Arriving on campus and having to make new friends can seem like a daunting task, but it is easier to do than you might think. You are surrounded by like-minded individuals who have been organized into various groups already. You just have to decide which organization, club, counsel, or activity suits your interests and lifestyle the best. Remember that you will have limited free time so you don’t want to over extend yourself and the connections that you make in college can last a lifetime. Don’t be shy. All of the participants, writers, actors, dancers, members, etc. of any campus activity graduate every four years, so they need you as much as you need them! With that in mind check out the listings on the office of student life webpage, the student activities office or something with a similar name on your school’s website. Look for posters in the student union and talk to people in your dormitory or classes to see what they are doing.
Finding Your Interests
Are you an athlete? You don’t have to be a varsity athlete to play on a club or intramural team. Most schools off a wide range of sports such as disc golf, bowling, soccer, volleyball, billiards, tennis, flag football, ultimate Frisbee and many more. You can play with other top notch competitive players who just missed making the college teams or you play completely for fun. There is something for everyone and they are usually free or very inexpensive. Sports are a great way to make friends, show school spirit, stay in shape and participate in something you enjoy. Intramural sports are also the perfect way to combat the freshman 15!
Are you interested in going Greek? Many people go through the rush process their freshman year and join a fraternity or sorority. Some students are “legacies” and join the same one their mother or father belonged to when they attended school. Some people join a sorority or fraternity associated with their major, for example, Phi Chi is only for medical students. Many Greek organizations provide more than networking opportunities, parties and fellowship. They often provide service opportunities, meals, housing and tutoring to members. The Greek system has been in place for several generations. Its longevity is a testimony to how socially and emotionally satisfying many people find it to be. It is always possible to rush and then decide if it is something you are interested in before actually joining.
Is your future in radio or television? Nearly every school, no matter how small, is broadcasting something and someone has to do it. College radio is one of the best showcases of up and coming musicians on the planet. But someone has to be willing to stay up all night and play them without pay. Often times they are the same students who run the audiovisuals for professors and keep the online classes actually online. If you can work a soundboard or add subtitles to a lecture being sent out to online classes then find your ways to the audio visual labs. That is where you will find your people.
Do you want to make the world a better place? Community service organizations are a great way to improve the country and meet people who share the same interest. You can find links to national organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, , the American Red Cross, or Americorps on your school websites. Americorp has special divisions for future healthcare workers and lawyers to gain valuable experience while doing meaningful volunteer work. Many schools also offer links to local programs in need of assistance. If you have a particular talent or interest, this is a great way to put it to good use.
Are you career focused? A career or pre-professional organization might be the right fit for you. There are organizations for virtually every major and they provide an excellent chance to network with other students in the same field. Many students find these type of organizations helpful for choosing classes, securing internships and finding work after graduation. The more people you know in your chosen profession the better when you are first starting out and the organization gives you a talking point on your resume.
Are you a writer? Student publications have gotten more prolific and more interesting as technology has evolved. Student newspapers and magazines have become specialized, rapidly updated and interactive due to comments. Now you can find good food thanks to online publications like Spoon University and listen to good music thanks to online papers like The Groove. Most schools are publishing a wide variety of online materials these days and would welcome your contributions. If you can’t find one that suits you, start your own blog or website and advertise the address on social media. You will have a local following in no time.
Do you sing, dance or act? If so, then college is the place to be. You don’t have to be a music or theater major to be involved in the arts. There are pep bands, a Capella singing groups, choral ensembles, jazz trios, etc. to join. There are improv comedy troops, dance teams, step teams, clogging teams and other organizations constantly looking for new members. Florida State University even has a circus. Students perform in the Flying High Circus year round! The oldest and most famous student theatrical society in America is the Hasty Pudding at Harvard. It was founded in 1795 as an artistic-minded fraternity. In the early days they put on mock trials but in 1844 they performed a full length burlesque entitled Bombastes Furioso and a tradition was born. Since then, every year, other than at the height of each world war, a major production has been performed with an all male cast, half dressed in drag, and a live orchestra to tremendous critical acclaim. The Hasty Pudding Society boasts a membership list that includes Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, Rashida Jones, Nell Benjamin and many, many more notable Americans.
Finding Your Tribe
Who do you identify with? One of the easiest ways to find your people on campus is to join an ethnic or cultural alliance group. Once again, you should be able to find a list of these on your student affairs website. There are organizations for students based on their country of origin, racial identity, cultural heritage, native language, sexual preference, ethnic affiliation and/or disability. Large schools often have around two hundred of these types of organizations. But even the smallest schools usually have a few. Many campuses have umbrella organizations such as the International Student Union, Black Student Union and Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Student Union that provide a hub for many groups to meet and a central hang out location. These specific student unions can be a great place to find friends and resources.
Research indicates that students are much less likely to drop out of school if they have a support group of like-minded peers they feel comfortable with. Having an academic support system of peers increases self-esteem, makes it more likely that students will seek assistance, it also increases retention and makes students happier.
Students are much less likely to drop out of school if they have a support group of like-minded peers they feel comfortable with.
Do you have a future in politics? Join the student government or student counsel. Many schools also appoint students to ethics and expulsion committees or allow them to become mediators in on campus disputes. If that isn’t your cup of tea then volunteer for your local elected official and gain valuable experience while building up your resume. The number one trait that employers are looking for in recent college graduates is leadership skills. Being president of your class, your sorority, your dormitory or the student ethics committee goes a long way towards showing future employers that you have that skill covered!
Are you religious? Many students find leaving home to be stressful and find comfort in religious ritual and fellowship. A religious center is a great way to find your people. Offerings on campus and around town will depend on the size of the city and the school. If you are a Christian it is likely that you will find a fellowship right on campus. The Catholic Church has established Newman Centers on many secular campuses across the country. Cru, an evangelical Christian organization is active on nearly 2,000 campuses and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is virtually everywhere. Churches locates near colleges normally have special classes and social groups for students and they often provide meals and transportation. Check out the website of your chosen denomination for more information. If you are not a Christian you may have to look a little harder for a religious organization near campus. Start with information posted by the International Student Union, your cultural identity club and the student affairs website before you venture out onto the general internet. You want to find the place the other students are going so that you can make some like-minded friends and travel in a group.
Make It Count
College is a time of exploration and discovery. If you try something new and it isn’t working for you, quit and try something else. You are not likely to find life-long friends and make meaningful connections doing something that you hate. College provides you with a rare opportunity to find your thing and find your people so make it count.