When it comes to getting involved in extracurricular organizations, there are two types of freshman: those who signed up for twenty clubs at the activities fair, and those who couldn’t seem to find anything.
As someone who fell into the former group, I initially had trouble balancing academics with after-school activities because I didn’t want to let go of certain clubs. But by asking myself some key questions, I was able to narrow down my list and figure out which organizations would be worthwhile to participate in.
If you’re in the same boat as I was, consider the following:
How much time do I want to dedicate to extracurriculars?
This can really vary depending on your class schedule, personal social battery, organizational skills, and where your interests lie. For students who enjoy community involvement and aren’t that stressed about classwork, 3-5 clubs is a good range to start with. For those who prefer to prioritize academics, taking on less clubs is better. One size doesn’t fit all, though. If you’re not sure where to start, try 1-2 extracurriculars and see how their meeting times affect your schedule.
Where do my interests lie?
It’s generally not a good idea to spend your free time doing something that you’re not passionate about. If participating in a club starts to feel more like a chore, it’s better to drop it and find a new organization instead of sticking around for the sake of “gaining experience.” On the other hand, if you see a poster or online advertisement for a club that calls out to you, join it! That club and its niches could end up being an oasis in the sea of final exams in the future. I suggest having a mix of serious and easy-going clubs on your roster.
How does this club benefit me? (+ How can I benefit it?)
All clubs have the potential to be strong resume-builders. Will the extracurricular(s) that you’re considering help you with career-planning or networking? What kinds of leadership positions are offered? These are additional questions to ask yourself when thinking of clubs as long-term commitments. For example, you could help build a club’s social media pages, which will give you valuable experience in graphic design and outreach. Even if you’d prefer not to carry a responsibility like this, simply being a part of an organization for a while is worth noting on your job applications. This is why it’s important to find clubs that you want to stick with as an underclassman.
Do I feel like I belong here?
Above all, extracurriculars play a key role in establishing on-campus communities outside of classes. If you are looking for a reliable group of like-minded people, diversity and social organizations are vital. Some people prefer larger clubs where you can meet many new people at once. Others might want a smaller, tight-knit circle. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain club’s social setting or find that your voice is going unheard, look for another organization.
For each club that you’re currently considering, use these questions as a guide. If you’re still struggling to narrow down your list of extracurriculars, remember that you can always rejoin clubs later on in the semester/year. The bottom line is that you should be spending time in extracurriculars that you genuinely enjoy. William & Mary is home to hundreds of wonderful extracurricular organizations, but try not to overcommit! As a freshman, you have plenty of time to solidify your schedule and discover the right clubs for you.