Freshmen use online networking to make college friends

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (MCT) – A couple weeks before she begins her freshman year at Queens University of Charlotte, Lauren Nation already has met more than 150 of her classmates.

She knows students who will live in the same dorm, share her major, and compete on Queens sports teams. Nation has even talked with some upperclassmen to get insight on college life.

These connections weren’t all made during a visit to campus. Like a lot of incoming freshmen, Nation is meeting other students on the Web.

“I really didn’t want to show up on campus not knowing anyone, that’s never fun,” Nation said.

For some, using the Internet may be easier and less threatening than trying to form friendships in person.

“There are a lot of people who are shy when it comes to meeting people and talking to them in person,” said Nick Jones, who will attend Johnson C. Smith University. At the University of South Carolina, the social sites are helping some incoming freshmen find roommates.

Tim Coley, director of university housing, said he has found that students will find people that seem to be good matches, then head to the social sites to learn more.

At the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, some students have even asked for a new roommate after finding information they didn’t like on MySpace or Facebook, said Jackie Simpson, that school’s director of housing and residence life.

Many students say the sites have helped them to get more excited about college.

Leslie Pittman, who started the Queens class of 2011 group, even found students interested in forming a dance program at the school.

Pittman, a Presidential Scholar at Queens, said while she’s just as comfortable meeting people in person as on the Web, she knows the online groups are making a mark.

“When I get to campus, I will recognize at least 100 names when introduced to me, and that’s a lot better than a blank slate of loneliness,” she said.