Are you wondering what your life in college will look like? I mean, besides the classes you’ll be taking and the late night study sessions in the library, how do you imagine your life outside of the classroom? US universities offer an across-the-board collection of extracurricular activities to help students meet new people, pursue passions, learn about future career paths, and explore new interests in college.
So what’s an extracurricular activity?
An extracurricular activity, also known as Extra Academic Activity, is any activity that falls outside the realm of the normal academic curriculum of the university. These activities can vary from official varsity sports teams, to independent clubs, to chapters of national organizations. They cover all types of topics and interests, from finance and politics, to community service and volunteering, to cooking and musical groups.
Most universities will provide a list of all their clubs and organizations on their websites. Search for “extracurricular activities” or “student clubs” and take a glance at what type of activities your school has to offer. Furthermore, universities allow students to create their own clubs and provide funding to support these new student initiatives. So if you’ve been eager to start your own “Wizards and Muggles Club” this might be your once-in-a-life time opportunity.
For example, at my alma mater, Dartmouth College, undergraduate students manage over 160 groups and organizations. Students are able to find every opportunity to involve themselves in an extraordinarily rich range of student clubs, from writing for a literary magazine, working on a political cause, playing in a musical ensemble, to organizing a backcountry ski trip around the hills of New Hampshire. When I was a student, I found participating in these to be the perfect way to make new friends, pursue my passions, and explore new interests.
Which extracurricular activity should I sign up for?
In the beginning of the school year, many schools will offer an activities fair where student organizations set up booths for interested students to learn more about their clubs. At this fair, you are able to sign up to receive more information regarding the club, meet current members of the group, and clarify all the doubts that you have. They often provide free food and games. YES, FREE FOOD! So make sure to try them out.
Because of the wide range of activities US universities offer, all these extracurriculars can be overwhelming at first. So the easiest way to start thinking about which one to join can be by separating them into categories: future career/professional, passion/hobby, sports, new interests, and more.
How to choose one of these extracurriculars?
First, remember that you can sign up for as many (or as few) activities that you want. So don’t be afraid to sign up and then call it quits if it doesn’t meet your expectations. DO NOT WORRY – dropping an extracurricular won’t show up as Failed in your transcript, it won’t affect your academic record in any way.
Second, take some time to think about what you’re hoping to get out of this club. Many extracurriculars in college can give you job experience, help you network, and help you develop skills needed for your future career. For example, if you’re planning to pursue journalism in school, you may consider becoming an editor for the school’s newspaper. Some of these activities will offer hands-on activities for specific career fields that you can include in your resume.
Other activities can introduce you to new interests and people. Extracurriculars are a great way to get involved with new activities, people, and causes. As you read through the list of your school’s extracurriculars, see which one jumps out of the screen. Highlight your favorites, sign up for their emails, give it a try! You may end up in a stargazing club, or discovering your passion for field lacrosse!
Extracurriculars can also allow you to continue current hobbies and interests. You may also already belong to certain groups or communities, like religious fellowships or cultural groups, and wish to continue being part of them. So if you are an avid Taylor Swift impersonator in the shower and wish to showcase your vocal talents to the school, you might try auditioning for an a cappella group. Or if you participated in sports in high school, this is a great way to stay active and avoid the Freshman 15! But even if you don’t have any experience in a particular sport, many groups will be more than happy to take beginners. Who knows, you might be your school’s next Quidditch team captain!
Remember, an extracurricular is meant to be for you. If you signed up and no longer enjoy it, don’t feel pressured to stick with it. Also, you don’t have to join every extracurricular that comes your way. Time is precious in college so don’t overbook yourself and just see how well you are able to manage your time. If a club sounds interesting but you’re hesitant about joining, just drop by and attend one of their meetings. You have absolutely nothing to lose. And last, don’t be afraid to try new things! Pursue new skills, new passions, and new friends. College is the best time to explore!
Dari Seo is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of Dartmouth College.