The Freshman 15: Ways to Get Involved on Campus

Welcome, freshmen, to the month of September! If you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve already found your way around campus, learned a little bit in your classes and met some new people. Now you have an idea of How Things Work when it comes to student life, and you’re gaining a better understanding of what college is all about. So… what next? It’s time to make yourself a part of the college experience – after all, what you get out of college will only be as much as what you give, and it is never too early to get involved.

Of course, this may sound a little easier said than done. As a freshman, you might feel somewhat intimidated and maybe even overwhelmed at the thought of joining an organization or trying a new activity. When I first enrolled at my university, there were so many opportunities available to me that I had no idea where to begin. (At that point in time, I didn’t know where I even belonged on campus, or what I wanted to major in, or what truly interested me!) One year later, I am still discovering what I like and don’t like, but I have a much better handle on how involved I want to be, and how I’ll go about doing that.

If you are still looking to make your mark on campus, this article is for you!Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Ways to Get Involved on Campus

1. Figure out what you’re passionate about.
Before I go into any further detail, I just want to clarify that this does not mean you need to figure out your entire life’s purpose in a matter of weeks. All you really need to do here is narrow your search… are you looking for a way to participate in community service, or are you looking for something to build on your skills? Are you looking for something educational, or are you looking for a way to make social connections and just have fun? Having an idea of what you want will make it easier to find an organization or project that interests you.

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2. Keep your eyes and ears open.
There are announcements for various clubs and events everywhere you go — from your professors, your email newsletters, the signs on the bulletin board outside your dorm room, etc. Be receptive to those announcements and if something catches your attention, jot down the date and time and go to an informational meeting. As I’ve mentioned before, the worst thing that can happen is that you decide the club isn’t for you, and you wind up with some free food.

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3. Look for organizations within your major.
If you already have an idea of where you want to be after college, then find a club that focuses on that career path. As a member of both the Ad Club and QUOTES (my school’s Public Relations Club), I learn all sorts of inside information about the integrated marketing industry and how to get ahead when I pursue internships and jobs in the future. Both clubs expose students to the aspects of those careers that they wouldn’t be able to learn in a classroom, and I’d imagine that the societies for engineering, pre-medical, political science and accounting students would provide similar opportunities for growth.

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4. Go Greek!
Although I personally am not involved in a sorority, I can definitely see why the Greek system is so popular. Pledging a fraternity or a sorority ensures that you’ll meet a lot of new people — hopefully ones that you’re compatible with! — and immerses you right away in social and philanthropic activities on campus. Fraternities and sororities are always in the know about what events are going on, and their members are often extremely involved in other school organizations and activities (especially Student Government and Homecoming). By no means am I the expert on Greek life, but if you’ve ever briefly contemplated rushing, I’d say go for it.

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5. Check the listings online.
Most colleges and universities keep an online database of their registered student organizations, so why not take a look? The list will give you access to those clubs that aren’t very well advertised, and help you to figure out what is available to you on campus. If your club of choice is not available, then start a chapter of your own.

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6. Pursue a mentorship.
Assuming you don’t have an older sibling or friend who can help guide you, you should look for someone who can serve as a mentor. Seek out older students in your major, or the student who showed you around the school during freshman orientation, or someone that you admire. Talk to that person about your interests and goals, and see if he or she can give any advice on how to pursue those at the university.

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7. Go to a Student Government meeting.
Find out when your school’s Student Government opens its meetings to the public, and then attend a few. Not only will you learn about the major issues affecting your school (which, in turn, helps you become a more involved student), but you will also hear about upcoming events and opportunities when SGA members and people in the audience make their announcements.

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8. Seek out all the hot spots on campus.
Figure out where people congregate. Is it outside the Student Union? Next to the gym? Outside of the dorms? Usually where the crowds are, the action is too. Street Teams will generally be handing out fliers for their clubs’ events, and other organizations will have tables set up where they can answer any of your questions. If you have no idea where to start in your campus involvement, this may work best for you.

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9. Do your part.
Find a local charity or cause, either through the school or on your own, and figure out a way to give back. If your school does not have a support system set up for a cause that means something to you, then create your own fundraisers or organization to help out.

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10. Go to the “cheesy” events.
True, you might not want to go to that all-freshman event that your school is putting on, or you might think that the activities that your RAs have set up are kind of lame… but if you have nothing else to do, then go anyway! You’ll probably meet new people and even have a good time while you’re there! Going to an event you might not normally be interested can actually open the door to other opportunities if you keep your mind open.

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11. Talk to everyone.
As you’re forging new connections on campus, you can always tag along to the clubs that your friends are already involved with. Find out what interests others if you aren’t sure what interests you, and see if you have something in common or if there is something new that you will want to try.

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12. Join an intramural sports team.
So you’ve always enjoyed flag football, but never had the chance to pursue it on a team? Join one in college! I have friends at all different schools who have joined soccer, ultimate frisbee and other intramural teams that have helped them to maintain healthy lifestyles and build a deeper sense of community. Go to your school’s gym or athletics center and talk to them about intramural opportunities.

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13. Network with faculty.
Even though I’m only a sophomore now, I wish I had done this earlier in my college career. (More on that in December’s post!) Talk to your professors, advisers and program coordinators now — meet them during office hours, ask questions and let them know who you are and what you’re all about! I only started talking to my available faculty resources recently, and already it has opened up some doors for growth and opportunity and further advisement. Often they have some great ideas on how you can get started on the right path.

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14. Stay plugged in with social media.
As technology becomes an even greater staple of our lives, it also becomes the main communication tool for many clubs and organizations on campus. Be sure to check your email often, but also look for updates on Facebook, Twitter, blog pages and other forms of new media. Find out what your clubs of interest are using, and don’t miss out on an event just because you didn’t know where to look for it!

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15. Be strong and take charge.
You don’t need to be excessively aggressive, but look out for yourself. If you see an opportunity that looks amazing to you, pursue it. Know when to say no, but know when to say yes as well… and welcome anything new and exciting that comes your way! You won’t accomplish much just sitting in your room by yourself. You have to be a go-getter and take advantage of what you want!

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For those of you who are/were involved on campus, how did you get started? What helped you to develop your presence in college?

The Perks of Being a Participant

“Sometimes people use thought not to participate in life.” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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All too often, we let our thoughts get the best of us. Instead of engaging in a lively discussion in our classes, we fade into the background, focusing mostly on some fixed point across the room and the words we would be contributing if we decided to speak up. Instead of adding our own expertise to the conversations surrounding us, we sometimes bottle it up, leaving ourselves feeling unfulfilled and the conversations somehow incomplete. We worry about our inadequacy, even though others often see us as experts in our fields, and what does this accomplish?

When you want to learn about other people and gain insights, it’s often important to shut your mouth and really listen to what they have to say… it’s also a great way to make new friends (see #5). And when you’re in class and everyone is discussing a particular topic, sometimes it’s healthy to just sit back and soak it all in. But there comes the time when you can’t just rely on quietly observing, a time when you need to just dive in.

For the more outgoing readers, this might not sound like such a big deal, but for some of us it can be difficult to step out of our shells and share our thoughts and opinions. After all, what will others think? What if the things we say aren’t important or interesting enough? The words are at the tip of our tongues but we keep quiet for fear of failure or imperfection, or simply because we’re afraid of revealing a more vulnerable aspect of ourselves.

As someone who has bounced back and forth between being extroverted and painfully shy at different points in my life, I have definitely struggled to find the balance between speaking up and stepping back. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has always resonated with me (even though I was barely a toddler at the time the events of the book took place), but Chbosky’s words that I quoted at the beginning ring especially true. I’ve found that the more I speak up in certain classes, the better my grades usually are and the easier it is for me to stay focused and interested in the subject matter. The more involved I am at club meetings, the more I feel like a part of something bigger. Obviously it’s not a good idea to let your ideas dominate — you want to be open to others, and you don’t want to be known as the one who won’t let anyone get a word in — but a lot of times when I don’t say something important that’s on my mind, I only regret it later.

Anyway, it’s important to be engaged in what you do because it allows you to accomplish more than you would otherwise. It fosters new relationships and connections, allows for self-expression, and helps you to grow as a person.

You don’t have to go out and join every club on campus or speak up in class every time a somewhat relevant thought pops into your head, but I do encourage and challenge each of my more introverted readers to get out of your comfort zones today. Keep observing everything you can around you, but raise your hand at least once in class, or tell a club officer what’s on your mind. Baby steps each day will help us all to grow and change for the better. 🙂