Sure, college is a lot of hard work. And if you’re just starting out, it may soon seem like you’re drowning in papers, research, labs, and studying, often all while learning to live on your own. It’s important to keep up with your studies at college – that’s why you’re there, after all – but also important is finding fun, relaxing things to do so you can keep a clear head and escape from the stress of cramming for tests once in a while.
Enter: extracurricular activities.
Social events like the big game or just going out for tea with your friends are great, but joining clubs, club sports, volunteer groups, or other organizations during your time at college can be hugely beneficial for you as well.
Participating in student organizations – whether it be the archery team or a youth group – can be a great way for you to make new friends, learn some new skills, and boost your resume, too. Graduate schools and employers like to see student involvement beyond the regular classes, particularly in leadership positions.
So, how do you go about joining student organizations and groups?
Things might not be as compact and visible as they were in high school, but it’s still pretty easy to find the right activity for you. It varies by university and by student, but you can probably find what you’re looking for through the college’s website. Most will have a list or database of all the clubs and organizations available at the school, sometimes with hyperlinks to social media pages so you can see what current members are up to.
Another way to find groups is to scout around once you’re on campus. Keep your eyes peeled for flyers, as many groups will post these around in common areas, and watch your calendar for a club fair. Many schools will host a club fair or similar event where student organizations can “table” in an open space on campus and offer information to interested prospective members.
With either of these methods, you might already know the group or sort of group you’re looking for, but if you don’t, it’s still a good idea to explore. If you keep your mind open and look around, you just might find your new favorite hobby and a new group of friends.
That’s exactly what happened to me – I went to the club fair looking for the Ski Club booth (yes, that does exist in Tucson) but ended up talking with the club next to them, attending my first meeting that afternoon, and loving it so much I’ve been a member ever since.
And if you can’t find what you’re looking for in a club: create your own! These are student organizations, remember, and the list of those offered at one particular college or another is constantly changing. With a few peers and the support of university staff, you could start a new group of your own.
Another way to get involved outside of class is through an internship or other student position. These aren’t necessarily “extracurricular activities,” but I think they’re important because of the experience afforded. On campus, the best way to get a student position somewhere is to contact the professor in charge of it. For example, many research labs will employ student research assistants to work alongside the graduate students and staff there.
Working, interning or volunteering somewhere related to your field of interest can help you build experience in that field, and learn more about it beyond what you’re taught in lecture.
Whatever you choose to join or create, remember that your studies come first. Be cognizant of your schedule and workload when deciding which and how many activities to get involved in outside of class. I think it’s beneficial to wait at least a few weeks into your college career before deciding – that way you can use that time to settle into a routine and gauge when you’ll have free time to devote to clubs. Once you find that, participating in clubs and other organizations or activities can help you stay balanced and have lots of fun.