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""Will my socially shy child be ok in college?""

AtlmomAtlmom Registered User Posts: 806 Member
edited July 2007 in Parents Forum
My D has always been somewhat shy socially in school. Her friends have been those she has known for 13 years.....now that she has decided to attend school 6 hours away, where she will know no one, I worry she will become a hermit, keeping to herself. She is very academic, not a partier and tends to gravitate towards similar types.

Has anyone had a similar situation? Did it go ok? Any advice to help her transition and learn to be more outgoing? SHe is def. the introverted type.
Post edited by Atlmom on

Replies to: ""Will my socially shy child be ok in college?""

  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 11,211 Senior Member
    I know a similar young woman -- shy & somewhat awkward -- who had a bit of a hard time as a freshman until she got involved in the school paper, something she did in high school, so the atmosphere felt familiar and gave her a dose of needed confidence. Her mother did admit, that even by the end of the year, her D was just beginning to feel comfortable socially. Encourage your D to get involved in something she likes - a hobby or extracurricular - as a way of breaking the ice & meeting people.
  • bethievtbethievt Registered User Posts: 6,759 Senior Member
    Absolutely agree with katliamom. Every school we researched had lists of student organizations and clubs that might play board games, watch funny movies or whatever. Or a school newspaper or literary magazine, whatever fits her interests. It can take months to connect with kindred spirits just by going to classes. Suggest she go to the website now and look for interesting student organization/clubs.
  • atomomatomom Registered User Posts: 4,349 Senior Member
    My kid was homeschooled and moved around a lot--never had a group of friends that he fit in with in high school. Not a real social kid. He went far away to college, too. It worked for him--he found a nice group of like-minded friends. I did advise him to stay "out and about" a lot the first few months--go to on-campus events, say "yes" to invitations, etc.--because the beginning of freshman year is when people are most open to meeting others before they get settled into their "cliques." Join a club, volunteer organization, or study group. She'll do OK. She'll meet other academic types and her GPA won't suffer.
  • 3togo3togo Registered User Posts: 5,233 Senior Member
    edited July 2007
    She is very academic, not a partier and tends to gravitate towards similar types.
    and over time she will find the other kids who are very academic, non-partier, quieter kids ... who hopefully will make great friends for her.

    I was very similar when I started college and eventually figured out 1) a great way to find other kids like me was to wander the dorm during THE FRAT PARTY that "everyone went to" to find the other kids not drawn to the big loud drinking based activity ... and 2) I had to actually talk to these kids I didn't know. Like a lot of shy kids my first term wasn't the easiest ... but over 4 years my self-confidence increased a ton ... and I never had to become someone I wasn't ... I just had to find the other kids like me.
  • walkinghomewalkinghome Registered User Posts: 7,701 Senior Member
    I encouraged my son to do the optional outdoor orientation at his college. He did and met a group of people that became his close friends there. His college (and I think many other colleges now) have many opportunities for freshman to mix, mingle and bond and if a student will take the plunge and do some of them they will find friends. Reaching out on facebook ahead of time can also be helpful.
  • mythmommythmom Registered User Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    Are there any in-residence options for sections of courses centered around dorms? It's a good way to get a group of friends. Can she "friend" people on Face Book? D had about 6 coffee dates set up before she even got to campus. She also made dates for people to sit with at Orientation. Move-in day she hustled us out of her room because she had to meet up with Face Book friend at 5. (Only one of these people is a friend now, but it made transition easier.)

    Our school district fostered situations like your D's: one elementary school, one m.s., one h.s. Most kids had been friends since pre-school. everyone did fine when they went to school. As you describe it, your daughter has been able to keep friends. That's a social skill in itself.
  • Opie ofMaybery2Opie ofMaybery2 - Posts: 1,815 Member
    Alot of schools have become pretty good at getting freshmen out of their rooms and mingling. At least the smaller schools, I don't know about the bigs.

    Encourage her to go out and explore different things at the school. YES, even the parties (it's called a water bottle, you can hold it and sip water, nobody cares) to see what's going on and meet different people. Not every kid that enjoys a beer at a social gathering is evil and to be avoided.

    At my son's school they encouraged from day 1 to try different things, that's what college is about.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,011 Senior Member
    I don't think you are completely wrong to worry. College can be painful and very threatening to some people whose natural shyness turns out to be more severe than usual. Most shy people find themselves coming out of their shells a lot, though. Some of it is just growth, and some of it is the non-shy people being anxious to make friends, too, and willing to go out of their ways to court the somewhat shy if they seem potentially nice.

    The more frequent problem I've seen is in making the almost-inevitable transition between one's initial friends-of-convenience and the people who are really like you, because that happens later after the initial free-for-all has subsided. But, again, most shy kids eventually manage this fine.

    A slightly different problem has confronted a lot of my daughter's friends who were "lifers" at a K-12 school. Some of them had gone years without making a new friend before they arrived at college, and all of them were used to being in an environment where they knew most of the people around them quite deeply. They had no trouble "making friends", but as the year wore on they often got quite disillusioned and uncomfortable with the fact that they really didn't know anyone anywhere near as well as they had known their high school friends. Some of them still maintain much stronger relationships with distant high school friends than they do at college.
  • MelsmomMelsmom Registered User Posts: 1,040 Member
    Warn your daughter of the dangers of alcohol over and over again! Some of these very shy kids discover early on that alcohol helps them become more social and less inhibited. Unfortunately it also becomes a crutch enabling some pretty destructive behavior. I know because this is how my oldest tried to fit in at his school, with disastrous consequences. There are some very good suggestions above for finding friends that think more like your D and I hope she makes some great new friends. Just remind her that "some" kids turn toward drinking thinking it is helping with their shyness, and it is only self medicating and masking their true personalities, tell her to fight the pressure to fit in this way.
    There is also some medication that helps severe shyness, but she would do best to talk to her doctor about that if she has always had a tough time socially. The sooner before college, and overexposure to alcohol, the better.
    Good luck.
  • PackMomPackMom Registered User Posts: 7,667 Senior Member
    I went to sch. with the same kids all my life in a small town. I was somewhat on the shy side, not painfully though. I was involved in h.s activities (cheerleader,band, yearbook staff, etc) but was most often just part of the large group of girls who had been together since first grade and I was def. not the leader, not the one everybody looked to plans/ideas, etc. I had a steady boyfriend (not from our h.s.) so was sort of a fringe player and I didn't like it but didn't know how to change it.

    When I went to college, I made a conscious decision to be different than I was in h.s./mid.sch. I forced myself to talk to new people, spoke up and asked questions, just made myself more assertive. Being away from home and my old group of friends made me feel like a new independent person. It was so much more fun to not be the shy "fringe person" anymore and all my new friends at college had no idea that I ever had been. It became easier and easier as the semester progressed. That change was one of the best things college did for me.

    Good luck to your D Atlmom. Remind her that no one at her new sch. will know her or have any preconceived notions about her so she can be anyone she wants to be. I think when girls hang with the same group for a long time, everyone in the group sort of has their "role" (the funny one, the shy one, the beautiful one, the smart one, etc.). They get stuck in that role and it's hard to change. She may be different once she is away from home and her group. She may surprise you.
  • padadpadad Registered User Posts: 916 Member
    I absolutely concur with Packmon. I am very pleasantly surprised at my D's transformation during her first year at college. It is a new beginning, and furthermore, unlike high school, your D will have a larger set of students to find her peers.
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 9,551 Senior Member
    Perhaps her choice to go to school 6 hours away is part of a plan to make a fresh start?

    As others have said, when college starts most people are in the same boat and are very open to meeting new people. Also let your D know that many schools have free counseling and support groups, including groups for people who want to improve their social skills.
  • ejr1ejr1 Registered User Posts: 1,128 Senior Member
    Sounds like my D, who went cross country away by herself. I was concerned, but she made wonderful friends on her floor (she chose sub-free all female freshman year) and they all moved together the next year, with just a couple exceptions, so she wound up meeting more people this year, and next year while doing Study Abroad, she will be visiting friends in other countries from her school. They do find their niche. Don't worry. She also got involved in a group that helps in the Dominican Republic, and she made more friends there, too.
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Registered User Posts: 13,330
    She's going 6 hours away, but are many others also coming from afar? If so, that will help her because the others will want to make new friends as much as she might long to. So everyone's on an equal playing field, with similar needs and hopes as your D.

    Even if the others there appear to have more built-in old friends on campus, she can always try new activities and things. I find shy people sometimes do well in activities that aren't overtly social but have a task or purpose. My own kids love to be in a theater production, because it's a group of people who all depend on each other to get the task done. Volunteers for backstage work are always appreciated, so she might like to try being part of the "crew" along with the "cast and crew." You work a lot in the dark, too, so that's kind of interesting if you're shy. When you go to a "cast party" it's a party but everyone's just been through the same multi-week event, so there's plenty in common to talk about. Most of the time you do the actual crew work, however, you're not supposed to talk; just do and be effective, and the others will take notice. Helping to sew costumes, move props, and so on makes you part of something big and exciting, without having to BE big and exciting.

    All other activities, from working on a school newspaper, to the radio, and everything else she can already look at on her website, could become her circle of friends.

    Often at freshman orientation, different activities set up tables to represent themselves at the student union, so she can shop a bit for what sounds like worth a try.

    I also agree that this is a time to shed old labels. Often with shy children (she's not a child, but i'm really talking about children now) I am doing just fine gettng to know the child, and I ask a question and happily wait for a reply...suddenly the parent chimes in, "she's shy" and the kid goes crawling behind the mom's knees.

    Unless your D wants to represent herself to others as being shy, she might just decide that this is her moment to drop the label, and just proceed at her own pace. There is no rule or law about how many friends someone should have, how many moments it must take to reply to a question.

    It's only if it hurts the person inside, feeling afraid, that it's worth really trying hard, even with therapy, to get beyond it -- if they hurt too much inside. To me, there's a a "thoughtful and quiet" person, which I like to know, not much different to me than someone called "shy." Sometimes families declare their kids "shy" and it sticks with them too long.

    But, now it's up to her! She could go to college and never utter that word about herself, and it could just kind of disappear.
  • momof3sonsmomof3sons Registered User Posts: 5,116 Senior Member
    Some great advice so far. I have a S who just graduated from college-he was quite shy and seemed to be a loner in high school. From freshmen orientation, his floormates all became quite friendly, eating meals in a "pack," etc. He found some EC's he was particularly interested in and made friends from different grades that way. I can't say that he had "lots and lots" of friends in college, but he did seem to make a number of friends over the years, many of whom he will keep up with.

    One thing I did for him at the beginning of freshman year was to give him a big basket full of different kinds of bite-sized candy. Hung a sign on his door which said, "Please stop in for some candy." He had a steady trail of visitors to his room, and only stopped refilling the basket when he felt he couldn't invest any more $$ in candy!
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