Imagine...you've transferred to your new college or university. You’re on campus as a full-fledged student. It’s fall, and students are rushing all around you on their way to class, to rehearsal, to grab a bite, to a meeting. You should be on your way somewhere too!
In order to give yourself a truly successful and fulfilling experience as a new transfer student, it’s critical to join in on-campus activities at your new “home.” Your classes are not the only avenue to explore new ideas and experiences, and whether you are a residential or commuter student, it’s never too early or too late to get involved at your school. With that being said, deciding what to join may be a rather intimidating task—depending on your new school’s size, the number of clubs and organizations could be in the hundreds! And even though you’re an experienced college student, it’s reasonable and normal to feel like a first-year all over again.
Where to begin
Most colleges and universities offer students a wide variety of opportunities for involvement, including Greek life, academic/honors clubs, student government, religious organizations, intramural sports, student media, volunteer groups, and more. Schools usually have an event at the beginning of the term showcasing these groups, with representatives in attendance to provide information and recruit new members. If you miss such an event, don’t despair; you can always visit the student life office on campus. They should be able to provide you with the information you’re looking for. Here are a few more ways to find campus activities that interest you.
Start with your major
A great way to dip your toes into campus life is to explore organizations within your major. This can provide you with an automatic path to students who share your interests and passions. Most schools offer pre-professional societies and various honor societies for different fields of study. One such example is Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, which hosts conferences and competitions each year to help its members grow intellectually and professionally.
While looking for opportunities outside of your major, take some time to determine which ones will be the best fit for you. Explore groups and activities that spark your interests and offer a way for you to use your talents. If you can’t find what you're looking for, many colleges and universities encourage and allow the formation of new clubs or organizations. At Kentucky Wesleyan College, a local social sorority was formed as a new organization and in a few years went on to be re-chartered as a national sorority. The possibilities of a well-developed idea are endless!
Look into intramurals
Intramural sports are a good way to get involved while remaining active. Many schools have a wide variety to choose from, from volleyball to flag football to bowling. And you’re sure to meet new people since most intramurals are team sports.
Check out a lecture series
While the words “lecture series” may not make you jump up and down with excitement, they can be enlightening and even help with your career goals. Most colleges host various lecture series that are open to the campus community as well as the public. Guest lecturers can offer a new perspective or give more in-depth knowledge about a topic you are interested in. And, as with any event open to the community, networking with local professionals is always a valuable opportunity.
Think outside the box
Don’t overlook interesting opportunities that aren’t as obvious at first glance. Even though a campus activity or organization may sound kind of bizarre—the Harvard Tiddlywinks Society, anyone?—there may still be some value there for you. If your studies are complete and you have nothing else planned, go check it out. Why not? You never know—you may end up having a good time and making new friends. And if it turns out that it wasn’t for you after all, you can still feel good that you participated and tried something new.
Get off campus
Not all student life activities take place on campus. Most colleges and universities offer a variety of off-campus entertainment too, including trips to theme parks, sporting events, and concerts. Best of all, as a student, these excursions will likely be available to you at a reduced cost—or for free! Volunteer work, raising money for charities, and mission trips are also wonderful ways to get involved with both your school and community. And if you're ready for a global setting, be sure to explore your school’s study abroad opportunities.
Why you should get involved
Bottom line: What you get out of your college experience depends on what you put into it. Participation creates a sense of community at your campus. It gives you a unique chance to create lifelong friendships, build leadership skills, develop new interests, and, of course, have some really fun times and make some great memories! Studies show that students who are involved on campus tend to have a higher GPA, graduate sooner, and generally have a better college experience. Many students also list their college activities on their résumés when applying for jobs or graduate school. This allows employers and graduate admission representatives to look beyond grades and provides a broader view of the applicant as an individual.
It’s an ongoing process
There may be times when you join a club or organization and realize after a while that it’s not for you. That is perfectly okay! Finding your niche can take time. The important thing is knowing what is right for you. If you discover a group you’re exceptionally passionate about, focus on that organization and commit to it. And if you don’t find what you are looking for, start something new!
Don’t spread yourself too thin
While immersing yourself in your new college experience, you also need to remember not to overdo it. Remember: You are a student first, so your classes and studies should always be your top priorities. When making a commitment to a club or organization, be sure you have the time you want and need to dedicate to it. Be honest with yourself and the other student members about how much you can really take on. This is fair not only to you but to them as well. It is better to be committed to one organization than dabble in many.
Balancing your classes with extracurricular activities can be the foundation for the best years of your life and help you create a winning college schedule. It's also a great way to acclimate to a new campus and make new friends as a transfer student. So get out there and enjoy them!