Campus Clubs Are Worth Joining Your Freshman Year, Even If They're Online

I was a freshman two years ago, and clubs were what made my campus feel like home. Now as the president of my Her Campus chapter and an RA, my mission this next semester is to recreate my experience for  incoming freshmen — all under social distancing guidelines. 

My college’s plan is to host in-person classes till Thanksgiving and then go online, but club meetings and all other students activities will most likely be virtual for the whole semester. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the details, but as a move-in date approaches, planning has already started for me. This past semester was the hardest for high school seniors, and as someone who has a role in their first semester in college, I want to make it as positive and fun as possible. 

Clubs are where you find your different communities in college. When I was a freshman, I had serious anxiety about making friends. As an introvert, orientation and the first weeks of class were really tough for me socially. People can have the same major as you — but that doesn't mean automatic friends because of  one commonality. It took walking around the student activities and involvement fair to find hope that I would make  friends and love college. 

The important role of clubs in college

Being part of different clubs grew my social circles that aligned with my different interests. No one is one kind of person, and you shouldn’t have to be in only one kind of club. Being an anchor on our campus news channel helped me to hang out with the other students from the School of Communication. Her Campus helped me build a community with girls who loved writing, pop culture, fashion, and feminism as much as I did. One thing I loved and felt good at was social media strategy, so I applied to be on the executive board as a freshman, and ended up becoming in charge of Twitter and Facebook — which has now led me to being president of my chapter. If I would have told Julia from the first week of college that she would be a president, she probably would have laughed in my face. But being in clubs on campus brought this whole energy to experience I didn't know existed, and it taught me that I loved to be involved and a team leader. In high school, I was not in one club. But college student activities helped me socially and brought out this confidence I didn’t know I had. 

You need the social time

The academic side of college can be overwhelming, but the social side of college is equally as huge. It can be easy to feel that you’re not doing enough to make friends, or for your classes to be so exhausting that you want to  hide in your room. Scheduling clubs into your day means you don’t have to  worry about that! 

I also learned that joining leadership roles as a freshman or sophomore shouldn’t scare you.  A new point of view is always needed for ideas on events, meetings, or social media. Getting on the executive board not only helps your resume, but it connects you with a network of student leaders and facilities on campus too. 

Make virtual meetings worth the hype

So as a club president already, what I am going to do to make club meetings over Zoom worth my new and old members’ time? 

First, talking and creating a space where it’s safe  to be yourself is as  simple as it sounds. Transitioning to online schooling was really tough for some of my peers, and adding first-time college is a whole other challenge. Something like a mental health check with everyone is going to be important — although, an open discussion on how we are doing can be daunting. One option is to use  card games, like this one from We’re Not Really Strangers, that prompt questions. My main point is to just make sure the community is built from the beginning, and establish that just because people are not physically together, everyone can  still look out for each other mentally. 

There are other  games that can be used for a good time, like playing Cards Against Humanity over House Party. Since lockdown started there have been so many activities over Facetime, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, including TikTok “presentation nights” which is where  every friend at the party makes slideshow presentations about whatever random topic they want. Doing this with your club on a light week of work can be a great way to laugh and get to know each other more. 

Using technology  is fundamental to clubs this  fall semester. Vision boards or collages can be made virtually through Pinterest, Instagram, and other art apps. One meeting activity can be a tutorial on how to make them, and then the next meeting can be sharing what is on everyone’s board and why. Then, for really chill meetings, movie or television nights can be done through Netflix Party or screen-sharing. You can also host  a book-club-style meeting where everyone watches a show together and discusses it, as  an alternative to movie nights IRL as a club. 

One  possibility of making your club just a little tangible to members is to take advantage of your budget and put together gift bags to leave at members' doors for meetings. The gift bags could hold snacks for the movie night, supplies for a craft to be done together over Zoom, or just a self-care kit. As long as the gift bags are put together safely with gloves and antibacterial wipes, it can be done! 

Physical safety is the priority, but mental health matters just as much. Joining and being part of a club creates an instant community to have on campus. Being stuck at home with family has made me appreciate all the clubs I am involved in, and every person that is a part of them. 

As a club president, I want to be there for my members, and to create a place to forget about everything that is happening in the world. A place to just be with people who make you feel happy. Even if club meetings look different, do not dismiss the people who have a passion to help your college experience and the clubs they’ve built.