Making the Most Out of Your College Career

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Posted 17 Aug 2007 in Back to School, Soulville

Getting Involved, Staying Involved and Having Fun

Involvement is a key to being happy in college. And college is one of the few places you can try as many things as you want without consequence or spending a lot of dough. So why not try out all your interests? Why not join a few clubs and meet new people? Why not take advantage of the free movies, the free concerts (or low cost at least), or other activities your college itself or organizations team up to offer? Over and over again, research (and personal experience) has shown that students that get involved are less likely to drop out of college and are more likely to have higher grades and graduate from college.

Ok so I’m at college – where are the clubs and organizations?? Check out the student affairs website – there should be a listing of organizations or an office where you can go to get more info on the clubs and organizations. Many clubs and orgs put up flyers at the beginning of semesters to gain interest in what they do. Interested in watching anime? Try the anime club. Want service? There are tons of these groups around. Want to do something more local than a large national organization? Colleges have these too.

Let’s say you’re interested in what lots of the groups are doing but don’t want to stretch yourself thin – go to a couple events that those groups throw and decide which one you can give more time. Just because you’re not a member doesn’t mean you can’t go to their events. My undergrad institution had what we called “Club Expo” and all the clubs and organizations (all 300+) took over the student union to hand out info on their organizations and get interest lists together. Just because you have interest doesn’t mean you have to join. It just meant they would contact you when things were going on and give you space to make your own decision.

Every year I was involved in a lot of things, but super involvement isn’t for everyone. If you can handle one thing, join one thing. Clubs and organizations are worth the time you give, not only because it’s fun at the time, but you 1) meet new people, 2) get to go places you may never have been (and for CHEAP), 3) get something to put on your resume. Employers love involvement, especially steady involvement. Some people I know joined one group freshman year, added a second Sophomore year, etc. Building on the skills they gained from the first organization they were able to be a leader in the others as well. However, if you join and organization and it turns out to be totally different than something you want to be involved in, there is a simple solution – quit. I quit a couple of groups I was in and there are no regrets. No need in spending your free time doing something you hate. If you like the purpose of the organization, but you hate the people, I recommend not joining it but that might be exactly what you want to do. It’s up to you. If you find that no organization is what you want, check with your college about the rules of starting a new organization. Many times, you simply have to have a certain number of other people interested and they will grant you club status and maybe even give you some money to get started.

Are you a college athlete and still want to be involved? It’s possible. You’ll sometimes find that your practice or game schedule conflicts with something the org is doing. Be open with your coaches about what is going on and be open with your organization. Sometimes there is a solution and sometimes you’ll just have to miss it. (Yeah that sucks – I missed a few events over my four years of competing in track and field).

Want to work out and meet new people? Join a club sports team or intramurals. An organization you’re in might already sponsor that 3 on 3 basketball team you want to be part of. Great way to bond with others. Or get together with people in your organization and go work out. Nobody else will know your interests unless you say them.

Want to meet even more people in your dorm? Join the resident student association for your building. You get to plan some of the events and activities for your dorm and get free money to do it. It helps to be a part of this sometimes if you want to be an RA the next year.

What if it is halfway through the semester already? Some clubs and organization will be open to join at any time of the year. Others usually only let people in at the beginning of the semester. But generally if you’re interested they will let you hang around and not to worry – the beginning of another semester is already around the corner.

Clubs and organizations aren’t the only ways to be involved at your university. Working at the gyms are one way, working at the library another or working in the community service office another. There is SGA, Judiciary, etc. Many campuses have student ambassadors or tour guides – this is another way to be involved but usually is limited to sophomores and above. Work with offices that work with high school students such as Upward Bound or the diversity office for their open houses. Student affairs or admissions should have more information on opportunities such as these. Tutoring is a great way to be involved – there are opportunities to tutor middle and high school students and many campuses also hire students to tutor classes they have already completed. It’s a fun way to be involved if you love helping others and understand how to help others learn.

Despite your urge to be super involved, the main reason to be in college is to get a degree. No matter what, your organizations should understand if you need a day to go study. Make sure you get your studying in. Form a study group with friends that you can actually study with (sitting in the library talking about how you hate your professors or the cute guy working circulation is NOT studying). Make sure you keep up with your work or the university will take away your privilege to be in a club or organization and put you on academic probation – not the club you want to be in. Some degree programs have clubs within themselves – usually this is a good way to find study partners for those difficult classes and to enhance your knowledge in your chosen field.

Do know that clubs and organizations can cost money. Some of the opportunities your campus gives you to be involved pay you to do what you do (ambassadors, Upward Bound, etc). Others just give you a chance to be involved at no cost to you. Usually club dues per semester are 5-15 dollars per club. Some can cost hundreds of dollars. Make sure to budget your money wisely and try to work it out with a club if you don’t have all the money but want to work out a payment plan. If they say no, they may not be what you want to join anyway.

Good luck and happy involvement hunting!
Harrimac’s Undergrad Involvement –
Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity; Gamma Beta Phi Honor and Service Society; Appol Corps (Orientation) Leader; Appol Corps Coordinator; Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honorary; Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges; W.H. Plemmons Leadership Fellow; Multicultural Student Development Peer Mentor; Diversity Scholar; Varsity Women’s Track and Field; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; RSA Gardner Hall

Harrimac’s Graduate Involvement –
Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; Quo Vadis; Pennsylvania Public Health Association; Minority Student Organization

HarriMac enjoys a well lived life with a large serving of soul. Her special feature, Welcome to Soulville, appears every Thursday. Subscribe to the Welcome to Soulville feed to get new installments in your feed reader. This post is part of the The 2007 Back to School series, is designed to help students be more successful!

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  1. Nate

    Excellent article, I’m linking to it from my new site. 😛

  2. HarriMac

    Thanks everyone for linking to it. Help spread the word to get involved!

  3. Gabriela

    This is a great article from the perspective of a college student. I link to it on my College Student Activities blog

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