How to Survive the College Classroom as an Introvert

An introverted student in a college lecture

With all the students, noise, and distractions, what’s an introvert to do?

Let’s face it, surviving and navigating college is rough, never mind college lectures, too: Dealing with the hubbub of the classroom as an introvert can be a real pain. 

My first few semesters of college, when I was a freshman, I struggled to get through the noise and pay attention to the lecturer. As a “quiet one,” filtering out noise and getting to the meat of the subject is important. Here are 10 tips that have helped me survive those long college lectures as an introvert, and I hope they help you, too.

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How Introverts Can Survive the College Classroom

1. Sit up front, near the door, so you can focus better.

Sitting up front near the door will allow you to focus on the lecturer without being worried about all the people around you. It will also allow you to step out of class discretely if you need to get up and take a quick break. (Alone time, anyone?)

As an introvert, I often need a short break so I can recharge. I’ve also found that sitting up front — where you can’t see the rest of the class — is a great way to pretend as though the class is smaller and less noisy.  

2. Make at least one friend in the class.

Making friends as an introvert can be hard, but you don’t need to make a ton of friends to have quality ones. Making one friend in each class can be a great goal, as this person can be your go-to person for notes or a quick chat when you miss class due to being sick — or when you just need someone to talk to. 

Of course, classes aren’t the only way to make friends, but they are a good place to start, since you have to go to class, anyway! Plus, we introverts tend to thrive on consistency and routine, and the friends you make in class will become a regular part of your life.

3. Join a therapy group (which focuses on deep talk, not small talk).

Many college classes have therapy groups, and joining one can be a great way not only to share tips about how to navigate college, but also to talk about the things that really matter. Small talk is usually not something we introverts enjoy, but we may feel more comfortable in an environment that allows us to really open up about more than just the weather. Feeling comfortable around even a few people can make the academic part of college easier. 

I’ve joined therapy groups focused on a variety of themes, such as depression and anxiety, body image, living with a disability, and study strategies, and have found all of them to be helpful in different ways. 

If your college doesn’t have therapy groups, see your school counselor to find mental health resources that can help.

4. Establish a good relationship with the professor.

This one may be a no-brainer, but as an introvert, it might feel hard to establish a good relationship with your professors — because that means talking

Personally, I try to establish relationships with my professors over email, and eventually work my way up to seeing them during their office hours. That way, they know I am trying hard in their class, even if I am not the loudest one in the room. Often, this is a better way to get to know professors, as they have more one-on-one time for students during their office hours than they do during class. 

5. Take good, cohesive notes (by hand).

Taking good, cohesive notes (I prefer the Cornell notes method) will save you from having to ask a classmate for their notes, which can be hard to do as an introvert. Taking good notes is also a great distraction from the anxiety that can come from being surrounded by so many people

Taking notes in an old-fashioned notebook (instead of with a laptop) is a great way to retain more information. Summarizing your notes each day after you take them is another great way to study alone, as many introverts prefer to do. 

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

6. Challenge yourself to answer one question per class.

As introverts, we don’t like to talk for the sake of talking, but my goal as a college student is to answer one question per class. That way, the instructor knows I did the reading and I care enough about the course to engage in it (even when engaging is hard). 

Yes, there are days when I can’t answer one question, and there are days when I answer more than one. That’s okay, too! There’s no need to be the loudest person in the room in order to contribute to each class or let the professor know that you are engaged. But just try…

7. In group projects, help where you can by using your strengths as an introvert.

This one applies mainly to group projects, an introvert’s worst nightmare. But, that said, a group project can be a great opportunity to use some of your key strengths as an introvert, like deep work and research. As a result, you become an asset to the project. 

Personally, I always volunteer to help edit the final material and prefer behind-the-scenes work whenever possible. (I’m sure many of my fellow introverts would side with me on this one!)

Of course, I am open to other kinds of work, and I try to work with my group members in order to come up with a solid final project.

8. Dress for success; the more comfortable you feel, the better.

This doesn’t mean wearing fancy clothing or even popular clothing, but do wear what makes you comfortable. As introverts, we thrive in situations where we are comfortable, and wearing comfortable clothing might prompt us to do better work. We can then focus more on other parts of our day, such as attending classes, studying, and socializing (to the degree that we have energy for, of course!).

9. Take breaks — as many as you need.

As introverts, we need our breaks! Use your break time to unwind by yourself or with a few other people. I find going for a long swim (alone) or reading a novel is extremely cathartic. During the rare moments when I feel like being with people, I’ll do an introvert-friendly activity, like grab coffee with a friend or go out to eat. 

Overworking yourself as a college student may seem tempting, but it is not the answer to a satisfying life. Other options for a quick break include going to the gym, visiting a friend, or going for a quick drive around campus. There are many ways to take a break that are not overwhelming, and alone time can also help fuel your creativity

10. Join one club (not five).

Joining a club that you are passionate about can be a powerful way to meet like-minded people who may also be in your classes or major. For example, I have found the Campus Ministry groups and service groups on my campus to be very welcoming. 

Having hobbies is healthy and a great way to explore other interests outside of schoolwork. Whatever you do, make sure that you are passionate about it, and ensure that it is adding fun, not stress, to your life — you don’t want to overwhelm your introverted nature.

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