Opinion | It’s okay to spend time alone in college

By Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

In my first year at Pitt, I spent a lot of time alone. When I imagined college, I always imagined myself constantly surrounded by friends. They would be in my classes with me, they’d eat every meal with me and we would go to wild and crazy parties every weekend. 

While I did eat meals with friends, make a few friends in classes and had my fair share of crazy weekends, not every moment in that first year was like that. I spent a lot of time on my own. At the time, I saw this as a failure. I thought that every single person was always surrounded by friends and was living a crazy, fast-paced life and I was the odd one out. The truth is, in some ways, everyone felt this — and it’s okay if you do too. 

Spending time alone in college — and in life — has helped me figure myself out. As someone who grew up as an only child, I have always been independent, but college really solidified the need for it.

During my first year at college, being with people all of the time burnt me out. I needed time to myself just to fold laundry or go on a walk but I always felt guilty doing it — like I was “wasting” my college experience. The truth is no one is really spending every waking moment of college with their friends and doing fun things all of the time. Everyone is trying to figure out how to balance their schoolwork, friends and mental health, and spending time on your own in your first year of college can help you strike this balance effectively. 

Time alone is necessary for all human beings — especially those experiencing a new transition in life. We need time to step back and process what we’ve been through. Especially in tumultuous times like the first year of college when everything in your life has changed, it’s important to be alone and process. 

I had a lot of emotions entering college. I was worried, excited and many other unexplainable emotions. I needed time to just be with myself and sort them out. College is full of new experiences and a complete change of routine. As someone who is a self-described creature of habit, scheduling in some time alone was necessary to create some space for myself. 

Being alone however, doesn’t mean just laying in your bed and scrolling through your phone — though even this can be beneficial sometimes — it can mean anything from taking a walk to reorganizing your closet. For your own self-care, it’s important to figure out what you like to do with your alone time. 

My first year of college, I discovered the trails in Schenley Park. When I had a spare second or I felt overwhelmed, I would take a short walk through the woods and it would help me center myself better. Over quarantine, these trails also helped me to move my body a bit after being in Zoom classes all day. 

Everyone has different schedules in college, so sometimes it’s hard to always have friends around. The logistical nightmare it would take to organize all of my friends for every meal would have caused me to have a nervous breakdown. Some of my friends felt embarrassed eating alone — and I did too when I first entered college — but sometimes enjoying a meal by yourself and reading a book or talking to a friend at home on Facetime helped me decompress from a busy day. 

Spending time alone my first year of college also helped me create routines for myself and figure out how to be an adult. With this time spent alone, I was able to get my homework done effectively, plan my week, do laundry and clean when necessary. When you’re out all the time with friends, everyday tasks that are necessary begin to slip away from you. If I hadn’t forced myself to go find study spots by myself or plan my week, I don’t think that I would have created the study habits I still use today.

The whole reason why the idea for this column came to me was because I had a bad case of FOMO, or fear of missing out, my first year of college. There was always something to do and I was worried that if I didn’t do everything with every person I met all the time, I would be stuck with no friends and nothing to do. In reality, time is valuable. 

Sometimes this means you should spend it going out and meeting new people, but more often than not, it means listening to your needs and spending time alone if you need it. Especially after two years where we were forced to be by ourselves, we may feel the need to push ourselves and make a million plans, but spending quality time alone can be even more important. 

As a new student, spend some time alone, find a study spot or activity that brings you joy and you might be surprised how much better it makes you feel.

Rachel Soloff writes primarily about the entertainment industry and how lame antisemites are. Write to her at [email protected].