The first year of college is certainly challenging. From acclimating to a new living situation to finding the best spot for cheap pizza, there’s plenty to figure out.
But, one thing that needs to be at the top of your to-do list is getting socially involved. It’s up to you to find a way to become a part of campus life. While that might feel like a daunting task at first, it’s actually not very difficult and is totally worth it. Promise!
Many years ago, during my first semester as a freshman, I spotted a flyer for a sailing club outside one of my classes. That weekend, I showed up for the first event lakeside, despite knowing absolutely nothing about wind-powered watercraft.
The day on the lake didn’t stoke a new passion, but I met someone who has since been one of my best friends.
There’s a Club for That!
Many colleges have searchable databases with dozens — sometimes hundreds — of organizations. Work outside your comfort zone. Try new things. Take chances.
Below are some of the types of clubs that will introduce you to new people and get you to try new things:
1. Under the bright lights
Didn’t have the nerve to get on the stage in front of your high school friends? Well, now is your time. There are many student-run theater groups, like the Dead Arts Society at UC Davis, which produces original, student-written acts throughout the semester.
And if you learn that you have horrible stage fright or wearing a grey unitard for the role of a cat isn’t your strong suit, well, we’re not all Will Ferrell!
2. Give it the old college try
Most colleges have thriving intramural sports leagues. Soccer, ultimate frisbee, tennis, volleyball, rowing, or even sailing! Learn a new sport, channel that inner midfielder suppressed inside of you. There’s even a national quidditch association now! If you just jumped out of your seat and squealed a little, visit the USQ website to learn which colleges have teams or how you can start your own. Arania Exumai!
3. Movies are for friends
Have a strong urge to snuggle deep down in a couch and watch a movie? Well, some universities have movie clubs, for which the qualifications include, but are not limited to, the ability to properly butter large tubs of popcorn. These are your people. And you haven’t even met them yet! At Rice University in Houston, there’s even a Doctor Who Society for watching episodes of the BBC’s fictional television series.
4. An outlet for your words
Many universities have similar clubs or, for a slightly different route, student-run newspapers. The University of Wisconsin at Madison’s “Daily Cardinal” requires no experience and has a variety of opportunities for students from graphic design to reporting.
5. Volunteerism and a different kind of spring break
There are always a number of options when it comes to doing some good on campus. Volunteer organizations come in all shapes and sizes, including Adopt-A-Grandparent at the University of Virginia or Vanderbilt’s Alternative Spring Break, the largest student-run organization at the school, whose mission is to promote critical thinking, social action, and community involvement.
6. Go robo
If you have an inclination towards more technical things in your spare time, seek out an engineering or programming group, like the Robotics Club at Washington State University, who is working on an autonomous robotic submarine. Or University of Central Florida’s programming team, who participates in international competitions.
7. Sing your heart out
If you’ve been inspired by any number of competitive singing television shows recently, then seek out an a cappella or choir group on campus, like the N’Harmz at NYU. This type of group might take a little practice to join, but even attending shows is, again, a great way to work outside your comfort zone, and meet people that have similar interests.
8. Be an organizational pioneer
If you have an idea for a club that you think would interest others, start one.Usually it only requires a painless online application process. There are intrinsic benefits here; schools allow student organizations to use university facilities and properties (like a sail boat), and it clears the way to hand out flyers or perform other functions on campus.
Where to Start
Most campuses have a database of student organizations on their website as well as fairs early in the fall semester to showcase all of their groups. Remember, the first year of college is a big transition. It’s OK to feel nervous. And it’s hard to put yourself out there, but joining an extracurricular student group is a fantastic place to start.
If you are looking for other outlets in college during freshman year: How Can I Be Involved on Campus My First Year