Let’s cut straight to the point—not everyone is a people person. Many students go off to college excited for all the friends they’re going to make and other people they’ll get to connect with. For other students, the prospect of being surrounded by people nearly 24/7 can be daunting and somewhat irritating. While social-butterfly types are nearly guaranteed to thrive in college, introverted students who would rather hang out with a few people (or alone) instead of large groups can sometimes have a hard time. Whether you have social anxiety, are easily annoyed, or just prefer to be on your own, here are some considerations to factor into your college search to ensure your higher education experience fits your needs.
Applying to the right kinds of colleges
When you start looking at colleges, you should consider your personality type and social preferences as part of your research. You don’t want to apply to just any college—you want to seek admission at schools that are the right fit for you. Here are some things to consider in relation to your social needs.
Small schools with small class sizes
One of the more obvious things to avoid when searching for the right college is large universities with high student populations. The more people there are at your school, the more easily you’ll feel overwhelmed and annoyed surrounded by so many faces. Look for smaller colleges that report having small classes sizes and low student-faculty ratios. These schools will feel more manageable while providing the advantage of more personalized attention from professors since you won’t be one student in a sea of many competing to be noticed.
Related: Video: Advantages and Disadvantages of Small Schools
Living off campus
If you’re not sure living on campus is right for you, living off campus and commuting is a valid option. Whether you choose to live at home with your parents or guardians or rent an apartment, you’ll be more independent and won’t have to adhere to as many campus rules and lifestyle influences. And at the end of the day when your classes are done, you’ll get to leave and separate your college life from your personal life. There’s nothing wrong if your college life is your personal life, but some students like to have the distinction.
Online programs or hybrid formats
If you choose to live off campus, you can take your social separation a step further and look into hybrid and online academic programs. Most colleges and universities have online programs that offer the flexibility to work your studies into your busy schedule and complete assignments on your own time rather than attending in-person classes. But if you want some in-person structure to your program, you can also research hybrid programs, which give you a blend of in-person instruction and online coursework. If don’t love the idea of attending each of your classes two or three times a week, then this is a great option to get the best of both worlds.
Related: Pros and Cons of an Online College Education
If you’ve got your heart set on living on campus or prefer a larger school because of a particular program, there are still ways to enjoy the full college experience while limiting your social interaction to something that’s manageable for you.
Get a single dorm room
Managing your emotions when interacting with others is a lot easier when you have your own space to return to. Consider getting a single dorm room to avoid needing to plan your schedule around a roommate, dealing with another person’s messes, and putting up with noise and daily conversation. Keep in mind that some schools don’t allow freshmen to have single rooms, so look into the residence hall policies of your schools of interest if that’s a deal breaker. Single rooms are also typically more expensive than the cost of a double. Once you’ve chosen a school, if you can’t afford a single dorm room, make sure to take your school’s roommate survey or application to ensure they at least pair you with someone with similar lifestyle habits and values.
Learn how to set boundaries
We all struggle to set boundaries with others sometimes, worrying we’ll come across as rude or disinterested. However, setting certain boundaries will ensure you remain comfortable in your environment while on campus. This could be telling people you’re not comfortable with physical touch; leaving a note on your door so your hallmates know not to come knocking after a certain time; or letting people know you prefer to save your lunch breaks for alone time, so they know not to sit with you in the dining hall. Your friends and peers will appreciate your honesty, and everyone will come away with more positive day-to-day interactions.
Related: 12 Great Ways to Have a Stress-Free College Life
Find your people
If you don’t like people in general, you probably keep your friend groups to a minimum and only hang out with others you really connect with. You will find those people in college. While you may not want to go to a basketball game to meet people, you can always talk to people in your classes, strike up a conversation with someone in the library, or join a student group based on your unique interests. Once you find the people you’re comfortable with and connect to, you’ll have a good outlet for when you require social interaction but can be honest when you need your space.
Take advantage of small events and individual opportunities
Again, you’re probably not the type to be in the stands cheering on the basketball team or leading a huge club, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great opportunities for you at college. Your future school may schedule intimate Q&As with authors, offer internships with small companies and organizations, or allow you to take on independent research projects. There are many different ways to enhance your college education without overstimulating yourself in an environment with a lot of people.
Related: How to Find a College With the Best Experiential Learning Opportunities
Going to college as someone who would rather be alone than in a crowd can be hard, but it’s certainly not impossible. Introverts have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a school and how they participate on campus once they’re there. There’s a reason colleges and universities are so vast and comprehensive; they want you to tailor your education to you—and that starts wherever you want it to.
Start searching for colleges and universities that suit all your academic and personal needs using our College Search tool.