How to choose the extra-curricular activity that’s right for you

Freshers Fair is often one of the most memorable events of the year. It gives new students the opportunity to find out about different societies, old students to find new recruits and of course everyone to grab those freebies.

But in the sea of possibilities, how do you choose what’s right for you? Evidently, it’s not one size fits all. So instead we’re going to talk about what you should look for and how they can help you in the future.

Follow your passion

The society that you’re going to have the most fun with is by finding something that you enjoy. Whether that be a hobby you’ve already practiced whilst at school or something that you have always wanted to experiment with – now is the time to try it!

To get you started, try to choose a diverse selection of societies so you have the opportunity to meet a range of people. You probably already have friends on your course so branch out and choose something that’s a little bit different. It can sometimes be a bit scary to join a group without knowing anyone but everyone before you had to go through the same thing and just imagine that some of them could become your best friends for life!

Don’t be disheartened if you try something new and it’s not what you were expecting either. You may have to try out a few groups before you find your fit.

Dan S. from King’s College London recommends doing something that is a keen interest of yours. “Throughout my time at King’s I was fully engaged with the German society, not just because of my heritage, but because I love German culture and I found it a great way to meet new people who felt the same!”

Planning, preparation and priority

So now we’ve inspired you to join a society or activity you’re interested in, the next step is to make sure it doesn’t take over your life. You may have one big passion or lots of new activities you want to try out. Make sure that you prioritise the most important things first. As boring as studying can be this is what is keeping you at university so don’t let it fall to the wayside. If for example you know you have a society social on a Wednesday, then don’t save all you reading for the day after when you’re very likely to be tired from the evening before.

Make your own timetable with uni classes, study time, society meetings and time to spend with friends. If you don’t plan in advance you’ll find yourself with two essays to write, an important society event to go to, and a dinner with friends you completely forgot about all scheduled for the same night. It’s not a nice feeling and can lead to lots of stress. Plan in advance to keep your stress to a minimum.

Equally, learn to say “no.” Societies are important and can be useful experience to practice skills yet if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, you’re allowed to take some time out. Be upfront about how much responsibility you can take on and learn to trust people that they’ll do a good job without you. Whether you’re a committee member or not, you shouldn’t feel that the society can’t run without you. Just make sure, you’re realistic of how much you can do and make sure you let others know. If you need time to recuperate, that’s fine too. Your mental wellbeing is important and you should always keep that in mind.

The best way is to manage expectations. Communicate to your fellow society members or even friends how you’re feeling and what else you have on your plate. If you’ve said that you’ll attend an event, people are relying on you to be there. So try to keep to your word. Make sure people realise what other priorities you have so they understand your situation. Being part of a society is being part of a team, this means you should be able to ask for support and give support in return.

Member vs. Committee

So if you’ve found a society that you’re a fan of, there often comes a time when you have to decide whether to stand for committee or not. There are lots of reasons this is an amazing idea but equally as we’ve said you have to find the right balance for you.

If you are standing for a committee position (or already have one – congrats!), work out what you want to achieve during your tenure. If you’re an events manager, what one event do you want to make sure is a huge success that people speak about for years to come? Have a goal in your mind of how you want to make your mark on the group. Also if you have to persuade people to vote for you, passion is usually what people connect with most!
Be realistic about the expectations of you as a committee member and work out what skills you may need to work on and perhaps even how much time you can dedicate to the society. It may feel like a lifetime away but what you get up to in your free time can help you with applications in the future. So set targets for yourself and always keep a note of your successes to make it easier to remember in the future.

Future proof

Societies can be great for your social life now but they can also be great examples of you using skills that you’ll use when applying for jobs. Especially if you’ve been directly involved with organising an event or managing communication, these are all skills that employers are looking for, so start marketing them now.
Every role has examples of team-work, independence, creative thinking, or communication etc. Pinpoint exactly when you showed skills like this and remember to write it in your CV or cover letter. Don’t just mention a skill in passing. Instead, explain in more depth how you personally contributed to the success. Be specific.
For example, just saying you “work well in a team” is something that nearly anyone can write. Saying HOW you have worked well in a team in the past is far better at showing off your talents. Whether you organised an alumni event, set up a bake sale or just ensured you had weekly meetings, celebrate and be passionate about your successes with future employers.

Don’t be afraid to be savvy. If your society is directly linked to something you want to do in the future try and network now. Look up any alumni from your university who now work in the industry and invite them to an event or contact an organization you admire and ask if you could ever organise a society trip to meet them. Societies should be fun and the perfect way to make friends but also maybe help you find a passion to work for in the future.