I even lived on campus to get the college experience. I had five roommates and I still keep in touch with them while I'm on the road. —Tatyana Ali, actress, model, and R&B singer
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
Describe the variety of organized groups available on campus for both resident and nonresident students
Identify resources for learning more about campus organizations
Describe the benefits of participating in student life
Whether your campus is small, tall, grande, or venti, you are probably amazed by the array of institutionally supported student activities available for your enrichment and enjoyment. Perhaps your biggest challenge is deciding how much extra time you have after studying and which added activities yield the greatest reward.
Below are two videos that give a sample of campus life at two different types of colleges. The first is from a large state institution—the University of Maryland. The second is from a smaller, private college—Baldwin Wallace University. Regardless, though, of where your institution fits on the spectrum of size, or how many activities, clubs, and organizations your institution offers, it's very important for you to be able to explore cocurricular interests—for learning, enjoyment, and personal satisfaction. Student life should always be satisfying and rewarding to students, as well as to alumni, faculty, staff, and community members. Together, these groups are an institution’s lifeblood.
University of Maryland
Organized Groups on Campus
Colleges have an abundance of student organizations. Some examples you may be familiar with are the Hillel Student Organization for enriching the lives of Jewish students, the Chess Club, and Model United Nations. Larger institutions may have hundreds of such organizations. Here is a lengthy and exciting list of student organizations at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Generally, an organization is created and run by current students, and it's sponsored by an executive officer, dean, or director of a major academic or operational unit. An organization must also have a mission that's consistent with the mission of the college and sponsor. It might also collect dues from members, but in many cases, membership is free.
To link up with a student organization, you may not need to do much more than take stock of your interests. What do you love to do? In a later section, you’ll find a list of ways to learn about student organizations at your institution. If you find that your college doesn’t have an organization that speaks to your particular interests, you might consider starting one.
Fraternities and Sororities
Fraternities and sororities are social organizations at colleges and universities. The terms "Greek letter organization" ("GLO") and “Greek life” are often used to describe fraternities and sororities. Generally, you obtain membership while you are an undergraduate, but your membership continues for life. Most Greek organizations have five shared elements: secrecy, single-sex membership, rushing and pledging to select new members, occupancy in a shared residence, and identification with Greek letters. Fraternities and sororities also engage in philanthropic activities, and they often host parties and other events that may be popular across campus.
Diversity and Multiculturalism
Diversity and multiculturalism are indeed critical pursuits not just on college campuses but in communities, businesses, and organizations around the world. If you are interested in expanding and promoting awareness of this issues on campus and further afield, you can seek opportunities at your college for starters. You will likely find informal gatherings, presentations, campus-wide events, individual students and classes focused on creating diverse, multicultural, and inclusive communities. As an example, here is a list of student clubs relating to culture and diversity at Goucher College.
Civic Engagement and Leadership
Most colleges have many opportunities for you to learn about and prepare for civic engagement and leadership on campus and in the wider community. What is civic engagement? It's your involvement in protecting and promoting a diverse and democratic society—and clearly, leadership is an important part of this. Student organizations and activities related to these pursuits may be student government associations, leadership courses and retreats, social change projects, service opportunities, social innovation initiatives, and many others.
Service and Volunteerism
If you are like many new college students, you probably already have experience volunteering. It may have been part of your high school requirements. Or perhaps you engaged in volunteering as part of a faith organization or as part of a community fundraising effort. Any of your volunteering can continue in college, too, as your institution will have many special and meaningful ways to stay involved, work on social problems, and contribute to a better world. Service and volunteer efforts may include philanthropy, activism, social entrepreneurship, advocacy, and direct service.
On any college campus, satellite center, or virtual space, students may be involved in activities around the clock on any given day. These activities may include student organization activities as well as special presentations, meetings, performing arts events, sporting events, intramurals, recreational activities, local community activities, holiday events, commemorative events, and so on.
You are heartily encouraged to pursue any interests that enhance your education and enrich your student experience. Your participation can expand your horizons, deepen your interests, and connect you with new people.
Resources for Learning About Campus Organizations
It can seem overwhelming to learn about all the activities, events, clubs, organizations, athletics, performing arts, etc. on campus. Sometimes you may need to dig a little, too. The following resources are a good place to start:
Your institution’s Web site: Try a keywords search at your college’s Web site, using any of the following: student life, college life, student organizations, clubs, student activities office, student services, special events, events calendar, performing arts calendar, athletics calendar, etc.
Email: Keep alert to the many email messages you receive from campus offices and organizations. They publicize all kinds of activities and opportunities for you to engage with campus and student life.
Other technology-based support services: Take advantage of other technology-based student support services if they are available. For example, some colleges use an online platform that connects student organizations and allows them to reach out to prospective new members. With this service, you could access a list of student organizations to see which ones you might like to join and see what events are ahead. You can also can search for organizations based on categories or interests.
Social media: Most institutions keep up-to-date information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Individual groups on campus may also have separate social media presences that you can locate through the institution's offerings.
Bulletin boards: Take a look at bulletin boards as you pass through hallways in academic buildings, dining halls, sports facilities, dormitories, even local service centers, and retail stores. You can often find fliers with event details and contact information.
Friends: Keep a pulse on what others are doing in their spare time. This is also a good way to make new friends and align yourself with others who have similar interests.
Campus offices for social functions: Make a point to visit the student activities office or the student affairs office. Both often have physical spaces for student organizations.
Campus offices for academic functions: Inquire with your academic adviser. He or she will likely be knowledgeable about campus organizations related to your interests and may know about local, regional and national organizations, too.
Activity: Campus and Community Activities
This project involves attending two campus and/or community culture activities (not athletic events), collecting mementos from each event, and displaying evidence of your experience via social media.
Attend campus activities/events to heighten a sense of connection with your institution
Use social media to display artifacts from these events
Choose two activities to attend (athletic events not included).
Collect mementos (such as a ticket stub, a program, take pictures and/or video).
Digitally archive them (for example, take a digital picture of the ticket stub).
Create a digital presentation about your two activities. For each activity, include the following:
what, when, and where the activity occurred
why you chose the activity
uploads of the related mementos
what you learned from the experience
Follow your instructor’s directions for submitting this activity.
Benefits of Participating in Student Life
How is it that becoming fully involved in student life can have such a positive impact on student satisfaction and academic success?
The National Survey of Student Engagement—a survey measuring student involvement in academic and cocurricular activities—shows that student success is directly linked to student involvement in the institution. In fact, survey results show that the higher the level of student involvement is, the higher student grades are and the more likely students are to reenroll the next semester. All of this seems to translate to satisfaction. The following lists some of the many benefits and rewards that result from active participation in campus and student life.
Personal interests are tapped: Cocurricular programs and activities encourage students to explore personal interests and passions. As students pursue these interests, they learn more about their strengths and possible career paths. These discoveries can be lasting and life-changing.
A portfolio of experience develops: Experience with just about any aspect of college life may be relevant to a prospective employer. Is freshman year too soon to be thinking about résumés? Definitely not! If you gain leadership experience in a club, for example, be sure to document what you did so you can refer back to it (you might want to keep track of your activities and experiences in a journal, for instance).
Fun leads to good feelings: Students typically pursue cocurricular activities because the activities are enjoyable and personally rewarding. Having fun is also a good way to balance the stress of meeting academic deadlines and studying intensely.
Social connections grow: When students are involved in cocurricular activities, they usually interact with others, which means meeting new people, developing social skills, and being a part of a community. It's always good to have friends who share your interests and to develop these relationships over time.
Awareness of diversity expands: The multicultural nature of American society is increasingly reflected and celebrated on college campuses today. You will see this not only in the classroom but also in the cocurricular activities, clubs, organizations, and events. For example, your college might have a Black Student Union, an Asian Pacific Student Union, a Japanese Student Association, a Chinese Student Association, and many others. Having access to these resources gives students the opportunity to explore different cultures and prepare to live, work, and thrive in a vibrantly diverse world.
Self-esteem grows: When students pursue their special interests through cocurricular activities, it can be a real boost to self-esteem. Academic achievement can certainly be a source of affirmation and satisfaction, but it's nice to have additional activities that validate your special contributions in other ways.
All in all, being involved in the campus community is vital to every student, and it's vital to the college, too. It's a symbiotic relationship that serves everyone well.
The key to getting the most out of college is to take advantage of as many facets of student life as possible while still keeping up with your academic commitments. That's pretty obvious, right? What may be less obvious is that focusing exclusively on your academic work and not getting involved in any of the rich and diverse cocurricular activities on campus can come at a real price and even hamper your success.