You’ve probably heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” You’ve heard it for a good reason. It rings true for many people. Participating in clubs and activities on campus can enable you to broaden your social network, which may accordingly lead to increased and/or improved employment opportunities. More importantly, you’re more apt to feel happy and satisfied by developing quality relationships in college. Research in positive psychology points to the quality of our relationships as a determining factor in our happiness. One of the many benefits of clubs and activities in college is the breadth and depth of these opportunities, coupled with a wider, more diverse range of perspectives and personalities. While your friend-group possibilities in high school were likely limited to the few hundred or few thousand teens living within a few miles of the school, in college, you’re more likely able to connect with people from all over the state, country and even the world! All the more reason to “try on” different clubs and activities! Who knows what or whom you’ll discover when you do!
But where to begin?! When it comes to choosing where and how to invest your time and energy, think about what you’re hoping to gain from the experience. Next, consider where these clubs and activities may be located. Finally, think about your long-term goals and begin with the end in mind. Similar to mapping out the route you’ll take to arrive at your destination, identify your destination (e.g., career goal, skill goal) and decide how you want to reach your destination.
What type of club/activity experience do you want? What do you hope to gain from the experience?
Are you looking for adventure? You could join an adventure-related club! Are you interested in camping? Some college recreation centers offer camping excursions! Once you’ve identified what you hope to gain, you can ask the right questions to learn where to find these experiences. If you have no idea/don’t have a defined idea of what you hope to gain, consider the common goal. When it comes to going to college and joining clubs, most students join because they are interested in meeting new people and making new friends. Great! You’ll already have that in common with the rest of the students you meet. If you’re one to feel anxious or nervous about meeting new people, remember that. Pretty much everyone else is also interested in meeting and making new friends and are likely feeling a little apprehensive about it, too. Be the “bigger” person, take a leap of faith and introduce yourself to someone new. You might be doing them a solid by helping her/him/them feel more welcome and included. Be generous and give someone the opportunity to enjoy your company.
How to find the clubs and activities that may interest you.
- Clubs: Look for the student affairs/involvement/life type of office at your institution and ask for a list of their student organizations. These lists are often available online. Student organizations are typically organized by category, such as: academic, professional, social, cultural, Greek and service-oriented.
- Intramural sports: These are typically organized through the student gym/recreation center, so just ask for a list and how to join when you next visit (or look online).
- Volunteering: Service opportunities are typically listed through a student affairs type office, but could also be housed in a faith-based office. In addition, service-based trips lasting for a few days to a week are often available over winter or spring break. Week-long service trips are an excellent way to develop meaningful relationships. Contact the student affairs office to learn what service/volunteer opportunities are available at your school and how to join.
- Activities: Workshops, seminars, student conferences, concerts, etc. will typically be listed in a college activities calendar or through the student affairs office. Almost all colleges/universities will have student activities that fall under “school tradition,” so just ask student affairs to learn more. Additionally, your college or major’s department (e.g., Department of Modern Languages, Spanish major) will likely host several events that are relevant to the college or department’s mission (e.g., Spanish major – Día de los Muertos event, fiesta during Hispanic Heritage Month)
Define what you want to accomplish through college (i.e., create college goals)
Here are some example goals related to clubs and activities:
Seek out and develop life-long friendships.
Any club or activity that speaks to your values and interests will be a great space
through which to develop life-long friendships. Actively participating in any club (attending meetings, joining committees and running for an officer position) can provide you with quality experiences that can lead to quality relationships.
Seek out and develop rapport with a wide range of peers in my career industry.
Clubs that are related to your career (e.g., American Marketing Association, Student Law Association, etc.) can be great for networking and is typically a great forum through which to connect with other like-minded, ambitious and career-focused students. In addition to clearly identifiable career-related organizations, consider joining cultural or faith-based organizations if you hope to work specifically with a particular constituency. e.g., If you’re interested in international trade with China, consider joining the Chinese Student Association. If you’re interested in worked related to the Middle East, consider joining the Islamic Student Association.
Develop strong ties with the local community and dedicate time to service.
Many faith-based organizations/offices offer service-related activities and organizations
through which to volunteer in the community. Some schools may also have a volunteer office that organizes and coordinates volunteer opportunities with local non-profits. Ask the student affairs office for more details and ways to connect.
Please note that these goals are not mutually exclusive. By dedicating time and effort into establishing life-long friendships, you may very well also connect with friends who later help you in your career. By devoting yourself to the community, you are likely to also develop life-long friendships.