It is a new year and a new semester.  It is around this time of year when resolutions are brewing and there is an openness to change.  What better time to introduce yourself to something new that you have not tried at the university.  Last semester is done and in the books. This semester think about all of the things that you did not get a chance to explore, try, or do on your campus. College is the perfect time to go and explore things free or very low costs.  Commit yourself to trying two new things this semester.  Go visit a play in the theater, go to a sporting event, or participate in an intramural activity.  Join a club, already in one? Take on a leadership role.  Take a class that peaks your interest as an elective, volunteer in the local community, or look for a part-time position on campus. Think about Greek life, take a fitness class, or start a community garden.  Join an honorary society, have lunch on campus somewhere you have not dined, or get to know you RA.  There are many ways to get involved and to try new things.

Take the first few weeks of the New Year and decide how you want to map out your semester/quarter.  While mapping out your plans, be sure to create a list of short term and long term goals.  Your short term goals should include something you will accomplish in 4-8 weeks and your long term goals should be accomplished within 8-16 weeks.  Make your goals varied in focus, interest, and difficulty.  Academic, personal, and achievement should all be included.  Perhaps your short term goal is to join an organization and your long term goal may be to join the executive board for next year.  These are obtainable goals and will allow you to push yourself into new roles you may not have considered.

Take in the New Year and try something new.  Each semester you should push yourself out of your comfort zone to try something new.  If you don’t like it you can always try something new and hopefully be able to share your experience with someone else.  Ready, set, go…create at least two goals of trying something new this semester/quarter.

One of the “side effects” of college is being exposed to things that you may not have been exposed to previously.  It is also a chance for you to gain interest in things that you may not have previously had an interest. Your campus will offer a variety programs and activities.  You should challenge yourself to attend at least one program in each category per year or at least one each before you graduate. There will be plethora of things to choose from: plays, symposiums, concerts, parties, lectures, athletic events, novelties, comedians, musicals, dance recitals, art gallery showings, and the list goes on and on. Even if you are not extremely intellectual, not the artsy type, or do not understand the plays in football, still attend an event at least once. This the time when you be able to support your classmates, meet new people and gain exposure to unknown territory for free or relatively cheaply. Students gain admission into many university sponsored events for free, at a special rate, or they receive a discount.

Going out and trying new things, being exposed to the unknown is what helps make you well-rounded and “cultured”.  Enjoy the talented peers you have in your class, you never know what will become of them and how your paths may cross in the future.  In addition to making you a better-rounded person, these activities give you something to do.  Activities occur throughout the school year and are usually planned so there is not much overlap with programs being scheduled at the same time.  You can usually find a master calendar with most events on the school’s homepage and then there are departmental (Dance, Music, Athletics, etc.) calendars available with events as well. Most events are planned well in advance some as early as the beginning of the semester.

Not sure where to get started? Stop by the Student Activities office and ask what is happening on campus.  Enjoy the challenge and attend as many programs as possible.

 The Spring semester is now (or soon) underway.  This is the perfect time to get a fresh start if things did not go the way you hoped during the Fall semester. This is also a good time to get more involved and add to your resume.  Being successful in college will require involvement in and out of the classroom.  It is important to find a balance while in school.  One cannot be consumed with just the rigors of coursework, but one must also tap into their interest, develop their leadership skills, and strengthen their social skills. Getting involved is essential to the college experience. 

If you were unsuccessful last semester at getting involved, make an effort to join an organization this semester.  Many organizations engage in Spring recruitment and are actively seeking new members.  Look for flyers and posters on campus promoting organization fairs and other outlets to get involved. If your school does not offer a fair or if you have missed the fair, you should consider researching the university’s student activities website.  The website should offer you a list of all active organizations on campus and provide contact information. Simply state your interest in the group and inquire about future meetings and events. 

Spring semester is a good time to get your feet wet, with student ran organizations, but it is also a good time to prepare for the next school year.  Spring is where leaders are selected for the next school year.  This is a good time to decide how you would like to bring change to the university, how you would like to leave your mark, and how to shape your experience.  Student government is a great way to make an impact on the campus, academic organizations are a great way to make an impact on the department, and special interest groups are a great way to impact your individual interest.  All options serve as a great way to improve your college experience, leadership skills, and ability to balance commitments. 

Of course you can be successful in college without being involved in organizations and of course being too involved can cause you to not be successful.  The key to optimizing the college experience is to find balance within your weekly routine.  All class and no play does not help you develop life skills that will be needed in future social and professional settings, while all play does not help develop you academically; finding balance is the key.

The week of costumes, candy, and “tricks” is upon us.  Halloween is the second biggest social event (after Homecoming) of the Fall semester. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to showcase your creative costume, engage in alcohol/drugs, and overall make bad decisions.  People like to use Halloween as their scapegoat for bad decision making.  We want you to be prepared, equipped with the right information, and safely enjoy your Halloween experience while in college.  Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Costume Choice: Be creative in your choice.  You want something that will be fun, cheap, and not offensive.  Try visiting your closet to see what you can pull together to create the look you want to achieve. Then explore thrift shops for cheap finds.  Lastly, recruit the talents of your friends; there may be make-up artist and stylist among other talents.  When picking your costume try to avoid stereotypes, mocking other cultures, and poking at touchy subjects. Group costumes are fun and allow you the opportunity to bond with others.
  2.  Alcohol/Drugs: Be careful with the type of parties you choose to attend.  Some will be heavily supplied with alcohol and drug activity.  Make the decision on who will serve as a designated driver and party in pairs.  While at the party you should always keep an eye on your partner and know where they are and what they are doing at all times.  Be sure to watch beverages and never leave them unattended, parties are the perfect time to slip something into your unsuspecting drink.  Try to avoid binge drinking games such as beer pong and power hour.  These games are dangerous in nature as they require a person to consume large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. If you think something is wrong err on the safe side and assume something is wrong.  If your partner has been gone for a while, assume they need your help and go find them.  If someone needs medical attention, do not assume they will be okay in the morning, take them to a professional right away to make the determination.  If you do not feel comfortable with what is happening at a party, trust your gut and leave. Alcohol and Drugs do not constitute having a good time.  Find ways to have fun that do not require you to alter your frame of mind.
  3. Bad Decisions: The nature of Halloween allows people to dress-up and live the night as someone else.  Taking on an alter ego and having the ability to escape your day-to-day life for one night can be an exhilarating idea.  Keep in mind what you do in that one night can have to potential to affect the rest of your life. Disorderly conduct, pranks, and unprotected sex can all lead to unfavorable consequences.  A night of fun can wind up being a night in jail, a suspension (or expulsion) from school, a STD or unplanned pregnancy.

Make the most of Halloween, it is a fun time and there are a variety of things you can do to celebrate.  Haunted Houses, community service projects for neighborhood kids, a movie night with friends, pumpkin carving and fun treats are all safe and fun ways to celebrate Halloween.  Whatever you choose to do to celebrate, make sure you make wise decisions and enjoy what the night has to offer.  The iRAs are here to answer any questions you may have about Halloween festivities.

It is almost the end of the first year. For some this has been a great learning experience, a time for growth, and self-discovery.  For some this has been a time of trial and error. Whichever path you took consider giving back to the next group of freshmen about to join the college ranks.  There are several opportunities to consider when it comes to giving back to students.

Orientation Team

Remember your orientation date, the tour you took, and the day you took your university ID picture.  This day was mostly spearheaded by Orientation Leaders, whose primary responsibility is to help orient you with the campus.  Becoming an Orientation Leader makes for a very busy summer, but allows you to meet the incoming students and be the face of the university.

Resident Assistant (RA)

Making their house, their home.  Serving as an RA allows you the opportunity to give back to students by helping, leading, and cultivating them through face-to-face interaction, programming, and role modeling.  RAs gain invaluable skills and experience things that will prepare them for life way after college.


Mentoring has become a newer way to give back to students.  Majors, special interest organizations, and departments on campus may offer mentoring programs where you will be paired-up with similar incoming students.  Building connections with students during the summer and when the school year starts ensures that students have someone to approach with questions and to seek advice.

Enrichment Programs

Another initiative on campuses, that allows incoming freshmen a jump start at college life. Programs such as these invite students to campus during the summer and experience classes, student housing, and special programming.  The programs hope to expose participants to college life prior to the semester starting, so students are prepared and settled once the school year begins.

Summer Employment

The summer is usually a pretty quiet time on campus, however, it is also one of the busiest times campus.  The summer is filled with orientations, wrap-up from the previous semester, and preparations for the new semester.  Inquire within offices for open positions, as students will be graduating and leaving for the summer.  Summer employment could result in a permanent position within the department.

Regardless of how you started your first year, use your experiences and knowledge to give back to the incoming students.  Find a way to share your experiences with the new class and help them make wise decisions and successfully navigate through their first year.

As you continue to grow professionally and personally, you will start to realize the importance of giving back to the community where you live and where you come from. Giving back does not have to
be a long labor intensive project, but every little bit helps and counts.  There are offices on campus dedicated to community service and leadership enrichment. In addition, clubs and organizations tend to do an annual community service event each year.  Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and do what you can to give back. Below are 75 Ways to get involved and give back to the campus and surrounding community.

  1. Set up a Help-O-Meter to keep track of the number of hours you volunteer and try to beat your previous number each year.
  2. Organize or volunteer to help at a recognition program for students on campus who participated in community service projects throughout the year.
  3. Volunteer in an office on campus.
  4. Write letters to soldiers.
  5. Make birthday cards for the elderly.
  6. Run or walk in a charity race with friends.
  7. Practice random acts of kindness.
  8. Train for a marathon to raise money for a cause.
  9. Volunteer your talents at a charity auction.
  10. Recognize veterans on campus.
  11. Do something  nice for someone anonymously.
  12. On Thanksgiving, adopt a family for dinner.
  13. Trim Christmas tree with gift ideas for local kids and have people on campus pull from the tree and purchase gifts.
  14. Organize a coat drive.
  15. Organize a shoe drive for Soles to Souls.
  16. Organize safe trick-or-treating on campus for local kids.
  17. Conduct an Easter Egg Hunt for needy children.
  18. Make homemade cards for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparents Day.
  19. Volunteer at the local YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or Boys and Girls Club.
  20. Surprise your parent(s), neighbors, or friends and offer to babysit.
  21. Start a program for students on campus that may need help with food or clothes.
  22. Sponsor a concert in the park; proceeds go to local music charity or program for young children.
  23. Help organize a drive to help meet the basic needs of those oversees. Water, feminine hygiene products, etc.
  24. Organize a volunteer-a-thon against each residence hall; see which hall can volunteer the most hours in a month.
  25. Create a “Give Back” day on campus.
  26. Find a new nonprofit organization and volunteer to help them as they grow and expand.
  27. Adopt an elderly person. Visit them, go for walks, help them with chores around the house.
  28. Read a book during story time at a local daycare.
  29. Cheer up a sick friend with soup.
  30. Call an old friend.
  31. Instead of birthday gifts ask family and friends to make donations to a charity.
  32. Make get well cards for people in hospitals.
  33. Become pen pals with younger students and tell them dos and don’ts for college.
  34. Collect old magazines and donate them to schools or daycare.
  35. Plant a tree.
  36. Start a community garden.
  37. Clean a highway.
  38. Collect unused make-up, perfume and toiletries for battered women in a shelter.
  39. Collect prom dresses for girls in need.
  40. Donate old eyeglasses to an organization.
  41. Collect costumes and donate them for a dress-up at an after school program.
  42. Make emergency kits for departments and students on campus.
  43. Have offices compete against each other to collect money for a good cause.
  44. If you’re good at fixing bikes, volunteer to teach others how to fix their bikes.
  45. Conduct bike safety checks for your neighborhood.
  46. Sponsor an alcohol free homecoming event.
  47. Organize an alcohol free “weekend” pledge campaign on campus. I.e. Homecoming, welcome week, etc.
  48. Recruit people to help paint a mural.
  49. Set up a buddy system for freshmen and seniors in the same major.
  50. Start an anti-smoking campaign to make your campus smoke free.
  51. Make new freshman survival kits for orientation.
  52. At the end of the school year, collect school supplies and start a back to school drive for local kids.
  53. Volunteer for hall council or student government.
  54. Have a party or dance and make a canned good the price for admission.
  55. Recognize outstanding professors and professional staff on campus.
  56. Go door to door in the residence halls and encourage students to register to vote.
  57. Volunteer at a local candidate’s campaign office.
  58. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
  59. Donate art supplies to kids at a summer camp.
  60. Make a care package for soldiers.
  61. Clip coupons, become an Extreme Couponer and donate the food to a local homeless shelter.
  62. Sponsor a food drive on campus during Thanksgiving.
  63. Prepare a home-cooked meal for the international students on campus.
  64. Bake cookies for your RA, the custodial staff and maintenance.
  65. Join the local Habitat for Humanity.
  66. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Walk dogs, play with kittens, and feed the animals.
  67. Organize an adopt-a-pet program.
  68. Rake leaves, shovel snow, clean gutters or wash windows for a senior citizen.
  69. Visit a nursing home and teach seniors how to use the internet.
  70. Set up a recycling system for your residence hall.
  71. Clean a local park.
  72. Pick up litter across campus.
  73. Volunteer to clean up the stadium/gymnasium after a home game.
  74. Work to make the campus more ecofriendly.
  75. Challenge each graduating class to donate something to the college to make it better for the next class.

Academics serve as a big part of college life, but extracurricular activities also account for a major part of college life as well.  As a student you want to aim to have a well-rounded college experience. Too much emphasis on academics may not give enough attention to developing social skills and too much emphasis
on extracurricular activities may not give necessary attention to academic demands. Refer to chapter 16 of the Freshman Survival Guide for more information about getting involved, but not too involved.  College allows students the opportunity to explore interests and try new things.  Extracurricular activities are a good way to explore interests and display talents outside of the classroom.

There are hundreds of clubs and organizations to peak your interest in what extracurricular activities have to offer. Honor Societies, fraternities, sororities, special interest clubs, and academic clubs are all options that will be available to you.  Each club or organization offer different benefits for membership, but all require that you get out and network with other students.  Networking with be an important part of your extracurricular life on campus, this is how you will learn of activities and events happening on campus.

Regardless of your interest there should be a club that sparks your interest. Anime, dance, community service, racquetball, and more are all available on campus in the Student Activities office.
If you have a special interest and the club does not exist on your campus, there is a relatively simple process of starting your own club on campus.

Another way to get involved on campus is to talk with your RA.  Your RA can assist you with getting involved in the hall and residence hall complex. The residence halls offer a variety of programming and leadership opportunities.  The residence halls offer hall councils and a hall government; a place where you can program and make changes within the halls. Residents that become involved in the halls often lead to employment in the hall as an RA or front desk worker.

When graduation comes and it is time to look for job opportunities, employers look at candidates that can bring a well-rounded college experience to the table. Being well-rounded insinuates you have successfully completed the requirements of your major, you have successfully worked with others, and you have successfully participated or planned activities outside of the classroom. Employers look for a nice balance between classroom and non-classroom experiences.  To join or not join is the challenge as the new student.  Let us know what you decide.

In high school there were a limited number of clubs and activities one could participate in. There was drama club, math club, science club, band, choir, and sports. Of course there were always some other clubs sprinkled in there too, but those were generally the same from school to school. In college, there is a wide range of clubs and activities one could join. Most schools have some sort of “Club Fair” where the various clubs and organizations hold tables and get interested members. This is EXTREMELY important. The clubs I joined as a freshmen are clubs I still associate with today as a senior.

So here is a list of just SOME of the options for clubs and activities on campus. Check out your college resources to see what clubs and organizations are right for you.

If you liked THIS in high school Try THIS in college
National Honor Society Alpha Lambda Delta, National Honor Society for First Year Students
Drama/Musical Theatre Alpha Psi Omega, National Theatre Honor Society OR your college’s Drama Club OR audition for your college’s musicals or plays
Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts/Community Service Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity
Youth Group Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Newman Catholic, Hillel, or whatever organization fits your faith background
DECA Collegiate DECA
Above the Influence Above the Influence (If your college does not have a Collegiate chapter, start one yourself!)
Model U.N. Club Model U.N. Club
Yearbook Yearbook
Newspaper Newspaper
Student Government Association Student Government Association