One of the great myths about community college is the idea that you can’t get that “college” experience when you aren’t living on campus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting involved and making friends is not about where you sleep at night, it’s about your investment into your education. The first priority of any student should be good grades and academic excellence, but developing friendships and an active student life on campus can get you closer to that goal.

If you’re thinking that joining a club fits nowhere in your schedule, take heart, we’re not going to mention the most obvious way to get involved (though you really should join a club!). There are OTHER things you can do to make connections without adding more to your plate.

Arrive early to class or stay a few minutes after

Find another person in your class and connect with them about a study night. Or if you have time before your next class, ask them to get a coffee so you can look over each other’s notes. When you have a common goal with another student, it’s more likely you’ll strike up a friendship, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

Choose a work study program that puts you in the middle of campus life

Whether it’s the library, bookstore, or cafeteria, your work-study position will not only help you pay for school, it’ll give you a natural opportunity to bump into students and staff. These common areas are usually bustling with activity, and if you pay attention, you’ll be able to make connections.

Eat lunch (or breakfast or dinner) in the cafeteria

Don’t settle for drive-thru MacDonald’s or a smushed bologna sandwich in your car. Go to the cafeteria and eat in public with other students!

Study in the library or common areas

This is a good idea if you’re the kind of personality who can focus in a busy public area. Otherwise, you might have to skip this one. At Middlesex, the new Pavilion is a gorgeous light-filled room with tables and chairs set in such a way so that you can sit next to someone and say hello without feeling like you’ve invaded their space.

Don’t shun orientation days

Orientations happen at the beginning of semesters and what better way to find all the people that are in the same position as you? We can sometimes label these college-run introductions as “cheesy” events, but they are usually full of helpful information and other students.

Utilize office hours

Aside from the degree in your hand at the end of two years, your connections with faculty may prove to be invaluable as well. Getting to know your professors may give you the inside scoop on an event or club that your professor is passionate about. If it’s a likeminded interest, there’s a good possibility that you’ll connect with other students that share a common passion.

Take out your earbuds when you’re walking on campus

We understand that sometimes — zoning out — is what you need. But earbuds signal to the world, “I’m in my own world so leave me alone.” Just the simple act of walking around without them, head up, making eye contact with students passing you by in the hall, can lead to friendships down the road.

Connect on social media

Sometimes we just can’t get out to an event or a club meeting, but connecting with other students and faculty online can keep us in the loop. Sign up to receive email updates from your college’s blog, follow the college and fellow students on your favorite platform, and engage with conversations and people that are interesting to you. When an event does come around that you can attend, you’ll be in the know because of social media!

And yes, join a club…

Okay, we promised not to mention it, but clubs are a great way to enjoy your school outside of class. Most colleges will have a listing of activities on the website, plus announcements on social media and a blog. It only takes a minute to sign up for notifications so at least you’re kept in the loop!