(We have something special today, a guest blogger. Anne Crossman, who has a new book out on enjoying the college experience, will be talking about extracurricular activities once you get to college. Enjoy. Todd)
From start to finish, the process of finding the “right” college, applying, getting accepted, moving in, and selecting classes is up there on the Richter scale for stress. Let’s call it a 9.9. Unfortunately, many students are under the assumption that once they arrive on campus they can catch their breaths and coast, since coursework will be more of the same and residential life will be one continuous hangout session of laughs. Au contraire.
Don’t get me wrong, college is a blast—and should be after all that effort getting in—but it’s all about intentional fun. (A prof, a dean and I spent an entire chapter on this subject in our book, Getting the Best Out of College, but I’ll do my best to give you a tasty synopsis here.)
Now that you’ve begun your college career, you stand before a veritable buffet of fun. More than just your ordinary options from high school (varsity sports, yearbook, debate team, yawn…not that I’m being mean, I once loved them too) you are now faced with the delectable challenge of choosing between such tempting clubs as a capella rhythm and blues, wilderness survival, fencing, ballroom dancing, synchronized swim team, and a plethora of start-up groups unique to every campus. And, yes, you must choose.
Unlike high school, you are not expected (nor will you have the time) to pursue four or five extracurricular interests. In fact, your best bet for the first term of freshman year is to join one to three groups and to stay only superficially involved in each until you are able to narrow it down to one or two. But, in hearing this advice to pare down extracurriculars, please don’t swing to the other extreme and avoid them entirely—especially under the guise of “studying more,” since, even with the best intentions, you can only study so much in one day before your eyes begin to do the limbo under their lids.)
Remember that stress factor I alluded to earlier? Of course, how could you forget. Not to get the Richter waving frantically again, but it’s probably best to warn you that classes will give you brain cramps on more than one occasion (since you will be studying with more intelligent peers than you did in high school as well as profs who are some of the leading minds in their fields), your coursework will be heavier (as in, reading a book per week per class plus labs, research papers, and exams), and all that is heaped up along with social stressors of homesickness and getting along with a roommate. It’s a bit much. All the more reason to get out and have some fun.
After all, you now have more free time than ever before—and, arguably, ever again—to test flights of fancy. Beyond joining up with a club that feeds your secret passion to recreate the battle of Bunker Hill, brainstorm with your new friends some ways to make your own fun on campus.
Why join the Nth drunken brawl as yet another obnoxiously plastered undergrad when you can organize a group to go rappelling off the clock tower at midnight? Or, project jumbotrons in Sacramento widescreen the Lord of the Rings in continuum on the quad walls one night until the wee hours, and perhaps even sell popcorn as a fund-raiser for your favorite charity. Why not organize a mud bowl with your dormmates (a.k.a. flag-football on the abandoned softball field after a hard rain or generous hosing)? Or, make the longest conga line on record and shimmy across campus into Guinness book history. Really, the possibilities are endless. As long as your stunt is well planned, legal (yes, that excludes Jello-shots, and, no, you won’t regret passing on that one), and is a story you’ll look forward to telling your future spouse or boss (though, maybe not your kids until they’re older) you’re off to a great start.
As I said earlier, it’s all about intentional fun. Your Scrubs reruns will still be around after you graduate, and there will be plenty of beer to imbibe after a hard day’s work in the cubicle once you’ve gone on to your career, but you have only four years to maximize your fun on campus (while earning a degree worth having, of course). So, skip the drinking scene; invent your own brand of fun; challenge your noggin in class and out; the energy you invest in creative thrills and extracurriculars will not only be a super stress-reliever and loads of fun in the making but will lead to all sorts of warm fuzzy nostalgia later on.
Anne Crossman is a co-author of Getting the Best Out of College: A Professor, a Dean, and a Student Tell You How to Maximize Your Experience, published by Ten Speed Press in 2008. After teaching English in public high schools and military barracks for five years, she is taking time off from her day job to publish a poetry memoir on Alzheimer’s (Trying to Remember) and a humorous educational series addressing life as a high school student. Anne studied at both Stanford and Duke Universities, earning a BA in English and a Certificate of Education, and currently lives with her husband and sons in Seattle, WA. For more information about the book visit http://www.GettingTheBestOutOfCollege.com or to contact Anne directly, visit http://www.annecrossman.com/