For Introverts, A College Experience Requires Alone Time

For Introverts, A Successful College Experience Requires Unapologetic Alone Time

Rather than trying to fit in with extroverts, introverts can thrive in college by crafting a college experience best suited to their strengths.

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Sometimes it seems like the world is rigged against introverts. Society pressures college students in particular to constantly surround themselves with other people -- to eat together, study together, and party together. This college experience is an extrovert's dream. For introverts, however, these massive amounts of socialization may be overstimulating, unenjoyable, and unhealthy. To truly thrive in college, introverts don't need to try to keep up with extroverts. By embracing their personality traits and pursuing personally meaningful work, introverts can thrive in college.

Growing up as an introvert, I always felt like an outsider. Then, in junior high, I read a book by Susan Cain that changed my life: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking." In the book, Cain explained introversion and helped me to understand my personality. I learned that I wasn't shy; I was introverted. Being "quiet" wasn't a weakness. Spending time alone was just as valuable as spending time with friends.

In "Quiet," Cain explained that, in order to thrive, introverts must make choices that best suit their personality type. "The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting," she wrote. "For some, it's a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers -- of persistence, concentration, and insight -- to do work you love and work that matters."

For me, "the right lighting" is the dim, warm light of my favorite coffee shop from my secluded seat in the corner booth. I do my best work when I'm alone, so putting myself "in the right lighting" means, at the beginning of every week, scheduling chunks of unapologetic alone time at coffee shops, at the library, in nature, or at home.

I also know from experience I need alone time to prevent burnout. After long days of socialization at work and school, time to recharge is essential. The core of introversion, after all, is the absolute need to turn inward — away from the overstimulating world of the extrovert. In college, introverts may occasionally need to decline invitations to spend time with others in favor of recharging alone. "Spend your free time the way you like," Cain wrote, "not the way you think you're supposed to."

There is certainly a stigma surrounding spending free time alone in college. We are conditioned to think that we're "supposed to" go out every weekend. We're "supposed to" join study groups. We're even "supposed to" run our errands with friends. We're "supposed to" conform to society's extrovert ideal.

For an introvert, there are much more beneficial and enjoyable ways to spend free time. I love exploring my city by myself, spending nights alone making art, reading, and working on my passion projects. Sometimes I want to spend free time with friends, but sometimes the most freeing thing is spending it by myself.

Thriving as an introvert in college doesn't mean isolating yourself; it's obviously crucial to regularly attend class, get a job, and join clubs and organizations. The key to college success, especially for introverts, is balancing school, work, extracurriculars, sleep, time with others, and time alone. If you make conscious decisions to balance your time and energy, you will set yourself up for success and craft a personally meaningful college experience.

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6 Things I Didn't Really Need in My Freshman Dorm, And 6 Things I Wish I Brought Instead

I promise you, being Pinterest-worthy just doesn't make sense in a dorm.
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As I packed up my dorm room and unpacked it all once I got home, I kinda felt stupid. I moved in with 2 cars full of stuff (yes, I know how extra that sounds and yes, it was indeed that extra) and I didn't end up needing half of it. Now, I'm swimming in stuff I need to get rid of while holding on to the stuff I didn't realize I would need and ended up buying mid-year. No matter how much you think you know everything, first-time dorm residents, please listen.

6 things I DIDN'T need but swore I did

1. All my personal books

I mean, I'm an English major and I love to read, but no one, and I mean no one, A) has free time and B) uses that free time to read in college.

2. Keurig

There's a coffee shop I can use my cafe credits at on my way to class. I never woke up early enough to brew my own coffee, and I never craved it bad enough in the afternoon to feel like I needed to make my own immediately. It was nice to make tea with though.

3. Dishes and Silverware/Excessive Mugs

All you need is 1 mug and a couple of water bottles. I promise you paper plates and plastic silverware are all you need.

4. An overabundance of office supplies

I didn't use all those fancy office supplies in high school, so as much as I love them, I have yet to reach for them in college.

5. T.V.

The T.V. I had was only slightly bigger than my laptop screen and the wifi at my dorm wasn't good enough for streaming. I hardly used it, but I know others used theirs a lot. Just a personal preference!

6. Tons of wall art

I totally believe wall art has the power to make a dorm room feel less institutional, but I wish I had brought more pictures from home to make my room personal. Pinterest dorm rooms just aren't real, and they aren't what you want when you're homesick.

6 things I wish I had bought before school started

1. ID Lanyard

I personally love these ones from Vera Bradley , but honestly, any way you can carry your ID, money, and keys all in one is a life changer.

2. Earplugs / Eye Mask

Dorms are loud even during quiet hours and sometimes your roommate stays up later or gets up earlier than you do. Amazon couldn't ship these to me fast enough.

3. Wireless Headphones/Earbuds

Personally, I'm an earbuds girl, but either one does the trick. It's nice to not have to deal with cords and to be able to connect to any of your devices without an adapter.

4. Laptop Shell/Stickers

Almost everyone ends up ordering stickers to put on their laptop to express themselves to those around them. On a practical level though, you're probably going to have the same laptop as 5+ other students in your lecture and you will probably throw your laptop in a bag and run at some point. A shell and some stickers will provide more protection than you realize. Check out RedBubble for some great options.

5. Small vacuum

This is especially important if you get a rug. Sweeping is not pleasant, and the vacuums at your dorm are probably older than you are.

6. Pictures from home

Like I said before, wall art isn't going to comfort you when you want to go home. A picture of your dog or best friend sure will though.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Gherna

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College Made Me Feel Like I Can't Have Free Time

Every second that I do have free, I feel like I need to be working on some type of homework.

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There's no doubt that college is taxing on most student's mental health. You get to the point where you feel stressed about even breathing. I have hit the point where I feel like I'm permanently affected by the stress that I've dealt with this semester.

I used to have so much free time. Even in my other semesters, I had time to hang out with my friends, work, and even be lazy when I wanted to be.

I was still a good student, I got all my assignments done on time and I worked hard on them, but I never really had an overwhelming workload.

That is, until this semester. I got to a point where work was overwhelming, I was working longer hours than I was used to, and having to spend every second that I wasn't in class or at work doing homework, whether it was just lengthy math problems or writing multiple essays or scripts.

After months of being in this habit, when my workload from both work and school died down and I actually had free time, I didn't know what to do with myself.

When my friends were busy and I just wanted a relaxing day at home, since I felt like I deserved it, I would try to just lay down and rest, either reading a good book or catching up on all the shows that my stress had caused me to miss.

But there was always a voice in the back of my head reminding me of every upcoming assignment. I would start thinking about the essay due the next week, or a test that I could be studying for ahead of time.

That voice kept telling me I was being unproductive and wasting my time if I wasn't getting ahead on school work when I finally had the time.

And so I'm still in a position, at the end of the semester, where I feel like I'm wasting my time every time I lay down and just want to take a nap because I'm exhausted from running between work and school. I'm trying to fight myself and tell myself that I am allowed to be lazy for at least a little bit, and I don't need to be constantly working.

Hopefully, that voice wins over, especially with summer coming up. With all of the free time, I'll have since I won't have to stress about school, hopefully, I'll be able to better balance my busy days with my lazy days.

I know this is probably an issue for many college students who are overwhelmed with everything that they have to do. Hopefully, summer break is a nice break for all of us and it gives us the chance to get the free time that we all deserve for surviving this semester, and the school year overall.

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