College … four years of your life that go by in a flash.

You come in as a timid “freshie” and leave a sophisticated senior who’s ready to take on the real world. The time you spend and how you spend it can really make an impact on your bright and shiny future. So how do you make the most of it? It’s as simple as joining a club!

A good portion of your college experience is achieved outside of the classroom. From the weekly book club in your dorm to monthly outdoor adventure retreats, biology club, sororities/fraternities, intramural sports, political groups, multicultural clubs, concerts and other special events … the list of activities to get involved in is endless and there’s something for everyone. You can make friends, build your resume and even jumpstart a career. But where do you begin?

Laura Jean Hammond, Editor-in-Chief of nextStep Magazine, a national publication dedicated to providing tools and information for students about their life choices after high school, gave us some simple tips on how to join the student scene.

1. Start by deciding what type of activity you want to get involved in.

With so many to choose from, try to figure out what club will fit into your schedule. Are you looking for something that will physically keep you active, further your career or just need something every week to take your mind off of school work? If you narrow down the choices, finding one that you like won’t be so overwhelming.

2. Use your resources on campus for information.

Do a little research. Scope out the bulletin boards on campus and visit the student union for info on when your club meets. You can also visit the activities open house, where clubs have booths advertising what they're all about.

3. Go to a meeting!

Get a feel for the mission and the people, and see if you fit in. Maybe you thought you'd be great at student government, but your heart's just not in it. That's OK! You don't have to run for a leadership position your first day of college. Instead, join a group with less involvement.

4. Take advantage of the experience and make the most of it.

Don’t just join a club for a resume booster. Activities like intramural sports, scrapbooking groups and hiking clubs can enrich your college experience, so fully participate in whatever club you decide to pursue. Throughout you'll meet people from different majors, have unique experiences and get to know the area around your college. If you're interested in a club to help you in your career, talk to your major's department chair and ask about student chapters of professional organizations. For example, if you’re a communications major you might want to write for your school newspaper or get involved with the campus TV or radio station. You can also seek out internship and scholarship opportunities through the organizations, and make contacts with others in your future field.

5. College is a great time to try new things!

Who says you have to be the tuba playing “band geek” that you were in high school? College is a time when you can reinvent yourself and get involved, so take advantage. And if there isn’t a club that interests you, start one! You’ll be surprised as to how many others want “in” on your untapped idea!

No matter what club or activity you choose, your actions will increase your likelihood to succeed and prep you for life after graduation. Plus they’re F-U-N! So get out there and enjoy yourself. To find out more about joining clubs at college visit www.nextSTEPmag.com .

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