Let’s face it: heading off to college is incredibly exciting, yet also pretty terrifying.
It’s a change that you’ve probably been looking forward to for quite some time, but it’s also one that comes with immeasurable uncertainties. And it’s important to remember that the decisions you make now will impact your life for years to come.
So what’s the best way to embrace the change and make the most out of your higher ed experience? Getting involved on campus.
Whether you’re heading into your undergrad, or are preparing for a more advanced degree, here are five reasons why you should consider becoming an active member of your campus community:
- You’ll meet lots of new people.
Having a hard time making friends on campus? Maybe you just haven’t found your people yet. Joining a student organization can help you figure out where you fit in the larger community, giving you a sense of belonging and helping you enjoy your experience more.
This applies to graduate students too, who too often are on a fast-paced or part-time track that prohibits them from truly getting involved in the community around them. Full disclosure: I was once one of those grad students.
I worked a very demanding job in an extremely deadline-orientated industry and spent my free time taking night classes towards my master’s degree. I was laser focused on my goal, and didn’t spend time on campus unless I had to. This meant that after two semesters, I still hadn’t made one single connection with my fellow students. I felt utterly alone amidst a sea of people, and I knew I wasn’t getting the most out of my experience.
So I decided to make a change: I ran for student government.
Becoming the president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) made an incredible difference in my life. I met new people, I finally made some friends and I found where I belonged. I began to really look forward to my time on campus, and the interactions I had with my peers.
And now, part of my role as president is helping incoming students find the student organizations that are right for them.
- You’ll be forced to work on your people skills
Joining a student organization guarantees that you’ll be faced with countless opportunities to introduce yourself to new folks, which is a great way to increase your social interactions, and learn how to be comfortable when you don’t know anyone.
You’ll have to voice your opinions, lend a helping hand and work with a team to tackle problems. These are all skills that you’ll need later on in life, regardless of your job title or industry.
Even if you think you’ve already got great people skills, just remember that there’s always room for improvement. If joining a student organization can make you a better communicator, a better leader and a better team member, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?
- You’ll make a difference
Depending on the type of organization you join, you may have an opportunity to make a real impact on the community.
Do you hate the food your campus cafeteria serves? Chances are you’re not the only one. Find out if there is an organization designed to address this type of student concern (it’s usually the student government body) and help make the changes you want to see! You’ll gain valuable experience and insight into how changes take place, plus you’ll be left with the awesome feeling of knowing you’re a a part of something much bigger than you.
There are all kinds of student organizations geared towards making the world a better place, you just have to find which cause interests you the most.
- You’ll gain hands-on experience in your field
Most campuses offer at least one student organization per department, which means you’ll have ample opportunities to gain skills and experience in your major, outside of the classroom. This not only looks great on resumes, but is also a skill builder.
Talk to your department head to see which student organizations exist, and join the one that most closely aligns to your planned career.
- You’ll gain an understanding of what you’re interested in
If your major is divided into concentrations, it can be difficult to know exactly which direction you want to go in. The good news is that there is most likely a student organization that caters to each specific concentration, and joining a few different ones can help you really figure out what you’re interested in.
For instance, during my undergraduate work, I was a communications major, which was broken into multiple concentrations: journalism, television broadcasting, radio broadcasting, interpersonal communication, public relations and advertising (but I’m pretty sure they’ve changed quite a bit since then). Each concentration had its own club, and students from any major were welcome to join – which is also helpful to undeclared students who aren’t sure which major to pick.
I knew I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, so I joined the campus paper. But I was also pretty interested in broadcasting, so I joined the TV club and started a radio show as well. All of these clubs gave me the chance to explore the major more, while gaining the skills and knowledge I’d need later on in my career.
BONUS REASON: You’ll have tons of fun!
From team building exercises and retreats, to student socials and special events, most student organizations find ways to make working together a great time. In the short time that I’ve served on GSA’s elected board, we’ve gone to dinner together, hosted themed socials (click here to view photos of our Red Sox Opening Day Social) and created meet-up events for students in similar majors. It’s been a blast!