While a large part of college is about choosing a major and finding academic classes that interest you, there’s another aspect of collegiate life that I find just as (or even more) exciting: clubs! Extracurricular activities are a great way to explore your passions outside of the classroom, make new friends, and develop practical skills. When you first arrive on campus, choosing which clubs to join might seem a daunting task. Here are a few ways that may make the process a little easier.
Step One: Deciding which clubs to join
Depending on which college you’re attending, there could be hundreds of clubs to choose from. At UChicago, for example, we have over 400 Recognized Student Organizations (read: clubs). This might seem overwhelming. After all, you have limited time in your schedule, so you have to narrow down your options.
My first tip for you is to think about what you were enthusiastic about in high school. You can either find similar clubs to join in college, or you can brainstorm new ways to pursue those same passions. For example, a friend of mine loved the speech team in high school. When he arrived at UChicago, he learned about Maroon TV, a club that writes, films, and produces television series’ by and for students. Even though he had never worked on TV production before, he realized that the same energy that had driven his passion for speech would also fuel a desire for broadcast television. Colleges typically have more clubs than high schools do, and this means that you may not have had the chance to try out many of the clubs on your campus. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Chances are, you won’t be the only one doing it for the first time.
Is there anything you’ve always been curious about but have never had the opportunity to try? I’ve got good news for you: College is the perfect time to experiment and try out new things. I’ll give you a personal example. I’ve always been intrigued by tap dancing, but I’ve never taken a dance class before (sans when I was maybe three years old). A friend of mine told me about a tap dancing club at UChicago geared for beginners and convinced me to show up. I came to a club meeting feeling embarrassed because I had no experience, but excited because it was something I had always wanted to try. The club’s funds allowed them to purchase tap shoes for everyone in the class, and for an entire quarter, I went to weekly lessons, tapping away in the dance studio. While I am never going to be a professional dancer, it was incredible to try something new, something I had zero skill in previously, just because I could. Take advantage of the resources your school has to offer – there probably won’t be another time in your life when there are so many activities so easily accessible to you.
If you have no clue which clubs to join, never fear! Most colleges have club fairs towards the beginning of the year. This can be a great opportunity to learn about everything your school has to offer. Clubs might ask you for your email address, and this usually won’t mean that you’re committing to join the club – it means that you’re signing up to get more information about it! Fairs are also great because you’ll have access to a lot of information within one space. You can also ask older students what they’re interested in (people love to talk about themselves!) or even ask your Resident Assistant for recommendations.
Step Two: How to actually join these clubs
Okay, so you have some idea of which clubs you’d like to join. Don’t stop yet! The next step is to figure out how to put your foot in the door – literally.
Yup, that’s right. Most of the time, and especially if it’s the beginning of the year, you can just show up at a club meeting! (Note: If it’s a smaller or more competitive club, you might want to double-check this first.). While it might seem intimidating to just appear, remember that clubs want people to come to meetings and join. Also remember that if you decide the club is not for you, you can just leave whenever you want to, and you don’t have to come back. This is the beauty of college! You get the chance to try new things with the freedom to explore as much as you want. Showing up and experiencing it for yourself is one way to do just that. There are a few ways of finding out when and where a club is meeting. This brings me to the next tip:
Lots of college clubs have Facebook pages, and this can be a good way to learn more about the specific club, and also to see some of the students who are involved in it. You can use social media as a tool through which to reach out to current students who are involved in the club. You can ask them any questions you might have, as well as find out information about when the club is meeting next.
When you start college, there’s a lot going on. You’re figuring out how to live with a roommate, do your own laundry, and find your own school/free time balance. There’s no reason to feel like you need to join any clubs right away. Of course, joining clubs early on can have a lot of benefits – you’ll showcase your commitment to the club, you’ll make friends in the group early on, and you have the option of investing the full four years into the club. That said, it’s important to take the time you need to figure out which and how many clubs you’d like to join. Many clubs will accept members throughout the year, at the beginning of each term, or at the beginning of each school year. So there’s no reason to feel an urgency to join a million clubs right off the bat.
I hope this article has made you a little bit more excited about the parts of college that are really fun. Clubs are some of my favorite things to be a part of on campus, and I wish you good luck as you start to figure out the activities that will make your college experience your own.