Navigating College as an Introvert

     “You’re so quiet.” “I thought you were stuck up when we first met.” “You need to speak up in class more in order to succeed.” 

     These are comments I’ve heard countless times. While they aren’t meant to be taken maliciously, we live in a society where individuals are often praised for being extroverted. This makes it easy to overlook the simple fact that many people don’t understand introverts and can compel those of us with introverted tendencies to focus on the perceived weaknesses of our personality instead of our strengths. Once we realize that our introversion is not a burden or something we have to overcome, we can use our individual assets to succeed inside and out of a classroom setting. 

     College can be a difficult adjustment for anyone, especially introverts. Being introduced to an environment that is built around social features can seem overwhelming. However, introverts have many strengths to help them excel in all aspects of college. They likely have unique characteristics that can help them thrive both academically and socially, such as being very observant, wholehearted in things they are passionate about, and good listeners. 


Here are some tips that can make navigating college a little easier for introverted students:


Join an Organization That You are Passionate About

     Joining organizations is a great way for introverts to meet people. You have an objective you are working towards and most likely already have something in common with the other members. Just remember not to overload yourself. Choose a few organizations where you could see yourself being an active member and enjoying your time.


Make Friends You Can Count On

     Introverts don’t need a large group of friends to have fun. They feel most comfortable with a few close friends and their ideal night is often staying in and watching a movie, so don’t feel pressured to go out every weekend just because that’s the stereotypical norm in college. Other introverts will understand this and are likely to have just as much fun doing a low-key activity on those nights you just want to stay in. 


Your Friends Don’t Have to be Just Like You

     You can also find great friends in extroverts. They will be there to push you out of your comfort zone at times and the differences in your personalities can complement each other. Extroverts encourage us when it can be very easy to get in our own heads and jump to worst-case scenarios. They can also help carry a conversation in a social setting or introduce us to other people they think we would get along with. Making sure that you understand each other’s temperament and figuring out what works best for both of you can set you up for a great friendship. 


Create a Routine

     Introverts often like to follow a schedule. They are usually comfortable when they know what to expect each day and creating a routine can help with this, as well as time management (an extremely necessary skill to have in college). You don’t have to create an hour by hour plan, but something like finding a quiet coffee shop you really like and going there to study on a certain day each week could give you a needed sense of familiarity each semester. 


Prepare for Class

     Preparing for class ahead of time is a useful tip for any college student, but can be particularly beneficial for introverts. Looking over and digesting the material before class could help you feel more confident and prepared to participate in class. Being called on to speak in front of 50+ of your peers is not a pleasant experience for introverts, but being prepared can make the situation a bit more tolerable.


Communicate with Your Professors

     It’s important to communicate with your professors, especially if you don’t see yourself speaking up much in class. Have a conversation with them and assure them that you know the material, you’re just not comfortable speaking in front of other students. Introverts tend to internalize information, but even just sending your professor a quick email letting them know you are enjoying their class or asking a question privately can increase your chances of success in the class.


Set Aside Time to Recharge

     The most defining factor of introverts is that they need alone time to recharge. The stigma that introverts are antisocial and don’t enjoy being around other people is not true for everyone. While extroverts are usually energized by being around large groups, the same social interactions can drain introverts. This doesn’t mean that they cannot thrive in social situations, they just need time to individually process these interactions. Because of this, introverts should not feel guilty about leaving a social setting early and extroverts should not be offended when their introverted friends just want to be alone for awhile. It’s important to make time for yourself and be aware of what your body is telling you. 


     The majority of our society is uncomfortable with silence and being alone with their thoughts. In my Lifetime Fitness, Beginning Relaxation, we end every class with “Shavasana,” which is a practice of stillness and silence. This makes some students uncomfortable, but I am met with relaxation and could do the pose for hours. Some people will never understand the personality type of an introvert. But it’s important to remember that while you may not always feel recognized when others are caught up in the hustle and bustle of today’s world, there is a place for you and we will always need divergent thinking to fully function as a society.