Considering the past couple of years, college students today understand the benefits of social interaction more than anyone. Sitting in on a Zoom lecture for your upper-division organic chemistry class isn’t quite the same as actually sitting in the front row of a lecture hall, raising your real-life hand to ask your real-life professor a question.
With the era of online classes mostly behind you, you’re probably a little anxious about getting back into the groove of in-person academia. Sure, taking naps during discussion groups was fun while it lasted, but now you’ll have to be present and conscious for that sort of thing.
Luckily, there are a variety of opportunities on college campuses for you to make connections that’ll last beyond graduation. Besides, studies show that social connections boost academic success, not to mention mental health.
Whether you’d like to get involved on campus to make up for lost time or to get a running start during your first year at college, it’s good to be aware of all the opportunities out.
When you think of college, you probably picture guys with backward baseball caps throwing Ping-Pong balls into red solo cups. Or maybe you picture a group of young women performing a cheer at the entrance of their house, attempting to recruit passers-by. If either of these is true, you’re familiar with Greek life on college campuses.
Greek organizations include fraternities and sororities. As the University of Michigan points out, there are local and national councils that these fraternities and sororities belong to, including the Panhellenic Association and National Pan-Hellenic Council.
These organizations are further classified as “social” or “professional.” Some professional fraternities and sororities are geared toward specific majors and career goals. For example, pre-health students and business students have their own Greek organizations, depending on the school. Other fraternities and sororities are purely social.
Getting involved in Greek life has its pros and cons. The obvious benefits are the social networking you’ll achieve. Whether you’re in a social or professional organization, you’ll have opportunities to make important connections with fellow students, faculty, and alumni who can help you achieve your long-term goals. Also, if you’re planning on attending graduate school, there are leadership positions within these organizations that will give you valuable experience in planning events, managing funds, and overcoming interpersonal conflict.
However, joining Greek life does have a price tag attached. Depending on the organization, you may be required to live in a house with others in the sorority or fraternity. On top of housing costs, you’ll have to pay your dues every term.
If you’re looking to make friends, have an active social calendar, work toward leadership positions, or gain professional connections, Greek life might be for you.
Clubs on Campus
Like high school, the college offers different avenues to get involved on campus through clubs. Depending on the size of the college, there can be dozens, hundreds, or even over a thousand clubs.
These clubs range from sports to ethnic groups to volunteer organizations. For example, if you’re a creative writer, your college may have creative composition clubs that meet weekly for writing circles. Similarly, groups like the Asian Pacific Island club foster cultural awareness and community on campus.
With so many options, it can be overwhelming to decide which clubs to invest your time into. After all, passing your classes is kind of an important part of obtaining your college degree.
So how do you narrow down the search?
First, reflect on what your goals are. What are you trying to get out of club involvement? Are you looking for volunteer hours in the medical field to help you gain hands-on experience? Are you looking for a dance group to make friends in and to get away from studying every week?
After you’ve aligned the options on your campus with your specific goals, it’s time to try some out. Usually, colleges have club fairs or a page on the school website that presents clubs and their meeting times. Look into when and where the clubs that you’re interested in are meeting. Even if you are only slightly interested in a club, give it a chance. You never know where you’ll find the community and friends that’ll shape your college experience.
If you’re worried about how rigorous your college classes will be, you aren’t alone. One almost universal college experience is stressing over exams, essays, and quizzes alongside your classmates.
But what if you don’t want to study alone? Sharing notes and studying with others can make a huge difference in your experience and performance in certain classes. In fact, a 2015 publication on study groups reveals that college students who participated in some sort of study group or academic community were more confident about and showed mastery in their curriculum’s material.
If you’re still worried about finding study groups, there’s no need to stress. These days, class members often form online chat groups using contact information from a course website to coordinate with other students. That way, you can share notes via messages and plan in-person study sessions.
Additionally, college campuses usually advertise tutoring and study hall opportunities. Sometimes, this comes in the form of an academic program specific to your college campus. For example, certain universities have programs geared toward first-generation or low-income students. If you qualify for these programs, you can take advantage of study groups for introductory courses until you have the study skills to succeed on your own.
Whether they form organically or through a program on campus, finding a study group is usually as simple as reaching out to one person in your class.
At the end of the day, your college experience is what you make it. Getting involved looks different for every student on campus, so it’s up to you to shape the next four years of your life. Now you have the tools to get started.