How to Choose Student Organizations in College

stock_group_students2With hundreds of student organizations on any given college campus, it is no wonder that considering where to allocate time and effort can have a dizzying effect. Yet, every year many students across the country subject themselves to the exhausting search process – and for good reason.

Why Join Student Orgs?

Student engagement not only gives young people both access to university resources and facilities, but also a relatively safe platform in which they can grow, learn, and make a difference. An extension outside the classroom, students have the opportunity to explore topics unrelated to their chosen course study or delve further into particular niche interests. These groups can even be therapeutic, as students may find their true personalities and passions finding room to breathe amidst busy schedules and work loads. Rather than view organizations as a pure recreational form, many students praise these entities for its indirect or direct involvement in their development academically, civically, socially, or even spiritually.

Thus, it is for these reasons that choosing the right medium in which to express yourself in college is so influential in the college experience and the journey that comes after.

Ask Around

Pivotal behind choosing any student-led group is a self-analysis in which you examine what you are seeking and historically how you have worked towards obtaining these things. From a personal standpoint, it was incredibly difficult to justify involvement with one student group over another until I sat down and analyzed my priorities and interests. I started by inquiring trusted advisors, professors, and peers before jumping into any activity too quickly.

For those students not long adjusted after high school, there is an obvious draw to settle into familiar activities. However, there are many opportunities that are forgone by seeking such an easy adjustment.

Forward Thinking

Many colleges make a great deal of effort to cater programs to the needs of their students (especially business schools). If you take a look at a list at your business school organizations you will notice how many of them focus on career interests such as consulting, finance, or marketing. Professors, advisors, and even upperclassmen would be great individuals to contact in regards to these programs and their benefits. In fact, by building your network in college through these programs it could lead to rewarding internships, jobs, and even graduate studies – for it is often these people who know best about career potentials and strategic maneuvering given their exposure.

For those students not studying business or who do not have a separate school dedicated to their chosen course study, there is bound to be organizations that cater to your field or which align closely with its beliefs or mission. For it is as you develop closer ties to your academic institution, that I strongly feel you will see rewarding opportunities and pathways appear before you. Furthermore, working in close capacity with your school administrators, professors, and student leaders can reaffirm your sense of purpose and direction in school.

Build Friendships (And a Network)

There are so many influential and inspiring people that are drawn to a university setting. These individuals may dedicate their time to higher education, research, national policy agendas, or professional development — all of which given them an astounding array of experiences and knowledge to share. Much like a magnet, there is something about the university that draws them in, much in the same way it does you.

Thus, it is up to YOU to find organizations that share your driving force and who can enrich your college experiences through engagement with them. There is no rule on how many activities one should balance in college, because each person knows what works for them. As you start looking for the right platform and safe space to engage, I would encourage you to start with the resources that are more familiar to you and from them you can branch out if you choose.

Even with all of its merit, it is healthy to remind ourselves that student organizations are an extension of the university, much like ligaments to the body. The heart (that pumping life to the body) is, and always be, the education you receive – without it the body could not exist. So as you posture yourself for success in college, I ask you to consider how student organizations can be the right fit for you as you further your goals and aspirations.


Nicole ChacinNicole Chacin will graduate in 2015 from George Washington University with a degree in business economics and public policy with a minor in vocal music. She plans on getting a JD/MBA after college and dreams of working in health policy and administration. She was a part of the first Forté College Leadership Conference and is the creative designer and co-founder of Chicago Boutique.

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