When new students arrive on-campus, there are many questions going through their heads: What will my roommate be like? Will I make friends? Where are all the good parties? How much time do I need to study? Who can I get to do my laundry?
One question that many don’t ask themselves, however, is what they should be hoping to get out of college. Sure, getting good grades in classes and graduating are the ultimate goal of every student, but do know that there are numerous opportunities to build your leadership skills and network right outside your dorm room?
I’m speaking specifically about campus involvement. Most large schools have a wide array of opportunities to get involved, whether it’s through student groups and clubs, or certain pay-positions within the University. But why should you care? Aren’t most of these groups just pretty much just pointless extracurricular activities? What can you actually get out of campus involvement?
1. Faculty/Staff Networking
Most student groups at universities are required to have some kind of faculty or staff advisors. Generally these are professors who have elected to take on an extra set of responsibilities with a student group. Keep in mind that professors at a university/college are not like the staff of teachers from your secondary education institution. Despite what it may seem in many of their lectures, these staff are hired due to their expertise in their fields and generally have very strong professional connections and experience. Therefore, it can be very beneficial to demonstrate your leadership and skills at this level with the watchful eyes of those faculty/staff. You’ll never know when a recommendation can come in handy!
2. Creating a smaller community
Going to school with tens of thousands of people you don’t know can be intimidating. If you’re going to school with a lot of friends from High School, this may not be as big of an issue. But if you’re looking to quickly be a part of a tight group of people, there is no better way than getting involved.
In my time as an undergraduate, I saw people grow and flourish more as a result of their involvement than their studies and social life ever did. Students would be amazed at what it takes to successfully run a decently sized student group on campus. In an undergraduate capacity, you can have the chance to manage budgets of several thousand dollars, put on large-scale campus-wide events and philanthropies, get involved with the university administration, and much more. You can gain professional experience right in college that will set you apart as soon as you graduate. Take advantage of it!
So now that you know some of the benefits of campus involvement, what types of campus involvement are out there?
Academic – Groups related to coursework and degree interests (examples: degree councils, national degree-specific organizations, etc)
Athletic/Recreation – Groups related to sports and fitness, or spirit and support of such (club sports, intramural leagues, spirit clubs, student sections, etc)
Creative and Performing Arts – Groups focused on live performance and shows (band, sketch comedy troupes, amateur theatre, etc)
Cultural and Ethnic – Groups that bring together groups of or bring awareness to specific backgrounds
Governing – Groups that represent student views and create programs and services to benefit the body as a whole (student government, student funding boards, safety groups, etc)
Honorary – Selective groups that recognize excellence in leadership and specific aims
Political – Groups that represent certain political views or stances or encourage discussion of issues (campus Republicans, campus Democrats, campus Libertarians, etc)
Professional – Groups that connect undergraduates and professionals alike in pursuit of common aims or careers (American Marketing Association, Delta Sigma Pi, etc)
Religious – Groups that bring together students of similar faith for discussion and service
Service – Groups that involve students in philanthropy, direct community service, or service learning opportunities (Circle K, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Relay for Life, etc)
These are but a few examples of campus involvement that you can find at your school. Consult with your RA or your schools activities department to find out more.
Social Fraternity/Sorority – Selective groups that engender brotherhood/sisterhood among its members and stand for certain beliefs and ritual
Special Interest – Groups related to very specific interests (programming boards, student alumni councils, LGBTQ, etc)