Whether you’re living on campus or commuting to school, college is a time to experiment with independence. College students can choose their own classes, make their own friends, and decorate their dorms according to their own styles. And while exploring diverse areas of study and deepening intellectual curiosity is a pivotal element of the college experience, it’s only one aspect of those four significant years.
College is also a period to define one’s life outside of academia and get involved on campus. On-campus activities are one of the most important elements of a college experience, helping students to get to know themselves and others, build a community, and develop long-term skills.
From clubs and sports teams to jobs and volunteer work, there are countless ways to play a part in campus life and explore new areas of interest.
Finding the right balance between college activities and classwork can be a challenge for any student, so it can be crucial to determine which activities are worth the time.
Some activities, like major-based clubs or a college publication, can enrich one’s intellectual experience, while others are more focused on building friendships or maintaining physical health. All of these types of activities are worthwhile as long as they don’t distract a student from their academic goals.
Getting Involved On Campus
As a new student, one way to see what the school has to offer for extracurriculars is to attend a student activity fair. This can be an opportunity for students to survey the different activities and clubs on campus and talk to current members about what they do and the types of time commitments involved.
Here are some other ideas for how college students can get involved on campus.
Assess Current Interests and Skills
Many students may have already begun to take part in extracurricular activities during their high school years. Perhaps they were on a sports team, took part in Model UN, or were part of the school choir.
Students will find that many universities offer continuation of the activities they were involved with in high school, though they will generally have to reapply or audition.
Even if a student-athlete doesn’t make it onto a college varsity team, they can try out a club sport instead. Larger schools may have more varied clubs and activities, but smaller schools will offer more opportunities for students to have their voices heard.
There may be less competition to make it into a school play, for example. Whatever size a school is, there are ways to get involved and continue to develop skills cultivated during high school.
Find a New Hobby
College extracurriculars can also be a great way to experiment with new interests, whether a student has long had the desire to explore an area, or is simply intrigued by a new idea.
Most colleges have activity fairs early on in the school year as a way for clubs and activities to advertise to new students. This is a wonderful way for students to find out what clubs are available, and to get to meet the students who are already involved.
Students may get overzealous and sign up for too many clubs and activities at first, so it’s important to assess which of these pursuits are worth sticking with and which can be politely left behind.
Flex Your Inner Athlete
Playing a college sport, whether it’s trying out for varsity or joining an intramural team, can be a great way to get involved. The community that’s fostered through team sports is perhaps unmatched among other college activities, with athletes spending multiple days a week in practice, at games, and socializing off the field.
Physical activity can be one effective way to combat depression, which is on the rise among college students. If a sports team is too much of a commitment, a dance or yoga class can be a good way to meet people and stay in shape, or simply hitting the college gym.
Students interested in creative expression will find a wide range of ways to get involved on campus. Trying out for a college play, auditioning for an acapella group, or joining the jazz band are great ways to meet other students and explore one’s artistic side.
College theater clubs and musical groups allow students to invest in a meaningful project and ultimately perform for their campus communities and can help improve a student’s sense of confidence and self-worth.
Visual artists may want to join a figure drawing group, and writers may be interested in joining a creative writing or poetry workshop with their peers outside of class. There are countless ways to tap into the creative bug on campus and perhaps even discover a new artistic interest to pursue beyond university.
For some students, Greek life forms the backbone of their social lives during college. Rush or recruitment events for fraternities and sororities provide an array of activities for potential members in an attempt to draw students to their particular organization. Pledging will take up much of a student’s time as well before they finally join the ranks of their house.
Once involved in Greek life, students often find a built-in community waiting for them. Sororities and fraternities often sponsor campus-wide events and parties or facilitate volunteer opportunities for members.
While Greek life is a great way to build friendships on-campus, it can be all-encompassing at times. It’s important for students to be able to strike the right balance between their fraternity or sorority and the rest of their lives on campus, including their classes.
If a student is interested in joining a social club that’s not Greek, or the school they are attending does not have Greek life, there may be other social clubs offered.
Try Your Hand in Media
Lots of colleges and universities have student-run newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV stations. Participating in one of these media organizations can be a great opportunity to meet students and get acclimated to the campus.
Joining the school newspaper will allow students to explore their campus from the inside out, researching topics that affect the community and publishing their work.
Writing for a literary magazine is also a wonderful way to get involved, with students being able to help solicit work and screen submissions.
College radio stations are also a classic staple of campuses—running a radio show, whether it’s talk radio or playing a certain genre of music, is a wonderful way to connect with the community, even if you’re doing it via radio wave.
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Getting involved on campus helps students build community, maintain a sense of productivity and accomplishment, and explore potential career avenues. The connections made through on-campus activities can be the most enduring of one’s college career since they’re often based on the passions a student will continue to enjoy after graduation.
On-campus involvement can also be a major form of stress relief from the heavy workload that college entails. Taking a break from the library by going to rehearsal for a play or music group, or by practicing with a sports team, can be one of the best ways to take the edge off a day of intense studying or classwork.
Physical activity, whether through a college team or a yoga class, helps improve health and releases endorphins that can improve one’s mood as well.
While getting involved in multiple on-campus activities can be highly beneficial to any student, it’s important to balance extracurriculars and academic work, making sure to allot the proper amount of time for studying so that one’s interests outside of class don’t eclipse everything else.
Another aspect of a successful college career is figuring out how to pay for tuition. Private student loans can be an option when other forms of aid, including federal student loans, scholarships, and grants aren’t enough.
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