BY MELISSA BURNS
College can be intimidating for freshman, but getting involved with groups is one of the best ways to break the ice with new people and discover new things about yourself. The trouble is, most college campuses offer dozens of groups, maybe even hundreds, and with your busy class schedule, you don’t have time to join all of them.
Some college groups will stand out to you based on your current interests, but you should also consider groups that can expand your horizon and result in better opportunities down the road.
What Makes a “Good” Group
Let’s start by taking a look at what makes a “good” college group. Obviously, the question is somewhat subjective, but if you want to get the most out of your experience, we advise you to consider groups that meet a handful of important criteria.
- The size of your group matters. Big groups offer the opportunity to meet more people, and are usually advantageous over small groups. However, for some applications, the tight-knit relationships you form in close quarters are also beneficial.
- Interest level. Gauge your own interest. Groups you’re immediately interested in may stand out to you, but spend some time getting involved in subjects you wouldn’t ordinarily choose. Diverse experiences are important for your professional development.
- Learning opportunities. You should also join groups that have the potential to teach you something new, outside of class. This is especially valuable if you’re learning skills or gaining new abilities you can use in the real world.
- Career opportunities. Finally, seek groups that give you more experience you can use in your career goals, or may introduce you to people who can help you along the way.
Good Groups to Join
Assuming they’re available at your campus, these are some of the best groups you can join:
- Student government. Student government handles some administrative responsibilities, and government members serve as the face of their respective body. As a student leader, you’ll gain valuable leadership experience, you’ll meet ambitious people in your class, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll have a strong entry on your eventual resume, helping you take a significant first step in your chosen career path.
- Multicultural clubs. Next, you should consider at least attending a meeting or two for clubs focusing on a culture other than your own. For example, you might choose to learn about Hinduism and its associated religious festivals, or you might stumble upon a group that focuses on Brazilian culture. This exposure will help broaden your perspective on the world, and the people that live in it.
- Dance clubs. Dance clubs are a great way to learn the basics of specific dance styles, and may possibly serve as another outlet for you to gain cultural exposure. In any case, dance groups will keep you physically active (and in shape), and may help you find a romantic partner—or at least some strong friendships.
- History clubs. Even if you’re not a history major, the value of a history club is enormous. Since you’ll be outside of the classroom, you’ll be focusing on more real-life applications of history, venturing to new places, studying artifacts, or maybe even learning to appreciate the value of antiques.
- Recreational sports. In addition to dance groups, sports groups are a good way to stay in physical shape. They’ll also introduce you to a variety of different people participating, and if you’re in any way competitive, you’ll be able to bond with your team.
- Volunteer organizations. Volunteer organizations focus on giving back to the community through a number of potential outlets, from working in soup kitchens to walking stray dogs. You’ll feel good about your contributions and you’ll meet some amazing people—including some who can help you in your future career. Plus, you’ll be able to list the experience on your resume. If you can’t find a specific volunteer organization on campus, you can always use a matchmaking service to find an organization unaffiliated with your campus.
- Any club related to your major. Last but not least, any club or group that relates to your major will be valuable. Not only will you gain more experience you can use in your career field, you’ll meet other students who are taking the same classes you are.
While some of these may be restricted to larger campuses, almost every college in the country will have at least some of these clubs represented—and if not, you might be able to start your own. You don’t need to make a big commitment, either; simply attend one or two meetings to get a feel for each type of group, and only stick around if you’re enjoying yourself and/or learning something. Expose yourself to as many new opportunities as possible; you’re only in college once.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Follow her @melissaaburns or contact at email@example.com