The Complete Guide to Finding Clubs

This post is the fourth in a series I’m calling “Freshman Fifteen” – a set of fifteen posts that will walk you up to and into your freshman year of college. Read up on the first post here, or just dive in:

Clubs are, without a doubt, one of the best ways to meet people and do cool stuff in college. Gathering a bunch of people who care about the same stuff into one place at a dedicated time each week is basically a recipe for friendship. And – especially if you go to a large school – no matter what “your thing” is, there’s probably a student organization on campus for that. Whether you’re looking to try something new (what up, fencing club?) or get back to an old favorite, finding the right clubs is one way to make college a lot more fun.

Also, a lot of times, club meetings have free pizza.

The Complete Guide to Finding Clubs in College

Student organizations are one of the best ways to make friends and boost your resume in college.

At this point I’m hoping you’re convinced, which leads to the hard part: what, exactly, is the student organization of your dreams? Luckily, you can narrow down your search at least a little.

High School

The clubs you loved in high school probably have a collegiate-level equivalent. If you can hunt that down, you won’t just find an activity you know you like, you’ll probably find fellow members with years of shared experiences. That means fewer awkward icebreakers and less awkward small talk, because you know where to start a conversation.

Athletics

Whether you didn’t make your college team or didn’t even want to try, you don’t need to give up the sports you love just because you’re in college. A lot of schools have “club” teams that compete in smaller, less competitive leagues. Many also have intramural leagues where you can play against fellow students. These clubs have the bonus of keeping you active – goodbye, freshman fifteen, hello sophomore six-pack.

Cultural

If you have a strong connection to your heritage, leaving your family can be especially hard. I know plenty of students who miss their favorite foods, which are impossible to find on campus, or worry about losing the language they speak at home. The larger and more diverse your university is, the more likely you are to find a group that matches your identity exactly, but look into cultural groups to help keep you grounded.

College clubs can help you stay connected to your culture and heritage.

Values-based

This is a really broad thing to say, but consider the stuff you used to participate in, outside of school, based on what you believed in. Sure, religious groups, but also volunteer projects and service organizations. Colleges are abound with these types of groups. Even if they’re not directly affiliated with the school itself, their resources can help you find a place to stay true to what matters to you.

Major-related

These organizations are great because they’re super easy to find. If you’re not regularly getting emails from your department about their meetings, there are probably fliers in the buildings where you have class or your advisor’s office. The members might be people you’ve met from your classes, and you’ll almost definitely overlap with them at some point. You also have the advantage of meeting people who can give you advice – from acing that strict professor’s papers to which classes to register for next year.

And if you’re undeclared, visiting meetings for a major you might be interested in is a great way to learn more. The students and faculty there should be able to answer any questions you have, and you can get a feel for the major’s ~vibe~ without making any sort of commitment.

Career Focused

From nebulous “pre-professional organizations” to highly-specific industry based clubs, these organizations can give you a jump start on your postgrad life. Joining a club is a lot more relaxed than going to a dedicated networking event or a job fair, and lets you make real connections with people who will be your business associates later. They look great on a resume and give you something concrete to talk about in interviews – definite winners.

Preprofessional organizations are a low-pressure way to network and build your resume.

Try Something Weird

Not, like, “eating bugs” weird (unless you wanna), but something completely off the wall. There are certain organizations that can only exist in a college setting. We’re talking about things like “October Lovers” on my campus, a club exclusively devoted to doing fall-themed things. Or the ubiquitous Quidditch teams. Ultimate Frisbee. Live action role-playing. Squirrel watching.

Look, you’re only going to be in college once, so these off-the-wall clubs are worth checking out. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe you’ll stay. Who knows.

So how do you find clubs?

Once you’ve got an idea of where you want to be, the challenge becomes finding that club.

Activity fairs are a logical place to start. Usually held near the beginning of the year, look for them throughout campus and especially at the start of new semesters, right after winter break. Your school likely hosts a huge one, but attending smaller fairs gives you time to stop and talk to club members and learn a little bit more, which can be a huge advantage.

If you don’t want to go wander at a fair, your school likely has a directory of registered student organizations. You can scroll through this for ideas or search for related terms to find groups that match your interests. From there, either email the leadership and ask about joining, or just start showing up at meetings. This might seem weird, but as someone who runs a student organization, I can promise you that you’re the leaderships’ new favorite.

If nothing else, rely on your networks. Ask professors, advisors, and other faculty members about organizations related to their classes or departments. Talk to your classmates about cool stuff they do. Tag along to meetings with your friends. When an organization is fun and helpful, word tends to spread.

Oh, and don’t freak out.

So let’s say you find the best club, you’re super excited to join, you attend your first meeting, and… It’s a total letdown. For whatever reason, it didn’t meet your expectations. Unfortunate as it is, that tends to happen.

Personally, I’d encourage you to go to at least one more meeting. You never know if someone’s just having an off week. But if, at any point, you realize a club just isn’t for you, that’s totally okay.

The people who run student organizations expect a certain flake rate. They know they won’t appeal to everyone, and they’re okay with that. They probably joined and quit a few organizations themselves, before they found the ones they’d eventually lead.

The important thing here is that you’re trying new things, meeting new people, and learning more about what you like and don’t like. Clubs do take some responsibility and commitment, and you’ll have to invest your time and effort wisely. But I speak from experience when I say that finding the right group of people is so, so worth it.

Up next in the Freshman Fifteen – A First Semester Checklist