Freshman year is an exciting time for everyone because it is the start of a new chapter in our lives filled with new opportunities, fresh faces, and lots of changes. In the beginning weeks of class, you will probably come across a professor or an upperclassman who will tell you “remember to get involved!”. I don’t know about you guys, but when I started, I didn’t even know which activities to get involved in – and with over a 1,000 clubs at Penn State, getting involved can be a little daunting. Not only are people telling you to join activities from day one, but they will also tell you that employers will be looking at the clubs you join – meaning you’ll have to start thinking about your future career precisely the moment that you’re beginning to figure out how to even navigate the “college life”. This blog aims to answer these three questions: how to get involved, what type of activities you should join, and how it’ll help your future career.
So what does it mean to get involved? Well at Penn State this can mean a plethora of things from working part time, joining Greek life, or the any of the various student activity committees. I think one of the best ways to see what Penn State has to offer is by going to the Involvement Fair and simply meeting people from different organizations. Find out what interests you the most and go to the first meeting for organizations and see if that activity is something you want to join. Another way to find out about organizations is by asking your professors. Maybe you are taking a French class, or even some random class you find super interesting that you’d like to continue that exploring further, by expressing interest to your professors they will likely help you find a student activity and/or academic club or they may even be the advisor for the organization. Penn State is a large institution with thousands of opportunities, so do not be discouraged if it takes you a little longer than others to find your niche.
So once we’ve figured out how to get involved, let’s start thinking about what types of activities we should be looking at. When you begin to think about your resume and the types of organizations you’ll be putting on there, you’ll begin to see that there are three types – the activity that is a personal interest to you, the volunteer organization, and the academic based club. Now, these three categories are not mutually exclusive but they are the types of organizations you should be looking at to join. For example, I chose organizations such as Vole (dance team), VITA (volunteer income tax assistance), and Net Impact (a mix of academics, career oriented projects, and volunteer). I will say that when you join any club, do not settle for putting “active member” on your resume! Take as much initiative as you can and seize every opportunity as way to grow as a well-rounded student, but also to have experiences to talk about to future employers.
This brings me to the final question—how are joining student activities going to help you find your future career. Well for starters, every person is more than their GPA and employers are going to be looking at the different activities you have joined to aid in determining your character. By being active outside of academics, this paints a picture to employers that you are, for example, a person who can handle multiple commitments, able to take on challenges, among other qualities. So don’t just join a THON organization because everyone else is, but rather, because you have passion for it and you plan to take on leadership roles and make a difference. Future employers will know if you joined an activity just for the sake of joining something. This is what you want to avoid. Be thoughtful in all of your choices and decide whether or not an activity is actually going to challenge you, or will it allow you to coast in the background.
In closing, getting involved is a great way to make Penn State seem less daunting and an easy way to build your network and make friends, but also a way to build to yourself – your character and interests for the future. I will leave you all with this last piece of advice: the best job is the one where you’re using skills you enjoy. But not every job is going to be like this. Use every job or activity as an opportunity to learn something new and keep an open mind – you may find something that you never thought would appeal to you.