College is a brand new, exciting adventure. Finally experiencing freedom and taking the next step towards your future can be both thrilling and frightening. For me, the terrifying part never hit me until I was trying to find an organization to join. I knew that joining a student organization would help me connect to my new campus, but there were so many, with so many different objectives, cultures, and people. I ended up getting caught up in the prestige of an organization and I was miserable for my entire freshman year, because I didn’t feel at home. After joining my current organization, I have never once doubted my decision. I have found my best friends and I love being involved. If I could go back and give my freshman year self some advice on picking an organization, here is what I would say.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Organizations are going to put their best foot forward when recruiting new members. It may seem like the perfect organization for you, but it may not be. The opposite might also be true. Before judging an organization right off the bat, do your research and talk to the members to see if you think you belong there.
There are going to be multiple organizations available for you to join. If you find your home on your first try, that’s great! If you don’t, keep looking. Most campuses have organizations that fit into a variety of categories – academic, social, service, cultural, spiritual, etc. Try to look at organizations from more than one category; there might be a less-well-known one that could be the perfect fit for you.
Consider your goals
I am a pre-med major so I wanted to join an organization that gave me opportunities to boost my resume and also allowed me to be surrounded by other common-minded people. Therefore, that is what I looked for in an organization. There are going to be different organizations that have different purposes and events. To filter out organizations, look for ones with shared values and that hold events that you would be interested in.
Look at the people in the organization
If you are standing in an interest meeting or an event and you look around, really think about if those are the type of people you want to be with. These are going to be the peers that you go to events with and may even become your best friends. The people also represent what the organization is going to be to you. Another thing, don’t join an organization just because your best friend is in it. I only knew a few people when I first joined my organization, but I liked all of the people I met and that’s one of the reasons I knew it would be my home.
Make a pros and cons list
If you are stuck between a couple of organizations, make a pros and cons list. This can make you see what you value about an organization and can make you rethink some decisions. Evaluate the time you have available for extracurricular activities, too. With good time management, many students can successfully participate in more than one organization.
Everyone finds their own home
Just because I didn’t find my home in my freshmen year organization does not mean that others didn’t. Every person has different wants and needs and every organization has its strengths. Be respectful and maintain your friendships with those who may have found a home in another group.
Going through these steps is important when looking at organizations. Finding your home can make a huge difference in your college career; I know it has in mine.