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If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: joining clubs helps ease the transition into college. Extracurricular clubs and organizations are an invaluable source of friends with similar interests and can make a campus of thousands of students feel smaller and homier, even for freshmen.

There are some who may advise new college students to wait a semester or two for things to calm down before choosing which clubs to join. It can be overwhelming getting used to living on your own and balancing an entire new environment and classes but it’s likely that you will have more free time in your schedule than ever before.

There is something to be said about joining clubs your first semester, as early as possible. Chances are, if you pick well and dedicate your time to clubs and organizations that you are truly invested in, that you will have a couple awesome years as a member, have the opportunity to have some fun, and get to know some pretty amazing fellow members (both peers and faculty) along the way.

And don’t worry, joining clubs your first semester also gives you plenty of time to see which are a good fit for you if you’re not sure initially.

So what can you do to get involved in clubs and orgs on campus as early as possible? Take a little time to plan and figure out what you want and then go join!

1. Research ahead of time.

Chances are your school already has an online database of all the clubs at the school so you can research and know what to expect when you get on campus. Look at this site ahead of time and make a list of any clubs that seem interesting to you. Feel free to put down anything on this list, related to both old interests and if there’s something new that you would like to try out. Chances are you won’t be joining all the clubs on this list but it’s good to have an idea of what you’re interested in and what is offered at your school.

2. Attend the extracurricular fair on campus.

It’s likely there will be at least one extracurricular fair once you get on campus, usually within the first few weeks of the semester. Make sure to check it out, even if just for ten minutes between classes. Here you can visit the table of the clubs you might be interested, meet some of the members and get information on when the first meeting (usually called a general body meeting) will be held. Each club will usually have a signup sheet on their table that you can put your name and email address on to be notified of when meetings will be held.

It may be tempting to sign up for everything at the extracurricular fair but try not to, your later self and your school email inbox will thank you when you’re not being barraged with twenty emails a day from clubs you’re not really interested in.

3. Attend some general body meetings.

Usually at the first meeting the executive board will go over what the club does and how members can get involved. They can talk about the time commitment expected of members and if there are any dues involved to join. These meetings are usually short and will involve some type of free food to entice people to come (score!). Attend as many of these as you like since it’s the best way to see if the club is for you. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like joining after you attend the meeting. Everyone understands that many are there just to get the info and don’t expect you to join on the spot.

Hopefully, after you’ve attended some meetings and gotten a feel of what each club is about, you will be able to make your final decision and pick a few that really interest you! And don’t worry if you don’t end up sticking with the clubs or organizations you chose first semester for all four years, interests change and your extracurriculars can and should reflect that.

4. Try something outside of campus.

So what happens if you’ve looked at your extracurricular options and nothing stands out to you at this moment? There are plenty of other ways to get involved and become part of a community! You could get an on campus job and make money and meet other students at the same time.

Additionally, look outside of the campus for volunteer and other opportunities. Is there an awesome organization in a nearby city or town that you’d love to be involved in? See if they accept students as members and if they do, go for it! Just because something isn’t offered on campus doesn’t mean it isn’t offered somewhere nearby!

Overall, getting involved outside of the classroom in something that interests you early in your college career can help ease the transition, allows you to have new, fun experiences, and gives you the opportunity to meet new friends when you first get to campus.

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