July 19, 2017

Campus Connections: How to Start Your Involvement on Campus

Guest blog by Kaiti Shelton
College Success Program Mentor

Student with White Cane

We all know that college is a tremendous time for growth; some even describe college as the best years of their lives.  However, learning does not just happen in the classroom. Professors, parents, and students around the world agree that the social aspects of the college experience can be just as educational as the academic ones.

As a freshman, I remember being overwhelmed by all the choices I had for expanding my social circle. In addition to making friends with my classmates, there were so many opportunities to join organizations, get involved with social justice groups, and to learn from others. Sometimes I found a social circle I really liked and stuck with, and at other times I only went to a few meetings. In every case, I learned a bit more about myself and those around me on campus.

Rush week, fraternities, and sororities are sensationalized in the popular media, but they can be a great way to meet students with similar interests or professional goals. During my time in school, I was a member of two great fraternities. Alpha Phi Omega is an international, co-ed service fraternity, while Sigma Alpha Iota is an international, professional music fraternity for women. Both fraternities (and yes, Sigma Alpha Iota is not a sorority) offered me so many opportunities while I was a collegiate member, and I am proud to be an alumni in both organizations.

Fraternity life is exactly what you make of it. There are some groups which party and might even get into trouble once in a while, but there are plenty of fantastic organizations with specific goals, values, or principles in mind that make a real difference on thousands of college campuses. From fraternities related to specific majors to ones based on social justice values, Greek life has something to offer students with a wide range of tastes. The other great thing about Greek life is that rush week is not required.

If you do not want to join a sorority or fraternity, that is okay too. 

Happy Students Playing Music

There are also a vast array of clubs you might find on your college campus, from service organizations to culture-specific clubs, to interest groups. Some popular ones found on most campuses might include Spanish/French/German club, book clubs, dance teams or performing arts groups, and intermural sports which organize recreational gaming.  Some other groups on my campus included anime club, the fantasy and science fiction appreciation club, the Irish dance club, the martial arts club, an improv comedy troop, and model United Nations.  During my time as an undergraduate student, I joined the music therapy club which provided music enrichment to people in the community while raising awareness of the music therapy profession.

When a friend and I saw that there was a need for a disability awareness organization on campus, we started our own! Most universities have procedures in place for students to start new organizations and groups, so if you are passionate about something and can find others who want to see it represented in the student body, you can increase the awareness or presence of the topic on campus.

Student organizations aren’t the only way to get involved. Sometimes meeting new people can be as easy as doing homework in the floor lounge rather than alone in your room or at the library.  Don’t be a stranger to those who live around you, even if you find close friendships somewhere else. On my floor, most girls studied with their doors open so we could say hello or stop by each other’s rooms on our way to class.  You never know who might maintain a friendship with you into your later college years and beyond.

Students Talking

Go to your floor meetings even if they sound like they will be boring. Your RA (Resident Assistant) will be happy that they can do their job, and you’ll have another opportunity to make connections while taking a study break.  If you can get to class a few minutes early, be friendly and courteous to the students around you. If you’re unsure of how to start, questions about what they thought of the homework assignment or what their answer was for a difficult problem could help to break the ice. Who knows? Maybe someone will want to form a study group, which could evolve into a friendship outside of class obligations!

Social involvement taught me a lot about teamwork, service, and my personal values that I didn’t even know I was unaware of. Some of the friends I made in each of the groups I tried are still in my life to this day, and I’m grateful for having met them. I’m also happy I tried some groups I didn’t decide to join permanently because I was still able to learn about the interests of others and see a side of campus different from my own. While academics and studying should be your first priority as a student, it’s also important to nurture your social and personal growth by meeting others around you.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull college student, so find something you love, figure out when the group meets, and enjoy your college years for all they have to offer.

While academics and studying should be your first priority as a student, it’s also important to nurture your social and personal growth by meeting others around you. 

All work and no play makes Jack a dull college student, so find something you love, figure out when the group meets, and enjoy your college years for all they have to offer.

Kaiti HeadshotAbout the Author: Kaiti Shelton is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently resides in Cleveland. She attended the University of Dayton where she studied music therapy with a minor in psychology. After completing her music Therapy internship, she hopes to become a Board-Certified Music Therapist and work in educational settings with children who have disabilities. Kaiti was involved with Learning Ally’s College Success Program as a mentee during the Spring 2015 semester and found the guidance she received from her mentor to be helpful. When not practicing one of the many instruments she plays in her music therapy sessions, Kaiti enjoys reading.

Learning Ally LogoLearning Ally’s College Success Program offers support and mentors for students who are blind or visually impaired. Interested in learning more about this free opportunity? Go to LearningAlly.org/CollegeSuccess

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– Kristen Witucki


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