“Be sure to get involved on campus!” For most schools, the fall activities fair is your one-stop shop for every on-campus organization you could imagine. But with hundreds of booths all trying to grab your attention with free gear and email lists, how do you stay calm and focused?
For huge public schools, hundreds of organizations come out to the activity fair and they all know the tricks to make their clubs seem like the most interesting of the bunch. You’ve never had an interest in Harry Potter, but the Quidditch team’s free stickers and cool uniforms have you writing down your email in hopes that they’ll send you an owl. College should be all about joining new activities, but there’s nothing wrong with putting a plan together before you go signing up willy-nilly.
Before the big day, go online for a sneak preview of the different clubs you’ll encounter. This way, you have the time and the solitude you need to find out everything you might want to know that the 12 seconds of walking by a booth won’t provide. One of the a capella groups sounds like a great time when you meander past, but hearing their performances online reveals that members tend to fall a little flat. “Doing a little “window-shopping” about organizations and opportunities online before diving in can help prevent the whole process from being overwhelming and might help students avoid putting their names on dozens of e-mail lists that they might never get off of,” said Matthew Couch, the director of student activities and orientation at Ohio State University.
Doing your research can also reveal the time commitment for each group you’re interested in joining. Club rowing is a great way to stay in shape, but are you dedicated enough to wake up at 4 a.m. for practices five days a week? Get a sense of how often each group meets and limit your commitments before your plate gets too full. “Having limited time in college means that you will have to let some really good opportunities pass you by occasionally,” said Michael Rizzi, director of student services at the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs of the University of Pittsburgh. “Learning how to do that effectively is part of learning to be an adult.”
When you’re picking what to sign up for, the “build your resume” ghost will probably be following along closely behind you. Try to shake it off so that you can find a balance of resume-boosting activities and clubs that fit your niche interests without feeling guilty. Writing for every publication on campus is perfect as a journalism major, but participating in ski club for the monthly trips will give you both a weekend to relax and a diverse tidbit for your resume. “Something purely social can be every bit as useful and necessary to a student’s well being as something that helps build a resume,” Couch said.
Just because you might not plan to sign up during your grueling group research, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give some random, interesting clubs a shot too. “There are some activities that you probably never had a chance to try in high school because most high schools just don’t offer them, like rugby, engineering clubs or intercultural clubs,” said Rizzi. “Don’t be afraid to try one of those.”
After you’ve written down your name for the clubs you’ve chosen via your crafty formula, take a second stroll around and see what calls to you. Maybe you’ve never acted a day in your life, but you like Saturday Night Live enough to audition for a sketch comedy group. College is about reaching beyond your comfort zone, and the activity fair is the perfect place to start.