It’s not always easy to make friends in college, especially when you’re introverted like me. You need time alone to recharge, but instead you face crowded lecture and dining halls, strangers for roommates, and a constant onslaught of social pressures. And it doesn’t end there.
You might also struggle with the nagging sense of loneliness that comes with being out on your own, away from the people you grew up with. I’m no stranger to how painful college can be as an introvert.
My first year in college was one of the bleakest years of my life. When I recall that period, I literally see grey: grey buildings, grey skies, grey classrooms. I had never felt so lost and invisible before.
I didn’t know how to crawl out from my dark pit of loneliness and make friends in college, without getting punched in the face with overwhelm. Everything was new and big and scary. As a highly sensitive introvert who was often referred to as “the quiet one”, I really didn’t know how to cope, let alone enjoy myself. Speaking of which…
The social predicament
Isn’t it annoying how everyone expects college to be a constant rollercoaster ride of ‘fun’. Talk about pressure! As an introvert, you probably have trouble mixing school work and socializing. Study groups literally make you nauseous.
When you go to class, you’re focused on listening and praying that the professor doesn’t call on you. You’re not there to socialize. This leaves you with a frustrating predicament. How do you make friends in college when you don’t like talking in class or joining study groups? And let’s not forget about the other big challenge you face…
Dorm room hell
For introverts, home is our safe zone. It’s where we relax, recharge, and switch off after a long day of getting our extrovert on. When you live in a college dorm room, home becomes a place of constant commotion. This can take a huge toll on you as an introvert.
You start to feel agitated and cranky. You just want everything and everyone to go away. This is a perfectly natural reaction to not having the space you need to recharge. Unfortunately, it makes it even harder to make friends in college. So, the question remains:
How do you make friends in college when you’re an introvert?
Not to worry, dear. I have good news that will give you hope during your greyest days of campus life. You absolutely can make friends in college, even if you’re introverted and quiet. The first step is to do something that might feel counterintuitive at first.
1. Hideout without guilt.
Have you ever been teased for wanting to be alone? Your friends might not have meant any harm, but it’s hard not to take their words to heart. You might feel insanely guilty for wanting to spend time by yourself while your roommates go to parties.
But spending time alone and actually enjoying it is what will give you the energy to socialize later. Try to think of this as a quality over quantity approach. You won’t go out as much as everyone else, but when you do you’ll feel more present and patient.
2. Look for other fringe dwellers.
As an introvert, you probably like hanging out at the edges of a room. You aren’t one to dive into the centre of a group, begging for attention.
There are others like you, people who prefer to do their own thing instead of following the crowd. Look for these people. They are artists, introverts, and old souls. It will be easier to connect with other fringe dwellers because they understand you and won’t try to change you.
3. Aim to make one real friend.
It’s hard to make friends in college when everything becomes a group activity. Introverts shine one-on-one or in smaller groups. Instead of trying to win everyone over, aim to make one real friend. This will be more fulfilling than being popular, because introverts crave deep and meaningful friendships over superficial ones.
4. Navigate parties like a boss.
I’ll be the first to admit that parties can be a pain in the butt for introverts. Here are a few quick tips to navigate parties like an introverted boss, and actually make friends in college:
- Put away your phone and use open body language so people find you more approachable.
- Make a goal to introduce yourself to at least 1-3 people—whatever number feels like a stretch, but not crazy overwhelming.
- Imagine yourself as the host of your space. You own your one square meter of existence and confidently welcome whoever steps in. You do this by being present, making eye contact, and truly listening.
- Always have an exit. You don’t have to stay until the end of the party! Have your getaway car (or bike, or bus) ready so you can make a break for it when your energy starts to fade.
- For more tips, download my free Introvert Party Survival Guide.
5. Start on the right foot with your roommate.
Roommates in college can become your best friends or your worst nightmare. But for better or worse, you’ll be living with them for a while. To avoid dorm room hell and actually make friends with your roommate it’s important to get off on the right foot.
As soon as you can—ideally within the first week you move in—sit down together and talk about alarms, schedules, cleanliness, bathroom times, boyfriends/girlfriends. Think of it as a casual discussion. It doesn’t have to be so formal and serious.
Show your roommate you have their back by giving them a heads up about your plans (if you’re leaving earlier than usual, having a friend over, or going into hermit mode to study for an exam). Thoughtful little gestures also go a long way. Make some extra coffee or write a post-it thank you note.
If you do feel a connection with your roommate, be sure to hang out outside the house sometimes, as this will help you bond even more.
6. Join a cultural group.
This is one I wish I’d thought of when I was in college. My friend Brian, who was popular in high school but felt utterly lost his first weeks in college, shared it with me. He said that joining the Asian Students’ Association in college was a real game changer for him. He felt instantly welcomed and accepted. He also enjoyed their activities, like volleyball and dinners.
If you want more tips on how to make friends in college, or in any stage of life for that matter, download my free 50-page Introvert Connection Guide.
Over to you
What are your thoughts on this? Do you find it hard to make friends in college? Please do share your experiences and insights in the comments below! 🙂