When you first start university, the huge amount of societies and clubs available can be overwhelming – I still remember wandering around the societies fair in Freshers’ Week, completely bewildered and wondering where to start. What followed was a few weeks of joining loads of societies, going along to every taster session I could, and then ending up doing nothing for the next few months. With the benefit of hindsight, I now know there are plenty of ways to explore the opportunities without burning yourself out.
Do your research
If you’ve received an offer for your favourite university, chances are you’ll be straight onto their website to find out everything there is to know. You should spend some time on the societies page, exploring what’s available. See if there are any forums for your university where you can chat with current students and find out a bit more about what the societies have to offer. Once you’ve got a list of a few societies you’re interested in, you’re ready to hit the fair!
Visit the Societies Fair
Most students’ unions will run an event in Freshers’ Week to showcase the societies on offer. It can be intimidating to be inundated with so much information, but it’s one of the few chances you’ll get to see everything in one place. It’s good to go along with a list of clubs that you want to investigate, but don’t be afraid to be spontaneous – if you see something that catches your eye, go and chat to the team!
Feel free to say “no”
This is the most important thing to remember when so many societies are asking you to join them. Hate the cold? You’re probably not going to like snow sports. Politics not your thing? Model United Nations isn’t for you. I’ve been on both sides of the exchange, and the people advertising their societies genuinely are passionate and want you to get involved. However, there is no point in having a discussion when you know it’s not right for you. Just say no, and move on.
You can’t be in two places at once…
If you’re really interested in a society, you’ll probably look to move up to an executive (or ‘exec’) position – this will usually be a role with some responsibility for running the society, and often involves attending regular meetings. Whilst these can be flexible (especially for smaller societies), make sure you don’t double-book. No one wants an exec member who never shows up! If two societies run their meetings at the same time, you will have to make a tough decision…
Whilst universities are often filled with hundreds of exciting new endeavours for students to try out, there are only so many hours in the day. In my experience, the way to get the most out of societies is to get really involved in one or two, and perhaps have a more casual involvement with others. Don’t overstretch yourself, don’t waste money on loads of memberships, but make sure you find the right societies for you and have a blast!
How did you decide which societies to join at university? Drop your advice in the comments section below.
Photo: Barney Moss / Flickr