Choosing Extracurriculars in University

So, you’ve gotten into a top school, chosen all your classes, and are ready to start the new academic year, but you still don’t know anyone at your university? You’ve heard that extracurriculars can be a great way to make friends and supplement your education, but don’t know which clubs to choose? There’s the juggling club, breakdancing club, microfinance club, student credit union, and hundreds of others. Should you sign up for all of them and risk not having time to do anything else or should you sign up for just one or two and hope that you like them? Should you sign up for academic clubs or recreational clubs? Are the selective clubs really worth it? These are some of the questions that we will be tackling today.

In short, there is no one-size solution that works for everyone, but there are some useful ways to think about these questions. Let’s start with the first one: How many clubs should you do? Most universities have a club fair in the first few weeks. You should take advantage of this opportunity to get a sense of which clubs on campus might be of interest to you and register for the listservs for all the clubs that you think you might like. It never hurts to get on their mailing lists and you can always unsubscribe later. Over the next couple weeks, try to attend at least two meetings for each club to get a sense of what they’re about. Next, think about what you are trying to get out of your club experience. If clubs are just a way to de-stress and meet new people, then the right approach might be to just keep going to as many different club meetings as you can. On the other hand, many students see clubs as a way to develop their leadership skills and build their resume. These students might want to really focus on one or two clubs and attend all the meetings for them. If you are one of these students, you should ask the current club leadership if there’s anything you can do to take on more responsibility, even if in an informal capacity. Maintaining a good attendance record and taking on informal responsibilities will help you run for a board position, which you should definitely do the first chance you get. Even if you don’t win, running will signal your commitment to the club and will help in future elections.

Another important decision to consider is which clubs to choose. Once again, there is no “right” answer about which approach is best, and different approaches might be better for different people. However, my biggest advice would be to choose a club with a culture you like. Do the other students like to party or just hangout? Are they formal or informal? If you find a group of people you like, it really won’t matter what the club is. Broadly speaking, there are two types of clubs: academic and recreational. Many people will rush into academic clubs just because they feel like it’s something that is expected of them. I strongly advise against doing this. Instead, you should think about how to develop yourself as a person and seek meaningful experiences. Rather than forcing yourself to participate in that microfinance club you hate, try juggling. If you like something, you’re more likely to succeed at it and you will be happier doing it. At the end of the day, if you end up liking juggling and become the club president, you will have a more compelling story to tell at job interviews than if you are just another member of the microfinance club. If you are looking for professional experience and can’t find anything interesting on campus, you can always find a job off campus.

The last topic I want to cover related to extracurriculars in university is whether the selective clubs are really worth it. As you may have noticed, some clubs on campus require an application. In some schools, these clubs are even more selective than the schools themselves and being a member is considered a sign of prestige. In many cases, the clubs themselves do not matter as much as the fact that they are selective. For example, the most selective group at Georgetown University is The Corp, which runs the coffee shops on campus and boasts a 5.5% acceptance rate. Keep in mind that all applicants are students at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Those lucky few students accepted to The Corp then get the privilege of serving coffee to their fellow classmates. Of course, there is nothing wrong with making a living as a barista, but pretending that this position is deserving of its selectivity is simply disingenuous. The Corp is prestigious precisely because of its selectivity, but the selectivity of the organization does not make it any better than any of the other organizations on campus. As mentioned above, you should look for clubs that match your interests, and if one of those clubs happens to have an application, then I encourage you to apply. However, you shouldn’t apply to a club solely because of its selectivity.

The main lesson I hope that you take away from this post is that no extracurriculars are inherently better than any others. Some are better fits for you and some are worse. So many times in life we are forced to do things that we do not want to do. Extracurriculars are your chance to explore your interests and develop as a student and a person. Seize the opportunity.

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