My College:
Student Life

Getting Involved on Campus

Kate Gallop

As you hear on every campus tour, colleges have clubs for everything. Whether your student wants to get involved in sports, volunteering, advocacy, cultural groups, Greek life or something related to their academic interests, there’s a club or organization ready to welcome them (“or they can start their own!”). Here are ideas to share with your student as they acclimate to their new campus community this fall!

Do Initial Research

While activities fairs might look different due to social distancing guidelines, there are other ways to learn about clubs even before classes start. You can usually find a list of clubs with a short description and contact information by searching “campus life” or “student life” on the college website. This is a great tool and helped me navigate my second activities fair better than my first because I knew what I was looking for.

Ask Questions

When considering which groups to join, be sure to understand their expectations for members. This includes what the joining process is like, the time commitment, how lenient they are about attendance, and whatever else you’re curious about. This will help you anticipate if the club will be a good fit. Many groups host information sessions after the activities fair where you can learn even more. It can be tempting to sign up for a ton of clubs — make sure you’re excited about each one you join.

Reach Out at Any Time

It’s never too late to join. If you stumble upon a club that sounds fun, don’t be afraid to reach out, no matter how far into the semester it is. Some groups only accept new members at the start of the term, but contacting them will help you be aware of when you can join and your interest will be appreciated. My roommate emailed the photography club halfway through fall semester and attended her first meeting the following week.

Support Other Activities

There are other ways to make campus feel small. Supporting friends in their activities throughout the year is a great way to feel connected on campus. I attended improv comedy sketches, acapella concerts and fundraisers. Going to events around campus helps you meet new people and support your friends, and you may even find something you want to join. Look at posters, follow student activities on social media, and ask around!

Don’t Try to Do It All

At the start of freshman year, I felt pressure to find all the groups I wanted to join immediately. Looking back, I could have paced myself better. Activities are a great way to meet people but there will be time to try new things and get more involved as the semesters go by.

Unfortunately, student organizations will probably look different this fall. Social distancing requirements might put some activities on hold altogether. Clubs will still want your student to join! The opportunity for new students to extend themselves, make new friends, continue the activities they love and find new ones won’t go away — it may just require more creativity.

My Experience with Activities

When I arrived on campus as a freshman last year, everything felt so new. I woke up in a new room, found new classrooms, learned from new professors, ate new food and met new people. Those new things were all exciting, but there was also something unsettling about starting over completely. Each day I grew more used to my routine, but a few weeks in, something still seemed to be missing.

Then I attended the activities fair. I wandered around tables, and wrote out my name and email possibly too many times. Afterwards, I got emails from the clubs that looked interesting and went to a few first meetings.

When I joined Club Basketball, it wasn’t like starting over because it was a sport I’d played growing up. It quickly felt natural to bond with the team, practice twice a week and, later, ask older players for advice.

Getting involved with sports early on helped me hold onto the things I loved to do. It was fun meeting people who shared the same interest, and I felt more situated on campus. However, by the end of the first semester, I felt I needed something else.

I joined Greek Life because I wanted to be part of a smaller community. The scheduled social and philanthropic events added another element I’d been missing.

I love the things I’m a part of at my school, but I still don’t feel like I’m involved in everything I want to be. This fall, I might join the school newspaper, or a club centered around community service or mental health advocacy. Four years will go fast! I want to make the most of it.

Kate Gallop is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she majored in English and minors in psychology and WGSS (women's, gender and sexuality studies). Kate's work has appeared on Creating Cultures of Dignity’s blog and in Canvas, a teen literary journal.
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