College can be an overwhelming place, both socially and academically.
I remember my first day on the Hamilton College campus, when my class gathered on the football field for orientation, and I realized just how many new people I was going to meet over the next four years. It was terrifying trying to remember so many new names and faces, but exciting to think of all the opportunities that awaited all of us in our new home!
Why do so many people advise students to get involved in non-academic activities on campus? It’s because participating in these can help you make new friends, develop important social and leadership skills, and feel more connected to the community. Plus, it’s a huge benefit to your mental health to be able to de-stress by playing a club or intramural sport or even just hanging out with some friends!
How can you get involved?
Well, joining clubs in college looks a little different than in high school. While at your high school it may have been easy to hear about a club and join, as everyone was gathered in a smaller place and announcements were harder to miss, college will require you to take more responsibility. But here are a few tips that may help you!
Do some research before arriving on campus. Check out the college website, social media, and other resources to see what interests you. Look out for emails or notices about clubs that you may be interested in and attend interest meetings. Talk with others on campus about your interests and keep your ears open for any clubs or activities that sound fun to you.
Attend campus-wide events, especially club fairs! These are specifically designed for you and your peers to be able to learn more about opportunities on campus. Plus, there will probably be lots of free stuff, like stickers, candy, and even water bottles, so it’s definitely worth it!
Don’t be afraid to accompany your roommate or a friend to a club meeting. Remember – it can’t hurt to try new things and meet new people!
What can you get involved in?
There are varsity sports, which most students are recruited for and require an extremely high level of commitment and time. On the flip side, there are intramural sports, which allow anyone to form teams and participate. Club sports fit somewhere in between varsity and intramural. You may need to try out for club sports, and they are usually a medium time commitment. At my college, I played for the women’s club soccer team and met several of my closest friends at the first interest meeting my freshman year!
2. Musical activities
If you play an instrument, you can join your college’s band or orchestra. If you like to sing, you can join the choir or a cappella groups. If you like to dance, you can join a dance team or club. At most schools, a cappella groups are really popular, and people love attending their concerts, so even if you don’t join a group, you can still support them!
3. Student government
This is a great opportunity to develop your leadership skills and represent yourself and your fellow classmates. There are a variety of positions, ranging from student body president to treasurer to class representative.
4. Campus media and publications
These are also a useful way to develop lots of new skills and meet people. These include newspapers, journals, magazines, radio stations, and more. I hosted my own weekly radio show in college, which was really fun and taught me a lot about how being a DJ on the radio actually works!
5. Greek life
Joining a fraternity or sorority can be a fun way to get involved. These organizations will often do philanthropic work, so this can be a chance for you to get involved in the community as well as meet new people. However, I would recommend doing some research on the specific Greek life organizations at your college or university before deciding to participate, as it isn’t always the right choice for everyone.
6. Part-time jobs on campus
They can not only help you make some money, but also allow you to gain professional experience and make some new friends. Over my four years in college, I worked as a public speaking tutor, Chinese tutor, Russian TA, resident advisor, and study abroad assistant. These jobs all allowed me to interact more with students on campus, whether I was tutoring them, advising them, or they were my coworkers, and I made plenty of friends and professional connections through these jobs.
Any higher education institution in the US will place an emphasis on community service opportunities, and this is because it’s important for the college community to give back to the local community, no matter where the college is located. I, for example, volunteered with a program where I went to a nearby city and taught English to refugees. This was personally rewarding, and I was also able to develop English teaching experience, which helped me gain an internship opportunity later in college.
Seriously, there are so many clubs to join at any college! This article could be never-ending, because there are so many random opportunities waiting for you on your college campus. And whether you like gaming, comics, social justice issues, cooking, or religion, I can promise you that there’s most likely a club for you to join. And if there isn’t, you can just make one!
You may be thinking, but I need to focus on my academics first. That’s definitely true, but take it from me, you should also focus on making the most of the college experience while you have the chance. Plus, there’s no reason why your academic interests and activities can’t intersect (biology club, chemistry club, math club, Spanish club, etc.).
Not only will joining clubs help you make friends and feel more connected to the college and local community, but you will develop essential leadership and professional skills that will benefit you once you graduate from college. So, get involved!
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