You are now Sue Heck from Modern Family: you tried your hardest, but the competition was just too tough, and you didn’t get accepted into your dream club/frat/organization. Guess you’ll have to try again next year. But what about this year? You wanted so badly to have the full college experience instead of staying inside streaming Netflix all day. Don’t think of this as a rejection — think of it as an opportunity to check out all the other amazing things to do on campus!
1. Event Newsletter(s)
Plenty of colleges have a website or newsletter dedicated to advertising public events — public meaning “no application required.” Even if the university itself didn’t bother organizing a newsletter, it’s a safe bet that your university’s union or clubs made one themselves. Sometimes individual departments/colleges within a university have their own newsletters promoting events for students going into certain professions. It never takes long to find a billboard or website advertising this week’s on-campus events.
After this last presidential election, there’s going to be a huge increase in activism on campuses all across the country. But even if the political scene isn’t your thing, there are always plenty of ways to contribute to the community because there are always organizations looking for volunteers. Habitat for Humanity, local animal shelters (they often let you pet the puppies while volunteering), food drives and bake sales are just a few of the most common volunteer opportunities you can sign up for. Go to your university’s union or student activity center to find a listing of organizations specifically recruiting volunteers from your college. Every opportunity will have varying levels of commitment and training, so keep an open mind!
3. FREE STUFF
I don’t know about your college, but mine offers tons of “free” stuff — which really means “included in tuition.” Every U.T. student gets “free” bus passes, gym membership, museum membership, library membership, etc. Take advantage of this while you can. You’re practically losing money if you don’t. Grab a few friends and rent a racquetball court with your student ID. Visit every museum on/near campus. Check out ten books at a time. You may even have access to free 3D printing or wood-shop courses! These types of opportunities aren’t normally listed on the school’s website, so you may have to do some digging to find out which opportunities are really free. If not, many local businesses likely offer big discounts for students.
4. Student Government Meetings
Often, student government meetings are open to the public. If your dream is to make an impact at your school but you didn’t quite gets the votes to put you into office, just sit in on the student council’s meetings, whether you were elected or not. As long as you’re respectful and follow the rules, they’ll appreciate your enthusiasm. Learn the issues they talk about and get involved in as many ways as you can. Be an unofficial messenger, intern or volunteer at their fundraisers. And who knows? Maybe that will give you an upper hand in next year’s elections.
I know it sounds crazy because you’re used to cranky high school teachers who hate children, but your professors really do want to talk to you! Even if you’re not in their class, most professors are more than happy to sit down and talk about their research, or even some random article you found online discussing new developments in their field.
Even if learning outside of the classroom isn’t your cup of tea, professors are immensely useful for other things. Professors know which labs are hiring, where the internships are, how to write a good letter of recommendation and endless bits of career advice. And bear in mind: they have been working here for a long time and know the streets just as well as any upperclassman. Rejected from clubs or not, it is vital to form a good relationship with at least one professor. Find a few mentors and form great relationships with them. They’re more than willing help you in your personal, emotional and professional life.
If you’re really excited to start doing actual work in your field, don’t let your inexperience hold you back. It really can’t hurt to get your feet wet, and plenty of labs and companies are looking to hire freshmen and sophomores. Why? Because if they train you early on, they get a trained worker for four years instead of one or two. Even if you don’t plan on staying with this lab/company, you will have gained something else: recommendations. Obviously, you aren’t going to be offered a job as CEO straight out of college. It’s all about climbing that staircase, and there’s no better leg-up than a good recommendation from the doctor/boss you first worked under.
No matter how small or boring your college is, I guarantee there’s enough going on to fill up your entire day. Colleges exist as hubs of mental and cultural energy. It’s where the most impassioned individuals go when they want to make something of their lives, get involved in their communities, learn new skills or get their feet in the door. Take advantage of it while you can, because unless you’re going into academia or planning on living in a huge, culturally-active city, you’ll never see these opportunities again. I hope this article helps you make the most of your college experience, even if you feel like you've been rejected by almost everything.
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