A Freshman’s Guide to UF Involvement

It’s your first week at UF, and one walk through Turlington Plaza leaves you struggling to hold on to the dozens of fliers hastily shoved in your face, and bulletin boards around campus are a haphazard collage of neon papers. You know you need to start getting involved, but don’t know where to start. Not to worry, new collegiettes™! Here’s your all-inclusive guide to the do’s and don’ts of involvement, student organizations and extracurriculars in The Gator Nation.

DO join a club that has a group of people you feel you could get comfortable with. 
Involvement outside of the classroom is going to be a way to connect with people who have similar interests or career goals. Seek out groups that would not only provide a support system, but also push you to be your best with some healthy motivation. Steer clear of clubs and groups that pressure you into activities you don’t feel comfortable with, make you feel inadequate or that you just don’t click with. Your involvement should be a positive experience!

DON’T join a club just because all your friends are doing it. 
Yes, that club is perfect for your chemistry major, pre-med best friend, but is it really relevant to you, the history major on the pre-law track? Try to avoid the herd mentality and take the amazing opportunities UF presents to branch your network outside of the group you brought from high school.

DO take freshman year to try out clubs you normally wouldn’t consider. 
Needless to say, college offers a lot more options for involvement than your high school probably did. Make sure to check out the Gator Connect Organization Directory – a catalog of every registered club on campus. There are so many interesting student organizations – some you’ve probably never even heard of. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a hidden passion.

DON’T expect to stick with all the clubs you join. 
The person you are entering college as and the person who emerges at the end of year are two entirely different people. Hopefully you’ve found at least one or two clubs that you could envision yourself sticking with throughout your time at UF. But a lot can change within the first year. Your career goals may be different from where you started off, your priorities may have realigned, and your group of friends may have changed. Life happens, so expect your interests and involvements to shift as well.

DO think of the “rule of three.” 
As you’ll hear from countless advisers and upperclassmen, your approximate goal should be three clubs you’re actively involved with consistently throughout your time in college: one for professional development, another for service in an issue you feel passionate about, and one as a creative or recreational outlet. Although this is not a set-in-stone rule, it can be a good guide to ensure optimal “well-roundedness.”  

DON’T overwhelm yourself with too many clubs. 
It may have been the norm to brag about the 27+ school clubs you were involved with in high school, but it’s a whole new ball game in college. There are simply not enough hours in a day to pull that off. For the sake your sanity, take our advice and don’t spread yourself too thin. The goal is always on focused involvement in a few select organizations. Quality over quantity.

DO keep your schoolwork and classes your No. 1 priority. 
This means stellar time-management skills. It can be tricky to manage the free time you have in college, which can be a shock after the strictly regimented schedules you had in high school.  Make sure to schedule ample study time for each class, with even more extra study time around exams. Carefully note your extracurricular involvement as soon as you hear about it so that you have time to figure out how to fit it into your schedule.

DON’T be scared to drop out of clubs if you feel that your grades are suffering. 
Another cliché saying you’ll hear over and over again during your time here is that “above everything else, you are a student first.” It’s so easy to be swept away with the sheer number of out-of-class involvement opportunities available on campus.  Your extracurricular activities should complement your schoolwork, not the other way around.

DO check out the Student Activities and Involvement resources. 
SAI is an organization on campus that helps students find organizations that fit their interests, preferences and temperaments. You can even make an appointment to have a one-on-one meeting with consultants who are experts on all that UF has to offer in terms of extracurricular involvement. If you’re extremely overwhelmed, make sure to check them out!

DON’T overlook research, internships and volunteer opportunities. 
Student organizations are fantastic ways to connect with students, but remember it can also be worthwhile to connect with professors, professionals and potential employers in your field. For you freshman and sophomore collegiettes™ especially, check out Science for Life if you want to get a head start in research. If you’re looking for an internship, head to the Career Resource Center. Looking for ways to volunteer? The Center for Leadership and Service has your back. The opportunities are endless! It just takes a little bit of searching.

Taking this advice into consideration, your first year at UF is going to be full of amazing, impactful and insightful experiences without a doubt. Good luck, collegiettes™!

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