An introvert’s guide to thriving in college
March 21, 2019

In honour of National Introverts Week, which occurs on the third week of March every year, here’s a guide on how to thrive as an introvert in college.

Consider yourself an extrovert? This is a must-read for you as well, not only so you can work collaboratively with introverts, but also because introverts have much to teach us about how we perceive the world as extroverts.

What’s an introvert? 

Although the definition of an introvert is often contested, many leaders who study introversion and extroversion have come to agree that the difference between the two comes down to how they react to stimulating environments. Whereas extroverts feel most themselves in areas where there’s higher stimulation, introverts prefer quieter environments. It’s also interesting to note that no one is 100 per cent introverted or extroverted, but you may find that one seems to describe you best in most situations.

Even though there are many arguments about whether being an introvert or extrovert is better or which personality will more likely lead you to success, it’s now well understood that neither has an advantage over the other. Both introverts and extroverts have an equal opportunity at success, especially once they know how to play to their strengths. Some examples of famous introverts include Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Sir Issac Newton, Rosa Parks, Warren Buffet, J.K. Rowling, Albert Einstein and even Dr. Seuss! So if you’re an introvert, know that you share the space with good company.

Mug that says Busy Introverting being held against a pink background
Photo of young woman in a navy blue dress speaking

What an introvert is not

  • Introverts are shy: Many assume that those who are shy, must be introverts. But this is not the case.
  • Introverts don’t like people: Introverts do like people, but often focus on friendships based on quality rather than on quantity.
  • Introverts are afraid of public speaking: The same holds true for the myth that introverts are shy. A fear of public speaking stems from the speaker’s beliefs about how judgmental the audience is, not because of their introversion. There are many introverts who are great speakers!
  • Introverts always want to be alone: Although introverts like to enjoy more ‘quiet time’ than extroverts, they do not always want to be alone. They just prefer to spend time with people one on one, or in small groups, as opposed to large crowds.
  • Introverts don’t know how to have fun: Even though introverts don’t like crowded and busy places, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to have fun. Introverts just define fun differently and would much prefer to indulge in a Netflix marathon, bake or go on a hike with close friends.
  • Introverts are weird:  Unlike extroverts, introverts often walk to the beat of their own drum. Even though introverts often don’t follow what is considered ‘trendy’, looking at the world in other ways is actually extremely valuable.

College tips for introverts

1. Find your happy place: Find a place where you feel your best and go there whenever you need quiet. There are many different study spaces on campus so find one that makes you feel most comfortable. Your dorm room or a local coffee shop might be a good option for you too.

2. Go for quality over quantity: Even though it might be a lot for you to introduce yourself to new people, challenge yourself to introduce yourself to one new person in every class. This will hopefully allow you to find a few people you jive really well with. It’s not mandatory for you to have lots of friends in college.

3. Prepare comments and speak first in class: If you dread class participation, make it easier on yourself and prepare comments or questions before hand based on the readings or the topic, so you don’t have to think on the spot. Taking the opportunity to speak first in class is also a good trick, to make sure that someone doesn’t bring up your question or comment before you have a chance to.

4. Join a club: Georgian offers a variety of clubs that suit all sorts of people and interests. It also might be easier for you to introduce yourself to people if you have the same interests.

5. Find your fun: You don’t need to go to parties to have fun in college. Simply find something you enjoy or, even better, gather a group of introverts to take part in activities in the areas surrounding the college.

Photo of young woman and young man talking
Photo of 2 young men talking to each other

What can extroverts learn from introverts? 

As an introvert, you have a lot to teach those who consider themselves more extroverted. Some of the things extroverts can learn from introverts include:

  • Developing deeper connections: Instead of trying to get your friend numbers up, how about learning more about the ones you already have? Ask your friends to share something about themselves that you wouldn’t know. Who knows? You might have more in common than you think!
  • Active listening: Even though you might feel more comfortable as an extrovert when you’re sharing your thoughts, take time to sit back and listen instead. You might learn something new!
  • Take time for yourself: College can be stressful. Make sure you take time just for yourself and reflect. Even though it might be hard for you as an extrovert to be alone, quietness often spurs inspiration.
  • Focus: Instead of getting distracted by everything around you, find a quiet space where you can focus on one task. Multitasking has been shown in research to not be very efficient, so maintaining your focus will probably allow you to get your projects and assignments done more quickly.

Want to learn more?

The Georgian library has great resources for introverts. Check out a copy of the bestselling book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world who can’t stop talking by Susan Cain (linked beside) or others such as Quiet Influence: the introverts guide to making a difference and Successful Introvert: how to enhance your job search and advance your career.