Freshman Guide: The Dos and Don’ts of Student Organizations

Freshman Guide: The Dos and Don’ts of Student Organizations


Let’s face it: most of us attending this sub-Ivy institution of learning were class-A overachievers in high school. It’s hard to find someone who didn’t boast “NHS President, Captain of Varsity Synchronized Swimming, Go-Fish World Champion, 12-year glockenspiel player, and 5.69 GPA” or some version of that on their college applications. Many of us come from years of over-involvement in extracurriculars carefully curated to produce the most astounding college application guaranteed to get you rejected from Duke but accepted to Northwestern (c’mon, did you really think you’d get into Duke without founding your own non-profit at the age of seven?). Now that you’ve entered college, you’re probably wondering how to navigate the scary world of Northwestern Student Organizations and how to factor them into your life. It’s not as daunting as you might think. Let us break it down for ya. DO join a student organization!!!

Okay okay, everyone tells you to get involved. But, it’s important advice! Sure, you’ll meet people in your dorm and you might have been one of the lucky few who found a true pal in their PA group, but finding a group to get involved with is an awesome way to meet people. You’ll find students with similar interests as you and also very different interests, and potentially the elusive upperclassman friend who can help you navigate this bizarre world we call “college.”

DON’T join a student organization just because that cute girl/guy on your floor is doing it.

So what if you think it will help you get a chance to hook up with them? What happens after you hook up? You date, fall in love, and become that cute couple everyone is jealous of? That’s not going to happen. Love is a myth.

DO ditch the idea that you need to join every organization there is and work your way up to running them all.

This may have worked out well for you in high school, but that will not work here.

Why? Well, for starters, there are 537 registered student organizations on this campus and there are MAYBE only one or two people on this campus who could handle being involved in all of them—but they’re already working part time for Goldman Sachs as sophomores. For the rest of us underachievers, we’ll just have to settle with a good two or three to fill our craving to be “busy.” Additionally, there are always complaints about the competitiveness of student groups here. It’s true—a lot of organizations require an application process and they can be tough to get into. Don’t let this discourage you, however. You can always reapply. You might not be running the school like you did in high school, but this doesn’t mean you aren’t talented, smart, or worthy of doing so.

DON’T feel like you’re stuck with what you got involved with during freshman year.

If you feel like you don’t want to be involved with something anymore, don’t be. Like, be respectful and talk it over with the exec board and stuff, but there’s no use in staying involved in something that you’re not 100% passionate about. Also, don’t be afraid to join/apply for/try out for something new as a sophomore, junior or even senior. It’s totally okay to reset if you’re not happy.

DO use career-oriented student organizations to help figure out what you really want

Getting exposure to what you could be doing post grad (or even what you are considering majoring in) is the best way to figure out what you want to do. So join that marketing group and if you hate it, at least you can rule out that career path and go into consulting like everyone else.

DON’T focus solely on resume-building when joining student organizations.

Get involved in something you’ve never tried before but are interested in—it doesn’t have to relate to what you think your future career path is. You can be a science major but still write for a student publication. Branching out is one way to meet students you likely wouldn’t have met who have different interests, talents and backgrounds than you. Because of involvements like this, you’ll be exposed to so many other opportunities and corners of campus that you’d likely miss out on if you stuck to what you know.

Overall, the monster that is Northwestern student organizations is completely tacklable. It’s important to make sure that these groups enrich your time here instead of only adding stress to your life. It’s a balance that might take you a quarter or two to learn, but once you do it’ll be great. For many of us here at Sherman Ave, the student groups we’ve been involved with—not our classes or internships—have defined our time at Northwestern and given us our favorite memories and closest friends. Upperclassmen throughout Northwestern are likely to say the same.


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