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How Joining Clubs as a Freshman Changed My College Experience

Students talk on a busy quad.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

As a first-year student, college seems intimidating. You are expected to attend orientation, move into a dorm (if you live on campus), pick suitable classes for your intended major (if you have one), and manage a social life.

The temptation to stay in your room with the occasional trip to the dining hall and classes is strong, but you can’t give in. Making friends with classmates and creating relationships with students and professors is essential to your success. 

I am a first-year student at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Wise, Virginia, which is about seven hours from home. Moving to college in a place I’d never been before, I was worried that making friends would be difficult or that I wouldn’t have enough to keep me busy outside of my classes.

While I did want to make friends and connections on campus, I also have anxiety that makes it quite difficult to put myself out there. Now, I’m sure many of you reading this are experiencing, have already experienced, or will experience these same feelings towards your freshman year, so here’s what I did to ease into my new environment.

I was friends with my roommate, who I had met twice before moving into college, and a few other students I met during orientation. Still, that first move-in weekend can be rather overwhelming, so I opted to stay in my room rather than socialize.

However, when the activities fair came around, I decided I needed to go out. My decision to attend the activities fair and learn about the different organizations we have on campuses and businesses around the college is what boosted my experience at Wise.

While it was a busy fair and I stopped at endless booths, I do remember signing up for various organizations and activities like Circle K International, Spanish Club, Student Government Organization, Honor Court, Future Professionals Club, Intramural Soccer, Residence Hall Organization, Student Ambassadors, and more. As you might already guess, I couldn’t commit to every single one.

After the activities fair the clubs would email, GroupMe, or text with information regarding interest meetings or events that were coming soon, so one by one I decided to attend the ones that interested me. I ended up becoming a member of the Spanish Club, Future Professionals Club, Circle K International, Residence Hall Association, and a Student Ambassador.

Soon after I joined those clubs, I began to make friends in each club by carpooling to events with different people, socializing during meetings, and interacting with the campus community in various settings throughout the semester.

I also earned leadership positions in two of those clubs and further developed my communication, organization, and leadership skills which have benefitted me in school, work, and everyday life.

Extracurricular Activities in College

Having become so involved within the campus community, I started to create relationships with other leaders on campus including students and faculty. Through those connections, I was able to join our Service LLC on campus which is a living and learning community where everyone on that floor of the residence hall participates in community service on and off campus along with social events.

When I joined the LLC, I moved into a suite and with two new suitemates who I am now fairly close with. I made new friends who all live in the same hall. Having those connections in such close vicinity to me was comforting in a way I didn’t know I needed, and I quickly found myself constantly knocking on the doors of my friends or having us all hang out in my suite since I didn’t have a suitemate.

After I joined the LLC, I noticed my mood began to improve and I started to enjoy my days at Wise, even outside of the clubs I was in. 

To make things even better, I also met our assistant dean of students, Robbie Chulick, through all my clubs and the Service LLC, and was able to form a good relationship with him.

With my heavy involvement on the campus, I was given many opportunities to improve my skills and network with students, faculty, and leaders who came to visit our campus, and I added many important experiences to my resume.

In addition, I decided to start my own club with inspiration from my friend Annika who goes to the University of Southern California. The club is called the Bullet Journal Club.

I wanted to create a club where students can have a safe space to meet and destress while doing something peaceful, in this case, journaling, so I met with Mr. Chulick and began the process.

After lots of hard work, I have now gotten approval from the Student Government Association to start the Bullet Journal Club which will begin meeting next semester.

While you don’t need to join every club on campus and certainly should not feel pressured to start your own, my point is that clubs and campus organizations are a great way to ease into college as a first-year student.

As a first-year student in a new environment, it was particularly hard for me to go out of my comfort zone and socialize with others. The campus clubs and organizations helped me to meet other students and faculty with similar interests and passions as me, and many of those people are now some of my closest friends.

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Author: Hope Wiley

I am currently a first year student at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and I am majoring in psychology with a minor in Spanish. As a college student I prioritize my academics, but also my involvement in the campus community and preparation for my future career!