How to make friends at uni when you study online

Sure, you won’t see your classmates every week as an online student, but you can still build meaningful, lifelong friendships. Here’s where to find them.  

Two women laughing and hugging
 

There are a lot of things to get excited about when starting a new online course. You don’t have a commute or lecture timetable to follow. It’s a lot easier to fit your uni work around your daily life.    

But it’s also common to worry about the isolation factor—because how exactly do you make new friends when you’re not physically on campus? 

We’re here to tell you there are plenty of ways to bond with your classmates online, and build those friendships that will see you through the highs and lows of uni life.  

Here are six of the best ways to meet new friends at university when you study online.  

Where to make friends as an online student 

1. Through class discussion forums 

While you won’t have face-to-face tutorials, you'll have a chance to take part in class discussions through your university’s learning management system (LMS). Your teacher uses this platform to set up topics for everyone to comment on each week—but you can also start your own threads and private chats. 

Use these forums to introduce yourself, chat about readings or assignments, and even find likeminded people for a study group. It’s the best place to get to know classmates during your first few weeks.  

2. In private Facebook Groups 

All universities have official (or unofficial) private Facebook Groups, where other students organise study groups, social catch ups and extracurricular activities. This is a great spot for making new online friends, and even finding people who live in your local area.  

Here are the major groups to check out if you study online with one of our partner universities. Or you can join the Open Universities Australia Facebook group

University Social Facebook Groups to join
 Australian Catholic University   ACU Discussion Group 
 Australian National University   Australian National University New Students 2024
 New @ANU 2024
 Bond University   Bond University 
 Charles Sturt University   Charles Sturt Social 
 CQUniversity   CQUniversity Students Group 
 Curtin University 

 Curtin University New Students 2024
 Curtin Uni Mature Age Student Group

 Edith Cowan University   Edith Cowan University (ECU)
 Flinders University 

 Flinders University New Students 2024
 Overheard at Flinders University 

 Griffith University   Griffith University
 Griffith New Students 2024
 La Trobe University

 La Trobe Uni 2024
 La Trobe University New Students 2024

 Macquarie University   Macquarie University New Students 2024
 Macquarie University Undergraduate Discussion Group 2024
 Murdoch University 

 New Students at Murdoch University
 Murdoch University New Students 2024

 RMIT University   RMIT Discussion Group 
 RMIT New Students 2024
 Southern Cross University   New to SCU 
 Swinburne University of Technology  Swinburne University New Students 2024
 Torrens University  Torrens Student Support Group
 The University of Adelaide   University of Adelaide New Students 2024
 The University of Newcastle   New to the University of Newcastle - Semester 1 2024
 The University of Notre Dame Australia   Notre Dame Uni Students 
 University of New England   UNE Students  
 University of South Australia 

 UniSA Online Student Group
 University of South Australia New Students 2024

 University of Tasmania  

 UTAS Students
 University of Tasmania New Students 2024


Discord
and Reddit are also great places to discuss anything related to your uni. To find your university's 'Subreddit' (community), just Google '[University Name]' and 'Reddit'. 

3. In study groups and online clubs 

If you feel like those weekly class chats just aren’t cutting it and you want to get closer to some classmates, start or join a study group. You don’t have to meet up in person to study together—you can use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or some other free video conferencing tool to hang out and keep each other motivated. Check to see if your department has an existing study group by visiting your LMS.  

Another option is to start your own online club, like a book or movie club, where you can catch up with people more socially. Thousands of people are studying online across Australia, and a lot of them will be keen to meet new friends too, so they’ll be grateful when you suggest the idea!  

4. Through group assignments 

Though we can probably all agree that group assignments aren’t the most fun (there’s always someone who slacks off!), they are a great way to get to know a smaller group when you’re studying online.   

If your course has group assessments, you’ll be randomly assigned to a group, and it will be your responsibility to meet and collaborate virtually. The upside is that you’ll be nudged into meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet—and people who are more likely to share your interests. Just make sure you’re active and participate in these meetings, and you could end up with a study friend for the rest of your course.   

5. During internships 

Want to meet people in person while you’re studying online? Check if your course has an internship or placement elective. You can also ask your lecturers and tutors for their advice about securing an industry internship outside of your course.  

Not only will you learn on the job, but you’ll meet people you could end up working with in the future. Some online courses like the University of South Australia’s MBA program even give you the chance to sign up for international study tours—which are perfect for getting outside your comfort zone and meeting new friends! 

6. Through peer mentoring programs 

Your university knows how tough it can be to find friends online as a new student, which is why they offer peer mentorship programs. You can sign up during your first few weeks of classes to get matched up with a more experienced student, who will help you find your feet and build your confidence—and maybe even build a friendship. Just search your uni website for more info. Here are examples from Swinburne and RMIT


The best apps to make friends in Australia 

Wondering how to make friends online outside of uni? These friend-finder apps can help you expand your social circle while you’re busy studying from home:  

 

  1. Meetup 
  2. Bumble BFF 
  3. Clic
  4. Hey! Vina 
  5. Peanut


Online uni friends add so much joy to your life because they know exactly what it’s like to juggle study with life, work, family and everything in between. Try these tips for finding your people and see how you go. While building virtual friendships can take a bit of extra time and patience, it's worth it in the end.  

 

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