The last weeks of summer are upon us and, hopefully, you made your summer experience more meaningful, as discussed in my previous blog post titled “What is Your College Student Doing This Summer?” Now, as your thoughts shift to your return to school, the first thing that comes to mind may be the fun of reconnecting with your friends. If you are an incoming freshman, you are probably both excited and nervous about the new experiences that lay ahead.
No matter what year you might be in, getting involved on campus is important. It’s a way to help yourself, and can often be a way to help others, as well. It can be as simple as working on a service project, or as intense as leading an entire organization. The key to being successful is to find something you are truly passionate about, and then effectively manage the commitments that you make.
You might even want to consider activities that could help you hone in on a possible career. For example, if you think being an entrepreneur may be of interest, you might join an entrepreneurship group to test drive that possibility. A good guideline is that the more uncertain you are of your career choice, the more you should consider using your time outside the classroom to help in the selection process.
Look for organizations and activities that have a purpose which resonates with you, and then determine your targeted level of involvement. The age-old saying tells us that “the more you put in, the more you get out.” And while there is definitely truth to this, you also need to be aware of the time commitment required. Activities and organizations can help to supplement your classroom education, but they should not be viewed as a replacement for it. On the other hand, you do not want to be so concerned about overcommitting yourself that you pass up opportunities for unique experiences available only during your college years.
The activities and organizations with which you become involved will help to round-out (put a different flavor on?) your college experience – and to make it more meaningful. Not everything can be learned in the classroom and some of your most important capabilities can be developed when you put yourself into unfamiliar situations, working with others toward a common goal or cause, and gaining exposure to new ideas.
Before making a commitment, it is important to estimate how much time you have to dedicate to it. Academics need to remain a priority, as well as any job you might have – or any career search you will be conducting. Like all things in life, committing time to an organization or activity is a balance and you’ll want to consider all of the factors involved. Flex your organizational muscles and develop good time management techniques! These are life skills that will benefit you far beyond your college years.
So, how to get started?
To find out about available activities and organizations on campus, check out all of your school’s resources – both onsite and online. Individuals working in the Student Affairs department on campus may be able to assist you in identifying opportunities in which you have an interest or about which you want to learn more.
Also, keep in mind that getting involved in organizations that help others within your college or university can be a great way to give back. The same goes for organizations helping within the local community where your school is located. In both cases, getting involved can build your network and also become a resume builder for you – all this, while you are doing something good for others!
Remember, too, that there are ongoing organizations as well as one-time activities and events. You’ll want to choose what works best for your own personal circumstances. And, what fits best for you will vary depending on your academic course load and other commitments.
So, it may be more apparent to you that there is a lot to consider as you return to campus this fall. But planning for the fall semester will help you make much better use of your time when you do move back in at school. And, when considering the right level of involvement in organizations and activities, remember to keep it simple:
• Understand all your commitments and determine the amount of time you can devote, but, don’t be afraid to stretch a bit
• Use all of your school’s resources to learn what is available, and
• Develop a schedule to keep you on track in meeting your commitments in all areas
Being involved at your school is an ongoing process that should be carefully considered and adjusted as needed. It’s a great way to meet new people and to feel a sense of belonging. If you’re interested in getting involved, but feel overwhelmed with the prospect, just make a commitment to start small. You’ll be glad you did!