Be intentional with your time, maximize college experience
August 19, 2020
Overcommitment is the classic quandary of the college freshman. At Quad Day, passionate RSO leaders give persuasive pitches for their organizations to fresh-faced passersby, and underclassmen eat it up.
Some freshmen will end up with a great balance of fun and fulfilling organizations that will last them their four years and beyond. Others end up on dozens of RSO email lists, including several they’ve never attended, or find themselves stretched beyond their schedule’s limits.
I was a resident adviser at University Housing for two years. The most common concerns of freshmen and sophomores were a desire to “get involved” or finding themselves overinvolved.
Though the virtual medium may make it easier to avoid too many commitments, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you ride out an RSO for the year.
Will it help me reach my goals?
Time flies fast at college. When you’re considering an RSO, make sure the hours you spend on it every week are pushing you toward the person you want to be.
Your goals don’t have to be professionally focused, though. Career development RSOs are fantastic resources, but if you’re attending an organization just to fill out your resume, it’s probably not worth it.
Think about the potential outcomes. Will the RSO give you a chance to build a network of on-campus friends? Are there certain skills — job-focused specifics or general things like communication, leadership and teamwork — that you can develop through this club?
Also, will you have fun? Every RSO has some sort of draw; otherwise, it wouldn’t exist. Talk to members, current or former, to see what they get out of the club. You may just find your campus crew.
Does it fit with my schedule?
This is a basic but essential step. You don’t want to be sprinting out of an in-person class or hopping off the Zoom call early to make an RSO meeting.
The virtual class environment may grant an unprecedented amount of flexibility to attend organizations. That said, many RSOs have certain attendance recommendations or requirements. Before you pay any dues or throw your name in for an official position, ensure that you can attend a solid number of weekly meetings that’ll keep you in the loop.
Regular attendance is the lifeblood of any student organization. Even if the week-to-week roster differs, having a space to enjoy in activities with like-minded peers is hard to beat, and those connections may prove priceless during the pandemic.
I’m on the fence about joining. Should I give it a shot first?
Yes! During a busy freshman year, you may want to keep your organization list down to one, two, maybe three core commitments. This allows you to build connections and experience without getting buried in extracurricular duties.
If you’re having trouble boiling down your list, take time in your first couple weeks to attend the first few meetings of your potential organizations. There’s nothing wrong with a quick RSO trial run. Try to talk with members and get a feel for the semester’s schedule and activities. Ask plenty of questions; the leaders will be happy to respond.
If you’ve answered in the affirmative for the previous questions and your trial run goes well, consider making it an official part of your college week.
If the RSO’s objectives don’t fit your own, or other groups fit your vision better, it’s OK to back out. Be gracious. Send a quick note to the executive board or any recruiter. Let them know you won’t be attending for whatever reason.
It doesn’t have to be an overwrought apology note or anything like that — we’re all students, we understand. College life already has enough challenges, especially this year. An RSO shouldn’t become one.
Once you have an extracurricular schedule you’re satisfied with, plant your roots. You’ll have the most fun and get the most out of groups that you find a role within. You may end up being an RSO leader or even just a regular attendee. Either way, you can rack up experiences to remember forever, and connections that may last a lifetime.
Incidentally, RSOs that you have the most fun with tend to be the best resume boosters. If you’re making moves in an organization that advances your personal goals, you’ll have a collection of RSO stories to draw on for interviews that exhibit plenty of personal flair.
So go forth and be intentional with your time. Talk with members and see if their group fits your personal goals and academic schedule. Take trial runs if you need them, and watch yourself maximize your college experience.
Ethan Simmons is a Senior in Media