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Clubs vs Internships Freshman year of college

I'm an incoming freshman for this fall, and the college I am attending has so many opportunities. To the professionals and former college students, I wanted to ask: is it more important to get involved in clubs and organizations my first year on campus, or should I be pursuing more professional development like internships? I am majoring in social work and I'm interested in public administration in the future if that helps answer my question.

#college #college-advice #internships #career-decisions

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Nagela’s Answer

Hi Deana,

This actually a really great question. I am just finishing my college career now, and I think I have some insight here. It all really depends on what you're looking for out of your college experience. I like to divide it in buckets. You can be the college student that focuses on school, and has a stellar GPA and academic record. You can do what I did, and get involved early and quickly, and be somewhat content with a 3.4-3.5 GPA. However, since the main point of college is to grasp a large body of knowledge (both academic and life skills), it's important to define what success means to you. I was over-involved in college, but made up for it because I knew that I didn't go out as much as others may have, and could do work on Friday and Saturday evenings. If you already know what industry you are interested in pursuing, hone in on organizations that will help you towards that goal. However, if your passion is different from what you are studying (or you have multiple things you're passionate about), I would find involvements that supplement that as well! During your summers, you should always strive to do something that helps you grow (whether that's study abroad, an internship in Public Administration, or shadowing someone in a social work center).

Here's how I structured my college career, and it seemed to work for me.

FRESHMAN SCHOOL YEAR: Courseload & 3-4 involvements (all in leadership; unrelated to professional dev), FRESHMAN SUMMER: Study Abroad

SOPHOMORE SCHOOL YEAR: Most rigorous courseload & 5-6 involvements (a few professional involvements; lots of leadership)
SOPHOMORE SUMMER: Paid internship

JUNIOR SCHOOL YEAR: Courseload & 4-5 involvements (all leadership and in more executive positions)
JUNIOR SUMMER: Paid internship

SENIOR SCHOOL YEAR: Courseload & 2-3 involvements (highest leadership involvements in the school)
SENIOR SUMMER: Paid internship (hopefully becomes a FT job, as I'm graduating at the end of the year!)

Hope this helped a little!
Nagela
Thank you comment icon Wow, thank you so much! I love how you divided up your schedule and balanced everything out. I'm definitely going to incorporate your idea into my planning for the next four years. I hadn't thought of future summer internships but I'll definitely start looking into them. Much appreciated! Deana
Thank you comment icon Absolutely :) best of luck; I definitely think you can do both! Nagela Nukuna
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Deidre Mercedes’s Answer

While it is great to get involved I would not advise it right off the bat. Focus on your studies and feeling your way around campus. Once you feel settled and use to things, you can start thinking about clubs and organizations. I would leave internships for junior and senior year as you get closer to finishing. That will give you time to think about what areas you really would like to explore career wise and tailor your choices into those fields.
Thank you comment icon I also agree. Concentrate on your studies and in your Junior/ Senior year concentrate on your internship. You will be more aware of what type of organization would be more in your career path. Good luck to you! Melida Alaniz
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much to both of you! I'll definitely put most of my energy into my classes and save the internships for later on in my college career. Deana
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Taylor’s Answer

Hey Deana! Great question! I'm actually from Arlington, TX!

Regarding your question, I actually did both! It's entirely possible to secure an internship while actively doing club activities. Although it's really busy, you should gauge your own limits and determine how much you can bite off. Use your first semester to determine how much workload your classes are to help you gauge how much club activities you can take.

It really just comes down to a healthy balance. Know your own limits. I tend to lean towards professional work because I'm involves in business/tech (real experience is best), but in other fields I'm not sure.

Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for thr awesome advice! I'm going to look into one social club and one more service based organization this first semester. I'm definitely going to remember what you said about balancing my time and opportunities and classes. Deana
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Franchesca’s Answer

Definitely put grades first. If you have the time to get involved, don't overwhelm yourself by joining four or five clubs. Throughout college, I have been focusing on one organization that means a lot to me, I have held executive board positions, and I am helping to make the organization more known and improve membership. I feel like if you focus on one and you can express how much it means to you and how much you've done, it speaks volumes. Rather than being a part of 5 organizations, where you are a member that may attend one or two meetings.

Good luck!
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Elizabeth’s Answer

I never did until my senior years, I think at first is too much to handle and a bit distractive so concentrate in bringing your grades up and deciding what your choice will be career wuse then about extra curricular activities
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your response! I'll definitely keep this in mind, and dedicate a majority of my time to my studies. Deana
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Mary’s Answer

If you want to meet people, join one club but your primary focus should be to get settled into your new environment and make sure you get started on the right foot with your courses. Before leaving college you should get involved in professional organizations in your field of study because in some cases they will help you network and get you hired. Best of luck.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the response. I'll keep my eye on career opportunities for the future as this year progresses. Deana
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Omneya’s Answer

Focus on your grades. You are paying for the classes, training and experience. If you feel bored after your freshman year, then consider joining a club.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your perspective. I wasn't aiming for clubs to cure my boredom, but I'll definitely wait until I've found some stability in my university to get more involved. Deana
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Dean’s Answer

Especially in your freshman year, it's all about balance. While extracurricular activities are important, it is also very important to establish your academic foundation - GPA for example. A poor start in the first two semesters can take the remainder of your undergraduate career to recover.
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Tiffany’s Answer

Hi Deana,

I encourage you to do both. The umbrella goal is to pursue something that you enjoy, that you like because that will be your weapon as you go through possible obstacles on the way.

During the school year - participate in student organizations (proximity reasons, they're on campus). During the summer, you should definitely be interning. You should apply before the Summer as most internships have deadlines in the Spring semesters. Interning at companies will help you secure a job after you compete your degree. Employers generally look at internship experiences that you have had.

Hope this helps.
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Joel’s Answer

Hi Deana,

I think that's a great question and that's excellent to see you already preparing for your college experience. Here are my 3 pieces of advice for you:

1) College is a lot of fun, but the main purpose is to learn and do well in classes. Focus on getting adjusted to college life, being away from home, meeting new people, etc. Everyone adjusts differently and you want to give yourself time to feel comfortable with your classes and university life in general.

2) I strongly suggest joining at least one club or organization your Freshman year and maybe one more each additional year. This is a great way to meet people and make friends, explore the campus and community, and have unique experiences that many other students won't get (and you can add it to your resume. I was involved in many groups in college and met some amazing people that way. I waited until a few months in to Freshman year before I joined because I wanted to focus on classes and getting adjusted first.

3) If you want to do an internship, I would suggest talking with your career Services Department, Academic Advisors, and Professors (or members of any student organizations you have joined) and they will be able to provide you with good insight in to opportunities. I would begin researching Sophomore year and waiting until Junior or even Senior year to do an internship.

I loved college and was very thankful for being involved in many different groups. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! I will definitely take my time getting involved and make sure that my focus stays on my grades. Deana
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Daniel’s Answer

In my opinion, you should start with clubs and organizations for a few reasons. First off, it will help expand your network on the campus which will make life at college more enjoyable and potentially open up opportunities later on. Another reason for this advice, is that a lot of companies are not looking for freshman candidates as interns, as often your course experience is Gen Ed's and little exposure in the major of your focus. The last reason to do the internships first is because having organizations clubs and intramurals on your resume will help you actually obtain said internships.
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Dorien’s Answer

Grades are always important and should come first. If you have the time to you should explore the club opportunities that are on campus. In my freshman year, I joined a professional club that was related to the school department my major was in. This helped me grow my network with other students that were pursuing a similar degree as mine. It also reassured me that following a career in business was something I wanted to do. Most clubs also don't require you to go to every meeting to be involved. This allows you to focus on your schoolwork when you needed to maintain your grades as well. Overall I think it is a good idea to explore what opportunities your school has and the clubs you join don't all need to be professional clubs they can align with your hobbies and interest as well.
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Joshua’s Answer

The most important thing you can do in your first year of school is get involved. I would highly recommend checking out all of the different organizations, clubs, groups, and intramurals that exist on your campus! Don't hesitate to look outside of the gates either. Exposing yourself to as many things as possible will do two things: make you a more diverse/multi-faceted/ person and help you figure out what your likes/interests are.

Many companies aren't interested in hiring rising sophomores as interns (many companies are as well) but I really do not think this should be your focus at this time of your life. This year should be all about you, it's okay to be selfish sometimes! Whatever you do end up picking to get involved with, stay with it! Companies love to see you sticking with activities or groups throughout your career. Most importantly above all else: Study Hard! I hope this helps :). college internships internship freshman first-year
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Naomi María’s Answer

You can do both, but be choosy in what you do and be wary of how the time you are committing to each endeavor adds up.

While I was in school I was in two clubs related to my program, but I also worked in the student newspaper, and did a lot of volunteering and internships in the summer or over breaks.

My freshman year I was taking five courses a semester and did too many club things and burned myself out. My sophomore year on, I made a point of managing my time better and including time for me to rest and have a weekend to myself sometimes. The last year or so of school, I didn't spend as much time in my clubs and invested most of my time to thesis and internship or freelance opportunities that fit in with my schedule.

Always remember school is the priority and you can generally shuffle your other club commitments around a bit. If they are related to your program, the clubs are generally organized not to overlap with important exam or midterm project dates since they are more aware of everyone's schedules.
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