Am I a dork for not being a party animal?

Dear Alice,

I know I just arrived at college, but already I feel like such a dork! Unlike everyone else I've met, I like to go to bed before 3 a.m. I like eight hours of sleep. I don't drink or smoke and sometimes I like to stay in the dorm in the evenings so I can just relax. At home I worked hard, but was never one of the overachievers who studied every waking moment and went to bed at 8 p.m. every night. Why, suddenly, do I feel like one? And how do I meet other people who can accept me for not being a party animal?

Dear Reader, 

While it's true that some college students stay up deep into the night studying, gabbing with friends, ordering take-out, and writing papers, it’s not necessarily the case for everyone. Some folks know they’re naturally night owls — they’re most productive in the wee hours of the night — so they choose late-day classes and to sleep in. Others may ignore their bodies' "I'm tired!" signs and stay up late to study and socialize, therefore getting less sleep than they really need. And finally, there are students just like you who, if they have their way, would like to call it a night before the difficulty of concentrating sets in. But there is no need to worry! There are several ways you can meet others and still maintain your desired eight-hour sleep schedule. 

First, if there are people you like but whose schedules usually leave you exhausted, you might suggest some alternative activities occasionally. Often, people get stuck in a social life rut simply because they’re creatures of habit. You could invite them over to watch a movie and grab take-out, plan a picnic brunch at a scenic spot, go ice skating, or throw a dinner party. Additionally, you might want to try meeting people through your university's student groups. You could check out community service groups, a film society, religious groups, student government, or other activities you have an interest in. There are sure to be people whose well-being, like you, is best supported by earlier nights but like to have fun, too. 

Furthermore, if you talk with others, you may find plenty of people who wish they could have more quiet time to themselves! Are you living with a roommate? If you are, and they are keeping you up late into the night, one strategy you can try is to talk with them to find out which of your habits are similar and which could require compromise. For example, maybe they want to go to sleep earlier and would love to agree on a reasonable time. Or maybe you'll have to ask that they find another place to study or socialize (a friend's place, a 24-hour reading room, the residence hall lounge) on a few nights each week so that you can rest. You could offer to visit with your friends on other nights, so each of you has an equal amount of alone time. 

Additionally, if you live in a residence hall, your resident advisor (RA) could also be a helpful person to talk with about your concerns. As someone who is likely more familiar with campus life and resources, they can probably suggest where to meet other people with your interests and validate your desire for a relaxing, substance-free social environment. Moreover, most residence halls implement "quiet hours" — designated times when loud music and vivacious conversation must be toned down so that floormates can study or sleep. If your floor doesn't have these, you may want to talk with your RA and floormates to determine some reasonable times. When it comes time to find your next residence, you could look for roommates and suitemates who share your habits and style. You might also find out if there are quiet halls or substance-free housing options available. 

Hopefully this information helps you find a balanced schedule of hanging out with your peers and staying in to relax and recharge! 

Last updated Jul 16, 2021
Originally published Nov 11, 1999

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