Lesley Swim is a native of Colorado and is currently working on finishing a degree in psychology. She has worked with children her entire life and currently teaches preschool and other children’s classes at her local recreation center as well as working in the therapeutic recreation (special needs) program. She has been a counselor at a day camp for over four years while also working college programming with incoming freshmen during the school year in residence halls with in-hall academic programs. She has led small group weekly meetings of freshmen to help them bond with other s in their hall and to help make a big university feel smaller. She was a part of re-writing the honors in-hall academic program-operating proposal, created and run training for those leading small freshmen groups, as well as mentored those leading those small groups.
Colleges, regardless of size, offer tons of clubs, interest groups, programming opportunities, teams, and other ways to explore and find your passions. Entering school gives you the ability to take classes for your degree and participate in a world of special interest opportunities that reflect those things you often become most passionate about. At the beginning of each semester, all groups pepper campus with fliers and interest tables about upcoming activities. You might find interest in the fencing club, your residential hall council, and two different sports teams, but for the first year, it is not a bad idea to collect your interests, pick one or two of the most intriguing, and take a deep breath!
Many new students forget that, like high school, you are going to be at in school for a few years so there is no use in overloading yourself with extracurricular activities and having your main academic work suffer. The idea of extra activities is that they compliment your academic studies and round out your college experience. If you are in a research field and would like actual experience, then getting into a research lab for practice would probably be enjoyable for you, but not if from there you are running to an evening class and after that to ice hockey practice; don’t forget you’re still going to need to get homework done!
Early in the year during the typical new student interest fair or involvement/volunteer fair, it is definitely worth it to take note and make a list of all the extracurriculars you would like to try while in college. Make your list as you see groups, and then go back and order them from “have-to-try-it-now” to “willing to wait.” This time of the year is the best to make your list because all groups, teams, Greek organizations, etc. are often at one of the two above-mentioned events, so keeping track of all interesting opportunities ensures you start out with a good selection.
Starting with one or two opportunities is definitely worth it in so many ways as it will greatly enhance the quality of your first year! It not only gives you wiggle room for trial and error when it comes to balancing your own schedule with homework, classes, and free time, but it allows you space to become deeply involved in a chosen group if you turn out to fall in love with the cause/people/events. Not having to run around like a frantic chicken allows for a smoother transition into college life, and opens so many doors for in-depth involvement, ability to add on commitments, or to have time to be lazy sometimes!
The moral of the story? Overbooking your first year, especially with commitments that don’t have to do with your academic success can make any year, not just your first, much less enjoyable, and harder to navigate successfully. College and new prospects are exciting but you have some time, so, take a breath, make a plan, and rock your first year!