However for many, the first year of college is a time to carve out potential pathways and find a niche. Joining an extracurricular can be a life changing opportunity but it doesn’t come without some navigation.
Finding the right organizations to join can be difficult but Josh Gruenke, associate director of student activities at Ohio University, said the process can be much simpler with the help of an involvement calculator provided by OU before the start of the school year.
He said with the help of the calculator, every student will hopefully have a list of five organizations they could potentially join before attending the annual Involvement Fair. With the help of the Campus Involvement Center, students will be able to connect with others in the organization and its leaders.
“Hopefully there's some communication happening before they even get here to help that involvement happen — not make it feel so hard when you get here,” Gruenke said. “That's our goal.”
Another useful tool to help find organizations can be done through BobcatConnect, a website where organizations have a digital profile explaining who they are and what they do.
Involving oneself in extracurriculars can be a big step. For Hannah Barcum, a senior studying marketing, she regretted not putting herself out there her freshman year. She said the majority of her freshman year, she was in her dorm room, alone and bored. Barcum, now president of OU’s University Program Council, or UPC, had a positive experience joining an organization.
“I think it's important for students to get involved in organizations,” Barcum said. “It could either make or break your college experience. With joining UPC, I was able to make new friends. I got involved with not only the university but with other people. I've been able to meet a lot of really cool celebrities that I wouldn't have been able to meet without joining a club, and it's really made my whole college experience.”
“I think it's important for students to get involved in organizations. It could either make or break your college experience."—Hannah Barcum, a senior studying marketing
When joining an organization, balance was something Barcum had to learn. She said finding an organization relating to her major and actually interested her was the first step. In fact, after joining UPC, Barcum switched her original major to something UPC introduced her to.
Barcum encourages incoming students and current students to take a leap and try something new, like trial and error.
“If you love doing what you're doing with your club, it really doesn't seem like a time constraint,” Barcum said.
Alice Schmiesing, a senior studying biological sciences pre-professional, is the current president of OU’s We Are First club. She said joining an organization has been a way to meet new friends, learn time management and connect with OU in a more fulfilling way.
Like Barcum, Schmiesing had to learn the act of balance when it came to joining new organizations and adding to her schedule.
“Sometimes you think you have no time for yourself, so that’s why you have to join clubs that are actually enjoyable to you,” Schmiesing said in a message. “A balanced life can bring so much joy! Dedicating a certain amount of time each day to school, friends, and clubs is something you just have to experiment with until you find what works for you.”
Gruenke said the first year of college is a time to start big and narrow it down. It’s a time to find something that makes one enjoy themselves. Greunke also said it's an opportunity to build onto a resume.
“The majority of your time is not spent in the classroom,” Gruenke said. “You have a class schedule, and homework takes up a lot of your time. But what do you do with the rest of that time? You want it to be spent on something that you really care about, with people that you enjoy.”
Organizations are a chance to connect with people that have a shared interest or passion. Gruenke and Barcum both believe that student organizations are there to help and cultivate support among students, their peers and their studies.
“Even if you're nervous, go for it,” Barcum said.