For incoming first-year students looking forward to move-in day, college can seem both terrifying and incredibly exciting. Dorm room shopping, roommate matching and chatting, class scheduling, and completing a potential summer assignment can feel amazing and overwhelming all at once—but it’s important to remember to take a breather and think about the extracurricular aspects of school as well. College is the perfect time and place to take full advantage of the resources available to you to expand your social and physical purview on top of your academics.
Finding activities that interest you
First off, take a good look at all of the organizations and clubs available for you to join on campus. Often at your academic registration program or orientation after move-in, you’ll receive a list of the college’s various organizations and clubs. Look over this list well to see if there are any groups you’re interested in joining.
After classes start, most schools will hold a student organization fair where all the school’s groups and clubs will gather for you to learn more about them. Groups you might not even know exist, such as an Ultimate Frisbee club or improv/comedy club, are just waiting for you to find them and become a part of their niche. College truly has something for everyone, whether you’re into long chess tournaments or intense games of Quidditch on the campus green.
Fraternities and sororities
Greek life is a huge part of many colleges, though you should be smart when considering joining a sorority or fraternity. Hazing is a real thing and can be dangerous, so if you’re thinking of joining one of these groups, ensure that you have enough information about them and that they have a decent reputation on campus. Also, be careful at parties involving fraternities or sororities—but that’s a whole other conversation, one that you’ve probably covered in a college “Think About It” (or other such) course and that your parents have drilled into you by now. Some quick key points: bring a friend with you to parties, look out for each other, and, as the upperclassmen at my college say, “Don’t be stupid.”
Academic clubs exist to foster students’ passions for a particular subject, from astronomy to psychology. These clubs often hold study groups to help you with research and project ideas as well as aid you in exploring the different aspects of your field of interest. Just being able to talk about topics that excite you with other like-minded students is one of the many beauties of college. And being a part of an academic club can be a good résumé point to display involvement and dedication in a certain subject, particularly your major.
Student councils and government, debate teams, and ethnic organizations are also available on campus, and you can quickly become an integrated part of one of these groups just by connecting with them and showing interest. Membership in these types of groups is good for your résumé as well because it shows experience with working and communicating in a group and demonstrates leadership ability. Often these groups have ample opportunity for participation in important events and political matters on campus, which will give you practice with public speaking, decision-making, and operating in social/political atmospheres.
Sports teams also provide opportunities for teamwork, friendship-building, and exercise as well as special scholarships, particularly if you applied to the college as a high school athlete. Though varsity sports aren’t for everyone, they can supplement your studies well if you properly balance the two. Simply going to watch sports games can be fun as well, as you can cheer for your school’s team or even just meet other students at games.
Also, be sure to make use of your college’s rec center! Most schools (if not all) will have a gym containing treadmills, ellipticals, and other workout equipment available for you to use throughout many hours of the day, and many rec centers also have a pool or track you can use for swimming and running. If you want to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15 (which doesn’t always occur, by the way), it’s a good idea to balance your brain exercise with body exercise—plus, studies have shown that you retain memory, study better, sleep better, and function with more energy when you’re exercising regularly.
Performance groups provide outlets for actors, dancers, singers, and musicians alike. College choirs, a cappella groups, and marching bands are great for budding singers and musicians, and orchestras showcase their talented student virtuosos. Theatre clubs and classes also give aspiring actors and theatre nerds the chance to get that role they’ve always wanted to star in or even just learn more about the art and history of theatre and acting. And dance classes or ensembles can teach and provide a wide range of dance types from jazz to ballet.
College radio, the campus newspaper or magazine, and even college TV stations are all places where you can broadcast yourself and learn great communication skills. These opportunities offer great experiential learning opportunities and, once again, look great on a résumé!
Other resources and facilities available to you on campus for social interaction include the campus café, where local bands may perform live music, perhaps featuring you—open mic nights are great opportunities for putting yourself and your music out there. Campus art galleries let you view art by both famous artists and students on campus. And huge Humans vs. Zombies games involve masses of crazed students who run around campus shooting each other with Nerf guns. The student center is an especially good place to participate in fun activities like game nights and make new friends while you’re at it, serving as a central hub for social activity and interaction.
Whether sports based, political in nature, or wholly social and for fun, so many opportunities will be yours as soon as you step onto campus. Taking advantage of these plentiful resources and student groups is endlessly beneficial to balancing out your college life. Whether it's through games, a cultural organization, or a performance troupe, you’ll be learning valuable life skills as well as building meaningful relationships. Let yourself become an integrated member of your college’s diverse student body and you’ll have a wonderful college experience!
Find a super-fun campus with our College Search tool, or check out some recommendations with this list of Colleges and Universities With Extracurriculars That Students Love.