My first week of college was filled with people shoving flyers into my hand, asking me if I was interested in a cappella, business, medicine or a myriad of other activities. They bribed every student on their way to class with promises of free food, puppies and friendship at their first general meeting. It was club recruitment week, the week when every club on campus seeks to bolster their membership. For a freshman, this can be quite overwhelming. College is bound to have more clubs than high school, especially if you attend a big university, and clubs can give you access to internships, life-long friendships and opportunities on campus. So how does a student decide what clubs to join and how many? Here are some things to consider as you begin your club search.
1. This isn't high school.
Many college students want to continue every activity they were involved in in high school. But in college, is it often unrealistic to take a full course load and be part of band, two sport teams and debate club, in addition to volunteering ten hours a week. Decide what you are really passionate about and continue only those activities. Rather than involve yourself in numerous clubs, try to invest more time in only a few clubs. This will help you gain leadership positions, develop tighter bonds with the people and allow you be to an active member without feeling overwhelmed by all your commitments.
2. Try something new.
Ever played Quidditch? Always wanted to sing a cappella? Considering a business career for the first time? College is a place to cast off your preconceived notions of who you are and who you want to be. When looking at clubs, don't dismiss new things. Try out at least one new club that sounds interesting. You don't have to stick with it, but it could introduce you to something to never considered before.
3. Think about your future
In high school, it tends not to matter what clubs you are involved in, but that you are involved in clubs. However, an important aspect of college is preparing for a career. Don't just join clubs that sound fun (although that is important). Think about what kind of career you hope to have and look for professional clubs or academic honor societies. If you want to go to medical school, try to join a pre-med club. If you want to be an engineer, join a professional engineer club or an engineering competition team. If you want to be a journalist, write for the school newspaper.
4. Attend a lot of info sessions.
If you are having a hard time narrowing down what clubs to join or just aren't sure that any club sounds particularly interesting, go to as many info sessions or first meetings as you can. These rarely commit you to joining a club and van be a great way to learn more about a club and meet the members. If a club you thought would be great doesn't feel right, don't join. If a club you were on the fence about now sounds amazing, join.
Most college clubs tend to fall into a few categories such as professional (pre-med, pre-law, teaching, etc.), artist (band, theater, visual art, etc.), philathrophy (Circle K, Habitat for Humanity, etc.), identity/cultural club (Asian American club, LGBT club, etc.), academic/honors (physics honor society, English honor society, etc.) and athletic (including club sports, intramural sports, or NCAA). Categorize the clubs you want to join into groups and then pick one or two from each category you have. This will provide a balance of clubs for professional or academic development, pursuing a hobby and developing a talent. Like many aspects in college, clubs should balance serious, academic pursuits and fun, social pursuits.
6. Nothing is set in stone.
It can seem overwhelming to join all the right clubs at the very beginning, but if you discover halfway through the semester that you don't enjoy a club you joined or regret not joining another club, it's okay. Clubs often recruit at the beginning of each semester, and you can always quit a club at the end of the semester and join a new one. Just as few students will stick with the same major their entire college career, few students are involved in the same clubs all four years.
Clubs are a great part of college. Take your time when deciding what clubs to join. Don't spread yourself too thin but have a good balance of academic and fun clubs. And don't be afraid to change what clubs you are involved in.
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