3 Keys to Successfully Navigating Student Activities as a First-Year Student

The frenzy is still in the air.  After a week or weekend of orientation activities, a week of classes or class shopping, the newly arrived first-year student or freshman is getting ready to explore all the clubs and organizations his/her college or university has to offer. 

Whether it is Activities Night, Student Activities Fair, or Splash Day the upperclass students are eager to show their peers a good time and showcase their club or organization in an effort to get as many new members as possible.  Hence, they will lure you into signing up for their organization by giving you beach balls, t-shirts, stress balls, lollipops, frisbees, USB ports, and all sorts of freebies.  You will have a great time at the event, and you should, as college is supposed to be fun.  But if you give your email to too many organizations, before you know it your mailbox will be so cluttered that you will refuse to check your college email account and miss important messages from your academic adviser, tutor, PAF, RA, Resident Dean, Rector, and even the internship office. 

So, how can you navigate this event with success, getting the freebies and having a good time, but without being overwhelmed?

1. Create a New Email Account:

Prior to the event you can create a new email account to give away while signing up for all the organizations you think you might be interested in.  Shortly after the event you can check it, and decide which meetings you will attend to explore couple of organizations further.  Once you decide which clubs or organizations to join, you can request them to update your email account to your preferred email address.  This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed, as you would not need to check the created email address in the future.

2. Be selective:

If you decide not to create a new account, you could walk around the fair and scope out two or three organizations you are genuinely interested in and give those organizations your information.  You might be used to partaking in many activities, as this is often what students do in high school to get into college.  However, it is prudent to avoid overextending yourself the first semester—after all, you are going to be in school for 7 semesters more after this one.  In college things move at a faster pace than in high school and once you get behind there isn't time to catch up.  Thus, to make life easier and keep yourself from playing catch up, you can choose two extracurricular activities first semester and if you can handle them both and excel academically, then you can sign up for more the following semester.  Remember that if you are playing a sport, even if it is a club or interhall sport, and have a campus job, you are already involved in two extracurricular activities. 

3. Don’t attend every meeting of all the organizations you signed up for:

If you get caught up in the excitement and do not want to say no to your peers and decide to sign up for all the organizations that provide you with freebies, then make sure not to attend all of their first meetings.  Once, a student came into my office in tears because she fell very much behind the first four weeks of the semester and now she was afraid that she was not going to do well on the pre-med track she had decided to embark on.

After listening to her concerns, I asked her to show me on her schedule how she had been spending her time.  She had spent 17 hours outside of class attending first meetings of all the organizations and clubs for which she had signed up!  No wonder she was overwhelmed.  We discussed which were the two clubs that would be enhance her leadership and other tangible skills that could help her in the future as a potential physician and she was genuinely interested in, got her into tutoring, and immediately turned around her odds of succeeding her first semester in college inside and outside the classroom.  While her first semester was a bit rocky, she turned things around because she asked for help right on time and learned to balance her life early on.  As a senior, she got into three of the eight medical schools she applied for and now is a terrific doctor.

Regardless of the way you choose to navigate Activities Night, Student Activities Fair, or Splash Day, I hope you attend, have a great time, continue making new friends, and join some clubs and organizations, while keeping in mind that this is not your only semester in college.