Whether you’re an incoming first-year, transfer, or a returning student, everyone wants to know the secret to finding your community on campus. Hint: It’s by joining clubs and finding peers who share your interests. Besides providing a great environment to de-stress, clubs are where you can be yourself. Here are some tips we’ve compiled for you based on clubs you may be interested in.
Columbia is vibrant with creative people, and the performing arts are an integral part of many students’ lives. There are various theater, dance, and music groups that you could potentially join, even if the performing arts are not something you explored in high school. At the beginning of every semester, the Columbia University Performing Arts League hosts a kickoff mixer for all of its member performing arts groups, which gives you the chance to meet the presidents and members of each group and ask about their experiences and tips for joining. Networking is a useful skill to get your foot in the door! In addition, clubs like King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe, The Varsity Show, CU Generation, and many more don’t have any requirements as to how experienced you need to be; they just want you to bring your most confident self to the auditions. Keep your mind open to new things—the clubs are welcoming, and once you get in, they prepare you for everything you need to know to excel.
There are many academic clubs that plan meetings to discuss semesterly goals, chat, do homework, or just grab food together. While Women in Computer Science actively connects undergraduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to each other through coffee chats, clubs like Application Development Initiative host weekly hangouts like Cookies and Code; Spectra meets every week to “Supper and Solve,” i.e., work on problem sets and celebrate women in STEM with TAs to help out along with free catered dinner; and Columbia Venture Partners hosts a weekly s educational series for selected candidates involving a discussion of valuation, term sheets, the current startup ecosystem, and industry trends.
There are also more hands-on clubs that allow you to apply the concepts you learn in classes to real-life situations. One example is Columbia University Formula Racing, which builds race cars from scratch. Though the recruiting for these clubs can be competitive and might cause stress, it’s important to remember that being authentic is key while applying. You’ve already proved that you can make it here, and clubs want to create a small circle of students who are super excited about their mission. You can perceive these clubs as places outside academics that enrich your learning and allow you to form connections within your major. If the Beat Generation met at Columbia, who knows who you could meet and how you could change the world together?
Publishing and journalism
There are a host of writing clubs on campus that require various levels of commitment. We’re a little biased, but we think joining an organization like Spectator is a great way to find a community, even if you’re not super interested in publishing or journalism. Spectator publishes written and visual journalism daily online and publishes a print edition once a week, but we do more than just journalism. We also have students dedicated to managing the revenue, developing and creating products, and building our site.
If you’re more interested in creative writing, check out some of Columbia’s magazines, including The Blue and White Magazine, Quarto, and 4x4 Magazine. Bwog, another campus news site, publishes breaking news and think pieces with a wide scope, often employing a humorous tone. Writing is a great way to document your unique four-year experience at Columbia and a useful resource to explore the community around you and bond with peers. Trust us—nothing brings people together like putting in sweat and tears to shape that perfect piece. If you wrote for your high school magazine, you’d fit right into the literary scene here!
While a lot of students go through their undergraduate years knowing they want to apply their skills in a professional field, the academic rigor here inspires many to pursue further research opportunities at a graduate level. That’s why academic journals on campus can be a great way to acquaint yourself with how to write theses, frame proposals, cite jargon, and publish formal articles. Some of the publications include the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review, the Columbia Science Review, and the Columbia Economics Review. Writing for these organizations allows you the space to freely experiment and practice your academic writing outside of the classroom.
Clubs like Ultimate Frisbee, Barnard Outdoor Adventure Team, Columbia University Badminton Club, and many others allow students with no experience in the sport to explore it in a relaxed, non-competitive setting. If you thrive in more athletically-challenging environments, intramural sports teams that form under the Columbia umbrella and compete within the University might be more up your alley. Intramural sports include soccer, basketball, and squash. If you’re looking for a way to decompress, now’s the time to relax and join a club just for the sake of learning and being part of a team. The friendships are rewarding, and the benefits of having some discipline introduced into your schedule by default will surprise you!
While I could ramble about the magic of joining clubs on campus for days, and I would know, I’m in 11 of them—the real fun of coming to Columbia and Barnard is doing research on your own and figuring out your niche. All in all, find a club that’s the right fit for you, but try to step out of your comfort zone. This isn’t high school, and that’s a good thing. You have the autonomy to choose what you really want to do, and that’s special.