How to succeed in college: Part 5

In my last post I wrote about Jeff Beals’ advice that you participate in extracurricular activities, and I thought I would follow that with specific advice about a few different types of extracurricular activities and the reasons why you might choose them. I’ll start off by confessing that I don’t have first-hand experience with any of these, so my advice is based on what I’ve learned from students and alumni and what others have written about them. In this post I’ll talk about two of the most popular extracurricular activities, Greek life and sports.

Greek Life: Fraternities and sororities

There are at least four different types of fraternities and sororities: academic/social, professional, honor, and service. Academic/social fraternities and sororities are the ones that people are most familiar with. These are the ones that movies have been made about and that periodically show up in the news for hazing and other bad behaviors. However, academic/social fraternities and sororities can be valuable resources, both during college and after you graduate.

  • They help establish strong relationships with other students, which is often key to success in and after college.
  • They provide an immediate network of alumni, not only from your own school, but from all other schools with a chapter of that organization.
  • Many have a specific emphasis, often based on culture, ethnicity, race, or religion, which can allow members to feel more at home in what can seem like (or actually be) an alien environment.
  • If you’re interested in an academic/social fraternity or sorority, do some homework about the history and mission of the organization and its reputation on your campus and nationwide. Keep in mind that you have to be invited to join, and that you may be competing with other students for a place in a popular fraternity or sorority on your campus.

    Professional fraternities and sororities are linked to a particular field, such as engineering or medicine. Some of these organizations are open to both male and female members, although many are distinct male-only fraternities or female-only sororities. The benefits of these organizations are similar to those of the academic/social organizations, with the additional benefit that the network you form will be relevant to your specific career.

    Honor fraternities and sororities are similar to honor societies, and in some cases such an organization may be referred to as either (or both) by members and nonmembers alike. Some are open to both males and females, or, as with professional organizations, they may be specifically for men or women. These organizations provide recognition for academic achievement, and membership is earned.

    Service fraternities and sororities typically have some type of community or professional service mission. In my next post I’ll be covering community service organizations in more detail, so for now I’ll just say that these groups provide many of the same benefits as the other fraternities and sororities pertaining to creating long-lasting relationships, a sense of community, and valuable networks.

    Sports and recreation

    There are a variety of ways that college students can participate in sports, and if you’re an involved athlete in high school, you will probably want to continue in college. Even if you haven’t attained the level necessary to play competitively with other schools, you can still participate in club or intramural teams.

    Participating in sports can be a good thing to have on your resume or to talk about in interviews. American culture is very sports-dominated, and people who aren’t interested in sports are few and far between. Athletics can provide opportunities to develop both leadership and teamwork skills and to build your network.

    If you’re not interested in team or organized sports, you may simply want to take advantage of recreational facilities provided by your school. Most schools have fully equipped gymnasiums, swimming pools, tennis courts; activities such as yoga, aerobic, or other exercise classes; and clubs devoted to a particular activity such as hiking, running, or biking.

    The downside to participation is that it can take a great deal of your time, so your ability to demonstrate solid time management skills will be of utmost importance. Also, be aware that participating in competitive sports may mean missing classes on game days, so be sure to find classmates willing to share notes and keep you informed of what you miss.