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In high school, students often worry that they’re not involved enough. In college, though, with a full-time course load, an internship, numerous activities, and more, the question might become am I too involved?

Large universities often boast that they have hundreds of organizations to choose from. While this is absolutely awesome, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially for freshmen who are adjusting to college life. Though it can seem daunting to go to campus events and get fliers from about 50 organizations that seem interesting to you, this shouldn’t prevent you from getting involved, even during your first semester.

Instead of joining 20 organizations, though, it’s typically more beneficial to choose a few organizations and do a lot within those organizations. By joining too many organizations, you might not be able to be as involved in those organizations. Basically, you can be sorta kinda involved in a lot of organizations, or extremely involved in a few organizations you really care about.

Here are some tips for how to get involved on a large campus without overcommitting yourself!

1. Go to an involvement fair

Many campuses have events at the beginning of the semester where a lot of organizations have representatives handing out fliers and answering questions. By going to this, you will at least get some sense of what each organization does. This is a good starting point.

2. Attend meetings before committing to organizations

Oftentimes, clubs will have meetings open to non-members at the beginning of semester. This way, you can see how a typical meeting runs, who’s involved, and what the time commitment is like. When I attended an involvement fair, I wasn’t that impressed by one of the organizations I thought I wanted to join. But, when I attended a meeting open to non-members, it seemed like a great fit. Though involvement fairs help you narrow your options, they’re not always a great representation of what an organization is like.

3. Talk to members of the organization

If you’re still unsure about an organization, approach some members directly and ask them questions you have about the organization, what the involvement is like, and what they enjoy about it.

4. Find variety

Chances are, some of the organizations you’re interested in are similar. For example, you can narrow down your choices by only choosing to join one feminist organization rather than five, even if they’re all slightly different. That way, you’ll be able to explore your interests in animal rights and student government as well.

5. Know your strengths

Some organizations may have missions that you align with, but do your skills fit well with what they do? For example, you may really like the idea of an organization that gets students more engaged in politics. However, if the club focuses on public speaking to achieve this mission and you don’t like public speaking, you might be able to find another political organization that you would enjoy more. If you join a club solely because of a vague interest in the topic, you might find yourself just sitting at meetings and not contributing as much as you’d like to. Find an organization where you can use your strengths and get involved.

6. Know what you’re looking for

Organizations vary. Some of them involve going to weekly meetings to discuss issues and long-term projects. Others put on events and create projects often. Know what kind of involvement you’re interested in, and it will be easier to choose where to dedicate your time.

7. Know yourself

If you want to have more free time and a less structured schedule, you might not want to be involved in tons of organizations. If having a full calendar all the time stresses you out, you would probably prefer to limit your involvement. However, if you work better when your schedule is packed, joining a lot of organizations might work for you. Understand your own work process and how you manage your time. Are you motivated by stress? Do you thrive with a high-pressure schedule? There is no “better” answer to these questions, but everyone is different.

The amount of organizations on campus may seem overwhelming, and with an inbox full of invitations to events, it can be difficult to choose. However, if you explore your options, consider what you can handle, and understand your own strengths, getting involved becomes a lot simpler. Don’t let the amount of opportunities scare you away from getting involved. If you’re passionate about something, try it out. Though the thought of being “too involved” seems intimidating, the thought of being completely uninvolved just seems boring. With hundreds of options, you’re bound to find at least one organization that you can really dedicate your time to, and that’s the great part.

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the author

Paige Sheffield is a student at Central Michigan University. In addition to writing for The Prospect, she writes for her campus newspaper, You On Top Magazine, and more. She is also a TP Editorial Internship Co-coordinator. She loves poetry, coffee, statement jewelry, zumba, politics, and the Great Lakes. She is passionate about arts education and currently volunteers and interns with organizations that provide art-related programming to underserved populations. You can follow her on twitter @paige_sheff.

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