new school, but you do need to show that you are interested in meeting people. You can do this with one word: SEA. Smile, Eye contact, Arms Open. When you smile, it shows other kids you are friendly. To show the other person that you care about what they’re saying, make eye contact. Then, keep your arms by your side (instead of crossing them in front of your chest) to show the world that you are open to making friends.
I met one of my closest friends, Sarah, because I saw her standing in the college admissions office with a beautiful smile during freshman admit weekend. I hurried over to introduce myself because she looked so friendly. She said “Hi” with the best British accent ever, and we’ve been friends ever since. Your open body language can encourage someone at school to run over to you, too. It works like a charm.
3. Make the first step by saying “Hi!”
If no one has approached you yet, then make the effort to speak to the people at school. Say, “Hello” to your teacher, to your locker buddy, and to the kids in the desks near yours. Set a goal for yourself: Say “Hi” to a different person every day for the first ten days of school. If you feel comfortable, introduce yourself and say that you are new to the school. Say, “Hi! I’m Ali. I moved here last month from Chicago.” There will probably be some kids who aren’t sure if you are new or not. They don’t want to embarrass themselves by welcoming you, so help them out by sharing some information about yourself.
4. Get involved in activities that excite you
When you start at a new school, you can be whoever you want to be. That’s one of my favorite things about starting over somewhere new. So, this is your chance to begin activities you’ve always wanted to try like chess club or water polo. You may also want to continue playing soccer or doing the debate team like you did at your old school. Whatever you choose to do, get involved because it’s something that you love. Forget about making friends. Friends will be attracted to you and your enthusiasm, so focus on what brings you joy.
5. Recognize that it takes time to make friends at a new school
I wish I could tell you that you’ll meet your new best friend on the first day of school, but the reality is that friendships take time to build. Think of your closest friends right now and how you built a relationship together over time. Maybe you were both on the same softball team or you were in a play together. It didn’t happen overnight. You will make friends at a new school by being the amazing person that you are. As you build your relationships, just remember to smile, be kind, and to have fun doing the things you love to do.
How did you meet your first friend when you started at a new school?