At its best, college can be the place where you meet friends and make career contacts for life. Extra-curricular activities also look good on a resume. Accomplishing this may take some effort but it is part of what you (or your parents) are paying those huge tuition bills to ensure. Let’s figure out how to acquire more than just a degree from your institution.
The lifetime advantage of making many new friends may be especially powerful for international students, and students who come from small communities. College is a mixing bowl for people from all over the region and the world, especially these days.
This is true of almost every college now, even ones that are historically rather specialized. A small Lutheran college in Minnesota recently offered a scholarship to a Unitarian from Boston – they told him that they were diversifying their student body.
So, how do you maximize your social time, given your homework load and everything else you must accomplish?
Colleges are overflowing with groups, clubs, and associations that represent the interests of students. Most colleges will set aside a time to introduce them – representatives are on hand to explain what the groups do, and, of course, try to recruit membership. Ask when this day is going to be scheduled, look for this day and don’t miss it. Take the time (perhaps eat a portable lunch while doing so) to listen to what each club is offering and what it asks of members.
Once confronted with all the information about your college’s clubs and activities, what next? How can you tell whether a club is a good source of lifetime chums?
Look into the alumni/ae day celebrations – these are usually well documented by the alumni office. Any group that has its own alumni sub-celebration is a good candidate for a group that is cohesive and forms lasting bonds. As an example, the marching band at the University of Pennsylvania, the Philomathean Society, and the Glee Club, all have regular reunion activities that bring people back from years before.
Another good sign of a healthy and effective organization is the number of people that are willing to come out and staff a booth at the activity day event. This is an indication that the group is well organized and has good internal communication. It is also a good sign that the group is successful. People who are getting their social needs met through a club or group are happy to share it with others.
Consider how long the club has been in existence. A well-established group will perhaps have a yearly schedule of activities and events. These will be reliable ways to get to know the other members and others. You will probably be able to choose between hanging back initially, and indulging any shyness, and jumping in with both feet.
On the other hand, a recently established club will offer more opportunities for new members to shape the direction the group will take in the future. There may be a chance to be a club officer or leader. You will perhaps be a larger fish in a small (but hopefully growing) pond. There may also be more administrative work to do, and less room for being ‘just a member’. You might have the opportunity to get some definite leadership experience, which is good socially and professionally. You may be more visible in a smaller newer group, and become better known around campus.
This is wonderful for meeting people, and any leadership position gives you an excuse to talk to people, and for them to approach you – even without a formal introduction. However, leadership takes effort and time. Consider this in relation to your workload.
Your strategy for allocating your precious time should absolutely include an evaluation of whether the groups or clubs are going to be effective. You must have time to do your homework. Some students neglect this and they are tempted to seek help from college writing services. You do not want to waste your time on a group that is struggling or dying a slow death.
Groups often do have a natural life cycle. They can fail due to poor organization or outright mismanagement. Just because people are volunteers does not mean that they are universally well intentioned or competent.
Alternatively, there can develop an increasing mismatch between evolving student interests and the group’s original aims. As a silly example, a group that was founded to protest the Viet Nam conflict will have needed to grow its goals in order to attract and keep current student members. There are examples on many campuses of groups that are expiring for lack of attention.
Thus, one main criterion for choosing a club is how well organized and vibrant it is, or can be with your participation.