How to Navigate College as an Introvert

An introvert in college

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do college as an introvert — just make it as introvert-friendly as possible.

College can sometimes be considered the best four years of your life. It’s viewed as an opportunity to meet friends, study something you’re actually interested in, and help launch your professional career. It’s also, according to popular culture, supposed to be filled with parties and constant social interaction. While that can be appealing to some people, especially extroverts, it’s probably not that way if you’re an introvert (like I am). After all, we prefer alone time and are not necessarily our best selves at large social gatherings and parties.

College was challenging for me at times, in part because I didn’t fully understand what being an introvert meant until after I finished school. But I got through it, and you can, too! Here are some ways you can navigate college and make the most of your time in school as an introvert, without faking it and pretending to be someone you’re not (i.e., an extrovert).

6 Ways to Navigate College as an Introvert

1. Seek out other introverts.

I guarantee that you won’t be the only introvert at your schoolup to 50 percent of the population is made up of introverts. So, rest assured, there will be others who don’t enjoy going out and partying. Like you, they’ll prefer gathering in smaller groups, whether that’s to get food, watch a movie, play games, or do other, more low-key, introvert-friendly activities you’re more comfortable with.

2. Don’t party if you don’t want to!

Parties are part of the culture at pretty much all schools, and it’s often seen as the “cool” thing to do. When I was in college, I rarely went to parties, because it just wasn’t my thing. Even though I knew I wouldn’t enjoy them much, I still felt there was something “wrong” with me for not wanting to party.

But I’m here to tell you: If you don’t want to party, there’s nothing wrong with you! Parties can be overstimulating and quickly drain our energy as introverts. If a “friend” (or group of friends) is repeatedly pressuring you to go and you have told them no (which isn’t easy for us, I know!), they aren’t a true friend who would respect your decisions. Quite frankly, I would try to meet some other people, friends who “get” you.

If you do want to party, or at least give it a try, that’s totally fine, too. I did like the few parties I went to, because I knew most of the people there through a club I was in. I ended up talking to some of my friends in a smaller group and got to know them better outside of the activity we did together. Going to parties with people I was already friends with helped reduce some of my discomfort, and made it easier for me to leave once my social batteries hit zero.

3. Meet more like-minded people.

College is a good opportunity to meet people, because you’re around people who are the same or a similar age, and especially in the beginning, everyone is looking to make connections. There are ways to make those initial connections less awkward, whether it’s through living in the same dorm, having the same classes, or participating in the same extracurricular activities.

Joining clubs is one of the best ways to make friends, because you’ll be meeting people who have similar interests and hobbies. As introverts, doing something we’re good at and are passionate about can also make us more comfortable and make socializing easier. This is because it has a larger purpose, which is something a lot of us introverts crave.

Introverts don’t consider everyone their friend — they tend to prefer deeper, more intimate connections, and generally have a smaller number of friends. College might be one of those times where you try to cast a wider net — or just focus on finding your inner circle. My one major regret from college was not joining more clubs and meeting more people outside my major. 

That said, it’s also important to be patient. You’ll probably come across a lot of different people, and not every relationship will stick. Many of the people I was close with when I finished college didn’t initially become friends until my last year there, and I was no longer close with a lot of the friends I had made during my freshman year. I didn’t have a friend group by the time I finished school. But I had friends in multiple different places through clubs, classes, and my freshman dorm, many of whom I’m still in touch with today.

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4. Take care of yourself.

College is an opportunity for personal growth and development. For many of us, it’s the first time living away from parents, guardians, and anyone else in our support system, meaning it’s the first chance to learn how to take care of yourself.

For introverts, that means having enough alone time to be able to recharge. That can sometimes be challenging in college, because you might be sharing a room and campuses are set up for constant social interaction. If you have any concerns regarding roommates, try to communicate with them (respectfully) about your needs, like having an earlier lights-out (or whatever suits you best).

My college had a “quiet hours” policy in the dorms, and most partying was done off-campus, but if you have any ongoing issues with a roommate, you can reach out to your Resident Assistant (RA). I was lucky that both of my roommates were more introverted (at least they seemed to be), and having roommates felt pretty manageable.

In terms of getting schoolwork done, scope out the library. My schools’ libraries had “quiet floors” where talking wasn’t allowed, which helped me get work done in a comfortable environment without always having to be in my dorm room. During your first couple weeks, you can experiment with some different places and see what suits you best.

5. Focus on your interests and passions.

One of the best qualities introverts have is being laser-focused on their interests and passions, and being driven to accomplish their goals, whatever they might be. College is a great chance to not only pursue your existing interests, but also find new ones.

Focus on what you, and only you, want to accomplish, and the resources available to help you do so — whether it’s classes, activities, internships, or something else. Luckily for introverts, we don’t rely as much on other people for stimulation: it comes more from within. Take some time to think about what you really want to do both during and after college, and what you can do to work toward that, and everything else will fall into place.

6. Remember: College is temporary.

In a worst-case scenario, remember, introverts, college isn’t forever. College should be more of a stepping stone, not a destination. Focus on the end goal, whether it’s a job, a degree to improve your credentials, or something else, and see college as a chance to experience something new and expand your comfort zone if you wish.

At the end of the day, no one will care how many parties you went to, or how many friends you had in college. As long as you focus on what’s important to you and take advantage of any opportunities you have to get closer to your ultimate goal, you should view your time in college as a success.

Introverts, what tips would you add to this list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

For more on how to navigate college and young adulthood as an introvert, check out Just Winging It on YouTube.

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