How Can I Be Involved on Campus My First Year?

College is a hub for culture, diversity, and ideas — so if you spend all your time studying, you could miss out on the learning and friend-making that goes on outside of class.

Every school provides options that help students build a sense of community, explore new activities, and feel more at home on campus. Where should you even start?

Clubs

Clubs are the easiest way to find a group of people with similar interests as you. Look for a club fair at the beginning of the school year, read your student handbook, or talk to your student life office to explore your options. Common club interests include:

  • Politics and activism: Political clubs may affiliate with certain parties or discuss current events. If you join one of these groups, you may find yourself lobbying in DC, writing a petition, or participating in a rally that represents something you care about.

  • Sports and recreation: These groups may offer sports that you can’t find in a competitive intramural league, such as yoga, LARPing, or ultimate frisbee.

  • Performance: If you like getting up on a stage to sing, act, or dance, this kind of club is a great choice. Some performance clubs even travel to participate in events nationally and internationally.

  • Culture: You can learn about a specific country’s or region’s cuisine, music, or history through these groups. This is a great opportunity if you are considering traveling abroad.

  • Hobbies: Any special interest, like knitting, stamp collecting, anime, and much more.

If the existing clubs don’t spark your interest, you can probably start one through your student life office. Just know your limits — one or two clubs should keep you occupied enough for the year, and you should never be afraid to drop one if it takes up too much time or you lose interest.

Residence Hall Association

Your residence hall association arranges events within and between dorms, such as game nights, mixers, cooking classes, or bowling. While you can always participate in these activities, you can also volunteer to help coordinate them in your hall. Joining your RHA usually doesn’t require any prior experience, and can serve as a crucial step to becoming a resident assistant after freshman year. Becoming an RA comes with lots of perks: free housing, conflict management training, leadership skills, and the chance to help new freshmen, to name a few.

Service Groups

Unfortunately, the number of college students that volunteer has declined to less than 30 percent — but service groups are still one of the best ways to find friends and engage in fulfilling work for your community. Your school will have a number of groups that serve others in your area, perhaps in the form of local or international mission trips, service learning (where volunteering is integrated with course curriculum), or evening and weekend projects. Many organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, and United Way even have campus chapters. While community service may not be the most popular option, you can give back to others that live near you and make real friendships at the same time.

Off-Campus Recreation

No matter where you live, your school probably offers an array of outdoor activities for every skill level. These recreation groups host open events such as biking, skiing, hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and even outdoor cleanup projects. They may also offer trips to local attractions such as cultural centers or museums. Simply sign up for individual activities — depending on the trip, you may have to pay a small fee or rent special equipment.

Campus Jobs

Not all student jobs in college are work study positions; if you did not qualify for this type of financial aid, you may be able to find other employment on or near campus. Look at flyers, talk to your professors, check your career services office, or scout local businesses such as nearby coffee shops, restaurants, or retail stores for open positions. A part-time job allows you to befriend your coworkers, get to know regular customers, and make extra cash, but make sure your work hours don’t interfere with your studies.

Of course, you can find plenty of other ways to get involved at school: join the student newspaper staff, perform in band or choir, run for student government positions, or explore outside groups, for starters. Check bulletin boards, e-newsletters, or your student life office to find groups and events unique to your campus. If you can’t find one you like, you can almost always create one yourself.

College provides activities for every student, but only if you go out and look for them. Balance you hours at the library with time spent contributing to your campus. It can help you make friends and shape your college experience for the better.

For other tips on how to rock your first year in college, check out: 6 Tips for Surviving Your First Year in College

Sources:

Colleges and universities: Get involved! (2013, January 28). Retrieved from Peterson's

Brumble, M. (2012, January 22). Fewer college students volunteer their time. Retrieved from USA Today