Imagine being a first year with nothing to look forward to besides school work. Now, envision yourself not knowing anybody else besides your roommate and maybe two or three other friends who live down the hall. Being an active member of an organization and getting yourself involved and busy will guarantee you an unforgettable freshman year. Putting the effort to be more involved within the JMU community is probably the best decision that I’ve made ever since I came here in August of 2013. It made my experience more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined and I’m sure it will do the same for you.
Every semester JMU will host a Student Organization Night where all the clubs and teams bring a poster board (as well as their own members) and showcase it to the new freshmen class. It may seem overwhelming and it is common to be signing up for at least ten clubs but actually end up being an active member in one or two. Being able to filter out which clubs that you find yourself being dedicated to do is crucial during your first year because you end up finding out your own interests. Or you may even discover new passions which are also an advantage during your freshman year according to Julie Mayfield in her article. This is essential because the only way I was able to enjoy my first year was by hanging out with people who had similar values and morals as I did as well as taking interest in the same hobbies.
By being involved in either a team or club or both, like myself, it can really make or break your academic life. During my first semester I joined Visual Distortions dance crew and the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and it really forced me to manage my time. Let me start off by saying that it was difficult for me to balance work and play. Learning time management in college is what I believe to be the essential component of being a successful student. According to Valerie Cateriano in March of 2014, “Being apart of an organization, Student Ambassadors, really made me realize that there were certain things I had to sacrifice. For example, if I wanted to eat lunch with a new member I had to finish my homework first and I knew I couldn’t enjoy my meetings if I were to worry about not finishing an essay.” When you join a club, VSA for example, there are probably going to be meetings once a month which isn’t entirely time consuming. However, clubs will most likely hold weekend events and other club members will even invite you to their house to hangout during random nights of the week because everybody loves meeting new freshmen and will want to get to know you. Furthermore, it is very tempting to just procrastinate and have fun instead of getting your work done. However, as months go by and you start to get the hang of what college is all about, learning to start papers early and to finish homework before a meeting will come naturally.
Building connections and networking yourself are things that I feel like high school fails to mention about your life as college student. Trying to expand yourself and trying to get to know other people who are more experienced and educated about your passions are factors that will make your first year more interesting and productive. Joining a dance crew, or even a sports team, was how I was able to get out of my comfort zone and build connections outside of my hall mates, classmates, and teachers. It isn’t something that will happen over night. Instead it is a gradual process that will require effort from oneself to get to know the other members of your club. I myself made the effort to attend events and I found it beneficial in my favor because other members started to feel comfortable with me and that eventually led to friendships. Establishing your network with those who share your passion are more likely to help you throughout school and help motivate you throughout the year. Yes, making friends in your dorm is exciting but they’re only freshmen and probably don’t know that much more than you do about college. Being able to comprise your network of upperclassmen, by joining clubs and teams, is how you can be a more proficient student and young adult.
Transitioning as a student in high school to a student in college is probably one of the most challenging things I had to experience. I simultaneously felt excited, nervous, and anxious at the same time and who knows, it is very possible for you to feel the same. On top of all of that, academics are definitely harder than what classes were like in high school. With all of that into consideration, it may seem a little ironic to suggest that joining a club or even a team will be beneficial for you. Nevertheless, it can even add more pressure and anxiety during your first year. But believe it or not, it has more pros than cons and it will essentially be an advantage in the long run.
Cateriano, Valerie. Personal interview. 23 Apr. 2014.
Mayfield, Julie, and Lindsay Mayfield. “5 Reasons for Getting Involved in College–And How to Go About It.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/twice-the-college-advice/2011/09/13/5-reasons-for-getting-involved-in-college-and-how-to-go-about-it>.