College is a dark and twisty road. Every year millions of freshmen enter public and private educational institutions to receive the education necessary to fulfill their dreams. Victory is not assured. By their sophomore year, one in three students will not return to finish their degree. By the time graduation creeps around, less than two-thirds of students will graduate.
How do you prevent a swift or drawn-out academic death? The first step is to realize the potential to fail is a very real danger. The second step is to analyze why students drop out and decide which dangers you will be most susceptible to. Out of all of the dangers, I would recommend that readers who are even the least bit introverted try to focus on ensuring their social and emotional needs are being fulfilled.
Think of this in terms of the Sims. Every Sim requires a certain amount of social interaction with friends, family, or pets to be healthy enough to function. If not enough social interaction is received on a day-to-day basis, the Sim’s mood sours, and they can’t complete complex tasks.
In the real world, a lack of social interaction can easily lead to depression. A wise Jedi master once said: “Depression is the path to dropping out. Depression leads to lethargy. Lethargy leads to skipping classes. Skipping classes leads to lack of preparation.” Okay, Yoda didn’t exactly say that, but he would have if Anakin’s biggest hurdle was to attend college as a slightly emo introvert. Thankfully, by the end of this article, you’ll be slightly more prepared to handle the emotional and social aspects of life at college.
The friendship algorithm
One of the biggest hurdles of college for less social individuals is forming a new social group. Simply walking up to people, introducing yourself, and talking should be enough to begin to lay the ground work for a beautiful new friendship. If you’re anything like me, you can handle school work, you can handle shallow conversations with acquaintances to some extent, but you’re not too good at actually forming deep friendships.
Here are some tips to help you make friends:
- When there are hall or department volunteer opportunities, go for it. That will give you ample time to get to know other people in a safe, structured environment.
- Join a club. A lot of the difficulty in forming new friendships is finding individuals who you share common interests with. Clubs will often attract individuals interested in the same types of activities.
- When the time is right, ask acquaintances you’ve made in class to hang outside of class. If even that seems intimidating, see if they’ll be your study buddy.
Dealing with roommates
Roommates are not always fun, but they can be a good way of ensuring you have at least some social interaction each day. That being said, roommates aren’t always as compatible with you as you’d hope. Compatible or not, you’ll want to take steps to ensure you keep the peace. Nothing can racket up stress faster than a roommate relationship turned bad.
Here are a few aspects of a good roommate relationship:
- Try to create an open dialogue of what they need as a roommate and what they know are their “that’s so annoying triggers.” Yes, this can be awkward, but it can save you a lot of grief later on.
- If any pet peeves develop, pick your battles. You can’t reasonably expect all pet peeves to stop. You have a roommate who compulsively presses the snooze button for an hour before finally getting up. (It’s reasonable to ask them to limit the amount of times the alarm goes off). You have a roommate who wakes you up early when they blow dry their hair. (It’s probably unreasonable to ask them to stop.)
- Finally, if you have roommates who invite you to go to lunch with them (or something), you should seriously consider taking them up on the offer. If the problem is that you don’t particularly like them, feel free to turn them down. If the problem is you don’t really feel like it, you might want to push past your comfort zone and go.
If all else fails
For a variety of reasons, some individuals might not be able to cultivate enough of a social support group on campus. If the lack of a physically present support group begins to affect your grades, you might want to seriously consider programs that will allow you to utilize a support group you have already developed.
Students can do this in a variety of ways:
- Transfer to a university in an area where you already have a social support group. This is not always an ideal option. You might not have a school in the area and if you do, it might not have the program you’re interested in.
- Consider signing up for an online program. You might have had experience with online classes and were not impressed, but many universities have been adopting strategies to make online programs more efficient. Arizona State University’s online program utilizes gamification to create interactive learning environments. Other programs like Rutgers Online, utilize interactive online social places for students to interact with platforms like Second Life. Before you go looking for other schools, check out how good the online program is at your current school. Not all credits transfer easily.
Surviving college is not always easy for extroverts or introverts. For introverts, one of the core problems they might face is not receiving enough social interaction and support. With proper preparation, students can increase their chances of forming a valuable peer group. And if all else fails, students might want to consider attending school in an area where they already have a support group. This can be accomplished through either transferring to a school local to that area or applying for an online program.
Check out our new community forum just for introverts. Post questions, get advice, and chat with others who “get” you. It’s free!