Obviously, your first priority starting college is to figure out what classes you want to take so you can pick a major and prepare yourself for a career, or in some cases, grad-school. It's important to realize if you spend all your time working hard and never taking a break you might burn out. For that reason, it is a good idea to become involved in a variety of activities on campus and attend fun social events you hear about with your friends. Looking back on my first year of college- I was able to get involved in some pretty cool groups that made my experience much more enjoyable.
Here are a few things I was involved in on campus this past year that I would definitely recommend to incoming freshman who are looking for extracurriculars to broaden their horizons.
At Cornell you are required to take a Physical Education class, and I thought a martial arts class could be interesting, so I enrolled in the intermediate Taekwondo class. I found the class so much fun that I ended up joining the team and traveling to a few tournaments at other schools. While the time commitment was pretty large, joining a club sport team was a great way to blow off steam after a long week of classes, and also helped motivate me to keep in shape by going to practice at the end of the day, when I would otherwise have stayed in the dorm.
As an engineer, I was interested in working on projects outside of class, and Cornell’s assortment of project teams allowed me to satisfy this desire. During our weekly general body meeting or weekend lab time, I was able to collaborate with other people interested in working in a similar field to prepare for competition, learn important technical skills from upperclassmen, and feel accomplished in applying my knowledge of math and science in a way that I felt mattered. You also get to bond with the members of your team during travel for regional or national competition, and they are often some of the most interesting people you meet at your time in college.
Going into college, I had no intentions of joining a social fraternity; in fact, I didn’t even show up to rush week until the very last night. The two-to-three events I attended, however, convinced me otherwise. While your friends from your dorm and classes will spend a lot of time with you, it is always nice to have a brotherhood of people you can turn to if you need a change of pace. Working together with a bunch of friends to have fun at college, organize philanthropy projects, and maintain a house together brings you closer to your peers than you would ever expect, and is an experience I would definitely recommend.
Alpha Chi Sigma
In addition to social fraternities, professional fraternities are a good way to make connections within the student body at your school and to network for after college. In a professional fraternity you benefit both from the social aspects of a brotherhood and from the resume-building/academic advising of a pre-professional organization. As a prospective chemical engineer, having a group who shares my passion for science has helped me feel comfortable in my classes and has significantly reduced the amount of stress I experience when picking classes and studying for tests.
Religious groups on campus are a good way to bond with people of a similar background and to maintain traditions you may have celebrated growing up now that you are away from home. IN addition to attending the occasional shabbat dinner, I took part in a pre-orientation program the week before school began that was organized by Hillel, and many of the people I met on this trip are still my close friends today. I enjoyed this experience so much I am even coming back to campus early this summer to help lead the trip for incoming freshman in the class of 2021!
For those who are interested in competitive athletics, but who may not feel comfortable with the time commitment of a club or varsity sport, intramural sports are the perfect afternoon activity to unwind after classes. You can sign up with a group of friends to play once a week, and even have a rotation so that not everyone has to attend every game. Especially when the weather is nice, there is no better way to get a group of people together to run around and have a good time than the intramural program organized by your school. I took part in basketball, volleyball, and softball this past year, (sometimes with friends from my dorm, sometimes with fraternity brothers, sometimes on co-ed fraternity/sorority teams) and each of them was a blast!
Every week a new event will pop up on your Facebook feed that you will be interested in, but won’t find the time to go to. This past year I missed stand-up from Josh Peck and from John Mulaney, a live performance by Gucci Mane, and several other events that I wish I had gone to! The one major event I attended was Slope Day, an annual concert held on Libe Slope that features live music, carnival games, food, etc. Even though finals were coming up a few days after this event, I couldn’t be happier that I went because my friends and I had a great time taking a day off from work to hang out, catching up with people we hadn’t seen in awhile, and getting to listen to some artists we had never heard of before who turned out to be better than expected. Obviously you should balance work and play during your time at college, but if you manage your time properly, you will definitely have time to attend some of these events throughout the semester, and I can guarantee you won’t regret it.