At last, college. Now that the long wait is finally over, you’re probably starting to acquaint yourself with the campus and find your way through classes. You met a few new people and although you still have trouble remembering their names, you’ll get it eventually. The beginning of the college experience may feel a little slow, but with time everything will start settling in and the college experience will definitely be one you won’t forget.
So the real question is… where do I go from here? It’s true that the college experience can center solely on academics, but rather than spending your entire college years studying, getting yourself involved with campus activities can definitely make the college experience all the more better.
Where to begin? As a freshman it may feel overwhelming and even a little stressful to try and find the right activities and organizations for you, but by taking your time to look through all of them, you might find things that genuinely interest you.
Beginning Your Search
One of the best times to begin your search is at the beginning of each semester. (In some cases the beginning of the academic year is better, particularly for yearlong commitments.) Although there are organizations and activities that can be joined along the course of the year, a smart way to try out different things is to start early.
Student Activities Fair. At most colleges and universities, there will likely be some sort of student activities fair that showcases the different clubs and activities offered. Here, you will be able to talk with current members and find more information about each organization. However, be aware that recruitment may start earlier than this, so always be on the lookout for emails and posters across campus.
Online Research. Not always the most reliable method, but it can definitely narrow down your selections. In some cases, you can search for all (or most) of the groups and organizations through your school’s official website, which at first may seem painful but will pay off in the long run. If your school’s official website doesn’t offer this resource, search engine research may be needed.
Admitted Student Facebook Pages. Now that the school year has started, there are probably a lot of different organizations posting about different “welcome” events, particularly aimed at freshmen. If you’re ever curious about specific activities (e.g. pre-professional, sports, etc.), don’t be afraid to post asking about things such as this. Just make sure that your questions are appropriate and don’t follow the “Let Me Google That For You” types of questions.
The People You Meet. Sounds simple, right? Since you’re likely to meet new people at the beginning of the year, asking about what kinds of things they’re interested in isn’t that strange at all. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a group you’ve never heard of before!
Student Life Office. If you’re still having some difficulty finding the right organizations, calling and even going to your school’s Student Life Office (the name varies from school to school) to find things you might be interested in.
While You’re Searching…
While you’re searching, think about the types of things you’re interested in. Of course, there may be a temptation to do things similar to what you did in high school; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the college experience is all about trying new things. Don’t feel obligated to continue the things you did in high school because if it doesn’t make you happy, why keep doing it? College is one of the best times to start anew, and if you’re willing to try new things, they might just surprise you.
Still trying to figure out what things you can do in college? Here are some suggestions on getting involved:
Volunteer. Interested in serving others for the greater good of the community? Volunteering can be a great way to escape the college atmosphere while giving back to the community.
Join a pre-professional group. Interested in becoming a doctor? A lawyer? Pre-professional groups can seem intimidating at first, but once you become a part of the organization you might learn a thing or two that could be helpful in the future.
Play an instrument or sing. Do you love music? Now joining musical groups may be a bit more difficult since previous experience is recommended, but don’t be discouraged; there are some cases in which beginners are more than welcome to join!
Play a sport (or two). Do you like playing sports? This can be a great way to meet people who share similar interests with you while also having fun. If you’re not into varsity sports, don’t worry: in most cases schools also have intramural sports, which are less competitive and require less dedication (at least in terms of time).
Theatre. Is theatre close to your heart? Since there are likely to be many different groups across campus, don’t worry too much about finding the right group for you. As long as you’re willing to put your heart and soul out on the stage, you’ll be great!
Finishing Your Search
Now that you’ve narrowed down your search, the real question is: which ones do I commit to? Remember that even though college is a whole new place, your time is still limited and you want to focus on school. In order to make this happen, try participating in the groups you actually think you would commit to and try to stay in that group as long as you can. Remember, it’s only freshman year and you have more time to join other groups, but if you only give the group one chance then you may be missing out on something special.
Of course, don’t feel pressured to start joining groups immediately starting out. The transition from high school to college can sometimes put a toll on students and it may be better to just focus on classes the first semester. You’re in college for a reason, so don’t be tempted to devote too much time on other things.
Freshman year can be an intimidating and confusing time for students, so if you ever feel lost, be sure to ask someone (an adviser, TA, etc.) for some help so that they can guide you to certain resources. Doing something other than schoolwork can definitely make the college experience all the more interesting and exciting, so go out there and get involved!