In my article of advice to freshmen, I mentioned that it is important to get involved in an organization where you feel like you’re part of a community. I believe, however, that this isn’t just one of the most important aspects, but rather the most important aspect, so I felt that this piece of advice deserved more recognition than just a short paragraph. This isn’t just my advice for freshmen, either. Being involved is a crucial part of any person’s college experience. It’s never too late to join a new club and make more friends, whether you’re a freshman or a senior.
By a community, not just a club, I mean an organization where you get to really know the other members and feel at home. Perhaps the biggest example of this is Greek life. Fraternities and sororities are built upon the principle of community and emphasize it to the extent of living with their brothers and sisters. However, there are many other ways to be part of a community. For many people, this is a sports team, whether it be varsity, club, or intramural. For others it’s a group of people who share their hobby like art, music, writing or even Harry Potter. For me it was Cru, a campus ministry group.
This isn’t to say that other clubs aren’t important. Professional organizations or clubs that relate to your major are valuable for furthering your career goals and networking. However, it is difficult to meet people you can really connect with in a professional environment.
Being a part of a community is important for a number of reasons. First off, it’s a great way to make friends. You’ll get to see the same people at least once a week for an entire year, which provides you with an easy opportunity to get to know them.
Not only will you be making friends, but friends who have similar interests, priorities, and values. You can count on these people to support you and encourage you to be your best. Never again will you feel like the people around you “just don’t get you.”
These people will also be there to help you out in any number of ways. You’ll be able to find upperclassmen to give you rides to Wal-Mart, people in your major to help you study for exams and friends to go to dinner with when you’re feeling lonely.
When you’re in an environment where you feel comfortable and with people who you feel like you can be yourself around, it gives you a sense of belonging. This is often why you hear people saying they like being at school more than being at home – because they feel like school is where they truly belong.
Beyond feeling like you belong, being a part of a community gives you an identity. It gives you ability to say, “I’m a dancer” or “I’m a member of Cru.” By identifying yourself in a unique way like this, you are also able to gain a sense of pride in what you do.
As the start of the school year approaches, I encourage you to find the group that feels like family; and if you’ve already found your spot, invite someone else along. There’s a lot that goes into making college successful, but being a part of a community is an easy way to make your whole experience better.