There’s a lot going on when you first arrive at college. You’re trying to balance socializing with new friends, attending class, and participating in all 30 of the activities you signed up for at the club fair. It can definitely be hard to keep track of it all—especially at the beginning of the year when you haven’t yet narrowed down the number of clubs you want to be a part of—but you don’t want to miss out on anything. Here’s how you can determine which clubs are a go and which you should forgo and how to keep track of all the interest meetings and auditions you’ll have to attend.
Prioritize your preferences
Every undergrad signs up for at least double the number of clubs they’ll actually go to interest meetings for. We can’t help ourselves, but after the club fair, you’ll have some decisions to make.
Even though you’re freely dishing out your name and email address, chances are you won’t remember every club you sign up for. Bring a pen and a piece of paper with you to the club fair to jot down the name of each group you’re interested in—not only will this allow you to get in contact with the group later if by chance you don’t hear anything, but this will also help you pare down the number of groups you give your contact info to.
Now that you have your preliminary list of clubs, do some research (if you haven’t already). Learn a bit about each of the groups online and develop a ranking system to show which of them you’re most interested in joining. (For instance, five stars mean you’re really interested whereas one star means you wouldn’t be heartbroken if you miss the interest meeting.) When it comes to prioritizing which first meetings to go to (more on that later), this will help you remember which groups you should give preference to.
My Google Calendar is my savior (read more about my GCal musings, or learn three different methods to tackle task management, here). Whenever I receive any information that corresponds with a date, it immediately goes into my GCal. This may make your calendar seem a little cluttered, but this is one of those cases where it’s infinitely better to have too much information rather than too little.
You can always delete events if you realize you’re not interested in them, but chances are you won’t be able to remember the date, time, and location of every single interest meeting you said you’d go to if you don’t write it down.
When I come across an event I’m interested in, the name, date, and location immediately go into my GCal. Even if I see it on Facebook and click “interested,” or have an email with the information, it’s better to consolidate everything in one place (and GCal will also give you notifications when your event is about to happen). If I see the event on a flyer somewhere, I’ll take a picture of it so I can add the event to GCal later.
If you’re not a GCal kind of person, find another way to keep this information straight. Write it down on your whiteboard, jot notes in your bullet journal—don’t expect your brain to keep track of everything.
Don’t struggle silently
Having signed up for a dozen clubs, there’s bound to be some kind of conflict between interest meeting times (which you’ll be able to identify using your trusty GCal, of course).
Don’t panic. Some clubs might say that attending the first meeting is mandatory for all potential new members, but they’re bluffing. You can email the organization to express your interest (you should be able to find their contact info either on the directory of clubs or on the group’s individual Facebook page). In that email, let them know about your scheduling conflict ahead of time and see if there’s an opportunity to catch up on what you missed. It’s important that you communicate with the people in charge, as they’ll be the ones who’ll be able to keep you in the know about future meetings and events.
Some groups will have new members audition or interview before they’re officially part of the club. Prioritize these over regular interest meetings, as they’ll be harder to rearrange. (If the club in question has group interviews or tryouts, they might not even let you come in at another time.)
You’re in! Now what?
Keep in mind that most clubs will meet at least once every week for at least an hour, and some will have additional events, projects, or rehearsals, too. (Dance groups, for instance, might meet a couple of times per week to rehearse. Or at Spec, you might have to come in one evening for an all-staff meeting and another evening to edit a piece.)
It’s fine to put your name down for as many groups that you want, but don’t expect to be able to go to every single interest meeting—you won’t have any time left for yourself. Those first meetings will be about an hour each, so it would be reasonable to go to five or six of them (about one each evening), but once you’ve figured out which clubs interest you the most, we recommend that you only commit to a maximum of two—if you want to be an active member of the group you’re in, limiting the number of other groups that you’re dividing up your time between will ensure that you can actually seriously commit to a club.
Just remember: If you feel overwhelmed during your first week at school because it seems like all you’re doing is going to interest meetings, don’t freak out—you won’t continue with all of these activities throughout the semester. By the time October rolls around, you should find that you’ve already fallen into a weekly routine.
College is all about trying new things, but make sure you don’t throw away your old hobbies along with it. When you’re trying to find your fit at Columbia, strike a balance between the new and the old, make sure you’re not putting too much on your plate, and remember that just because you can’t find time in your schedule this semester for a certain club doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on it all four years you’re here.
- Keen on searching for groups to join before evening coming to campus in the fall? Here’s how you can do your research now.
- Sure, school’s important, but make remember to let loose on the weekend. If you’re into the college partying scene, here’s what you should know about Columbia’s.
- Want some suggestions on clubs to join based on your high school interests? We’ve got some.
- Nothing creates community more than campus-wide events. Here are some of Columbia’s biggest.
- Have questions about clubs on campus? Perused through our FAQs yet?
- Your friends will be a large part of your social scene at Columbia—here’s how you can make some before, during, and after NSOP.
Victoria Yang is a SEAS sophomore and Spectrum staff writer. Her GCal has often been deemed “scary.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.