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How are clubs in college beneficial?

I am looking into joining some clubs or activities once I am in college. What would be the advantages in doing this? #student-clubs

Thank you comment icon They help you connect with more people with similar interests--especially if you go to a larger college and find it difficult to meet people. Also, fun! I've heard of some ridiculous improv clubs and competitive robotics clubs. Keep your eyes peeled for new experiences! For me it's always been worthwhile. Abby Lupi, Admin

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Matthew L.’s Answer

Good question. There are a number of advantages to joining clubs in college. However, many people join clubs for the wrong reason (I did). The wrong reason to join a club is to do it just to puff up your resume. That's why I joined the Art Club in college. I didn't particularly like art in college but a friend of mine talked me into it. He said we could meet girls. It didn't help me at all later on in life and I didn't meet any girls. No one ever asked me about the Art Club. Ever. But, later when I joined clubs I really cared about, everything changed.

There are many really good reasons to join clubs. Here are a few.

1. Find Your Community - One of the best reasons to join a club is to meet other people with your interests. Good college clubs will generally attract people who are really passionate about the club. There is nothing more fun than finding a bunch of people who think like you do about a topic. When I got to law school I joined the Federalist Society and it was an AMAZING experience. I met ton of people with amazing experiences. They suggested books and articles for me to read and encouraged me to write articles for the school "Federalist Paper". Even though it was 25 years ago, I am still in touch with some of the people I met and I love to get together with them. It's also a great way to make new friends, which can be hard in college (it was for me).

2. Networking - College clubs are a great way to start networking, especially if you're not good at it like me. Many clubs have a professional/career component to them. A finance club, for example, will help you start networking with finance people. A good club will also do activities like invite speakers on campus, hold panel discussions and forums, host professional mixers and schedule field trips to companies, conferences or cultural sites. These are all great opportunities to meet people who are out of college and who may give you a job some day.

If your club does not do events like this, take the lead and suggest they host a forum or a speaker or a debate. Most colleges have funding available for clubs to host speakers. That's a major function of clubs: to bring interesting speakers for others to hear and see. If the current club leaders don't want to do it, run for a leadership spot and make sure the club does events. You can often get famous people to come on campus and speak just by asking. Don't be afraid. The worst they can do is say no. You would be surprised how many future employers belonged to the same clubs you are in. One of my old Federalist Society buddies is a Court of Appeals judge now. I still see him all the time.

3. Leadership Opportunities - Clubs are also a great way to get actual, real leadership experience. Once you get a feel for the club, run for office. The great thing about college clubs is that leadership spots are always opening up because people graduate. Leadership positions look great on a resume and you can influence the direction of the club. Bring in the speakers you want or support the causes you believe in. You also build invaluable experience working with teams and learning how to negotiate and communicate. These are crucial lessons and skills you will use your whole life. Nothing prepares you better for work than arguing your position with other people who are super passionate about the same thing you are. This is also a great way to impress your professors, build rapport and start lining them up for recommendation letters, internships, research positions and other opportunities. I can tell you that a letter of recommendation from a prof in which they are reminiscing about a great panel discussion you put together and hosted is WAY more impressive than if she just says, "Oh, yeah, Peyton was in my class once. I think."

4. Writing and Speaking Opportunities - Clubs provide wonderful opportunities for speaking and writing. Here again, these are invaluable skills that you will use throughout your life and college is the best place to practice them. College is supposed to be the place to practice because no one expects you to be perfect and it's where no one will remember if you're writing is not the greatest (yet) or if you freeze in front of an audience or if you accidentally crash the website.

Writing and speaking also provide you with a great portfolio of work to show your future employers, for getting internships and for grad school applications. Start by writing articles about your club for the school newspaper or website. Then step it up by creating a newsletter or a website for your club, if it doesn't have one. Organize a panel discussion on a topic you care about and invite professors and students to speak while you moderate. Video tape it and add it to your portfolio. Stick the video on Youtube or LinkedIn. Professors LOVE to hear themselves talk and are very generous with their time, particularly if it's a topic they are passionate about or they have some of their own work to talk about. (Hint: If you belong to the History Club and one of your profs just wrote a book or academic paper on "Australian Uniform Fashion in World Boer War," invite them to speak about it. I promise the prof will come).

5. Practice Your Technical Skills - Clubs are a lot like little startup companies. You can get a lot of experience really quickly just by volunteering for whatever the club needs you to do. They are perpetually short on people to do the actual work that needs doing. Volunteer to edit the club newsletter (or start one if they don't have one). Volunteer to manage the social media. Volunteer to organize a speaking event. If you book the venue, order the food, line up volunteers, layout and print the program and write the email blast that goes out, these are all skills that employers want and need. Saying you managed the social media accounts, Facebook page, etc., is pure gold on a resume. And as an added bonus, unlike all the pretenders out there, you can actually do the work if you get the job.

6. Share Your Enthusiasm and Point of View with the World - You may find the club you want to join right out of the box. Or it may not exist yet. If not, start your own club and find people to join who are interested that topic. Put together a club charter and apply for funds from the student government and start doing all the stuff I mentioned above. Saying that you started the first LGTBQ club or Irish language club or first Future Veterenarian's club on campus is a great conversation starter on your resume and for that interview. It shows you're a self-starter and can get things done.

7. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone - And one other thing. Clubs provide a great way to get out of your comfort zone and meet new types of people. If you're a pre-med major, you're going to spend a lot of time with science types in your classes. You won't run into a lot of artsy types, so if that's one of your passions you need to join the Theater Club. Even if you don't have a burning passion for something, it's great to join a club that relates to a subject you know absolutely nothing about and that is very different from your major. If you're an art major, join the Debate Club or the Finance Club or the Anarchists Club or run for student government. It will make you a more interesting person.

The clubs I joined in college and law school were the best part of my education. And in addition to learning about interesting topics and meeting people you might not have had exposure to otherwise, you can leverage clubs to get real life experience and add to your resume. And if none of that leadership/resume stuff appeals to you, just join for the fun of it. Check out all the clubs on campus, keep an open mind and find what interests you. You'll meet a bunch of great people. And if it's a cruddy club, just quit and find a better one.
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