Get Involved On Campus To Stay Physically & Emotionally Healthy
Despite what your crazy Uncle Leroy says college isn’t just about partying. On the other hand your pretentious cousin who pronounces everything with a French accent is also wrong when he says it’s all about keeping your nose in the books. Like everything in life there’s got to be a balance. When you arrive at college you can organize your time to get involved with fun activities work hard and enjoy yourself. You can—and here’s why you should.
THE HEALTHY SIDE OF GETTING INVOLVED
Staying active on campus builds camaraderie among students increases self-esteem provides social and mental stimulus and in some cases gets you lots of exercise. Whether you play intramural volleyball sing and dance in musical theatre productions or work for the student newspaper getting involved is half the battle to finding happiness at college.
“Students often underestimate the importance of eating healthy resting and exercising,” says Kevin Finn dean of students at Lawrence Technological University (MI). Finn notes that having a balanced approach between activities and academics helps students do better academically and is “one of the best ways to meet and make friends.”
College can be stressful enough with the combination of keeping up with academics and being in a new environment. But weaving in activities you enjoy can serve as a great stress-buster!
LARGE SCHOOL OR SMALL SCHOOL: THERE’S FUN FOR EVERYONE
Choosing activities to dive into can feel like a monumental decision especially at a college with a large selection of extracurricular options. Whether you go to a small or large school or something in between there are sure to be activities for you to get involved with.
At Wells College (NY) for example the total full-time enrollment is only about 500 students but the list of groups and clubs is extensive. The school is home to 50 student organizations 14 athletic varsity teams social clubs community service projects student government religious organizations and theater and performance groups. The choices are so plentiful that even as a first-year student you can serve as an editor of one of four literary publications run for student government or star in a dance production.
Tennessee Wesleyan College—with an enrollment of about 1,100 students—is another small college that offers a big variety of activities some of which are academically oriented (such as clubs for future teachers) while others provide opportunities for students to show a bit of school pride. Its Student Ambassador Program allows students to give campus tours spend time with visiting dignitaries and represent the college in community events.
At the other end of the size spectrum is the University of Florida with about 32,000 undergraduate students. There are more than 900 clubs and organizations to choose from! This is in addition to numerous intramural sports and over 40 sports clubs including archery crew lacrosse table tennis volleyball and water polo among many others.
If you like being active but perhaps aren’t as competitive or skilled as those trying out for the school’s athletic teams consider a fitness class signing up for an intramural sport or joining a beginner’s dance club.
At Pratt Institute (NY) students can take PrattFit classes complemented by nutrition and fitness information and wellness incentive programs. The school’s intramural sports program like most is less formal than a varsity program. Game schedules range from a one-day tournament to a month-long “season.” Pratt’s intramural offerings include dodgeball indoor soccer tennis volleyball basketball touch football and track and field.
Like most schools Lawrence Tech offers students a variety of opportunities to ease (or dive!) into fitness knowing that not everyone’s interests fitness level or desire for team sports is the same. “We have an extensive recreation program that provides students with a full workout facility opportunities to participate in intramural sports and special workshops on Zumba or yoga,” says Finn. “We even play Quidditch and broomball.”
IMAGINATION- MIND- AND BRAIN-BOOSTING CLUBS
Say you’re not interested in working up a sweat or drawing any kind of attention to yourself. Are there clubs for you? Of course. Most colleges offer special-interest clubs that address important issues like sustainability cultural awareness and sexual identity. There are also some groups with artistic leanings such as clubs focusing on anime ceramics comics and drawing.
Maybe you can’t blur the line between studying and free time because your future career is your first love. Love microbiology? There’s a club for that at most schools. Studying to be a veterinarian? Join the horse club or volunteer at the local animal shelter. Think pharmaceuticals are the best thing since sliced bread? At the University of the Sciences (PA) there are at least seven clubs calling your name.
Most schools—even those with no specific religious affiliation—offer some sort of spiritual service or activity (on campus or off). At Chatham University (PA) students can quietly meditate while walking through the school’s beautiful Jessica’s Labyrinth the largest outdoor public labyrinth in Pittsburgh. At University of the Sciences there are organizations and services for those of Protestant Jewish Catholic and Muslim faiths—sometimes with multiple services in one day.
No matter what your need or interest there’s probably an activity group or club waiting for you. And if there’s not there’s always an opportunity to start one!
MANAGING YOUR TIME
Few things get you more stressed than feeling like you don’t have enough time to complete a project or prepare for a test. Find a great time-management app; it’s going to be your best friend as you balance your work and play.
Many schools offer support to students struggling with time management. At Lawrence Tech counselors are available to help students with organizational and time management. The school also offers workshops on stress management and cognitive conditions like ADHD.
GET READY FOR A GREAT YEAR
Whatever college or activities you choose check out www.transitionyear.org. The site features forums links and resources helpful articles and downloadable checklists worksheets and discussion guides to help support emotional health at college. And because your family invests so much time and energy (and money!) into helping you transition from high school to college life there’s a parent edition as well.
Once you get involved with clubs and activities meet new people learn new things and figure out how to fit it all in you’ll be well on your way to a memorable and meaningful college experience. Not only that but maintaining a work/fun balance in your life is a skill you’ll use forever.
Ben Michaels is a freelance writer from Vermont.
There are plenty of apps for your smartphone so you can keep your calendar and to-do list with you. Here are just a few:
1. iSTUDIEZ PRO: Track your deadlines on a calendar set up notifications for looming deadlines track your grades and more. $2.99; for iPhone iPad and Mac
2. PRIORITY MATRIX: Set your priorities so you know what to do each day. $4.99; for iPhone iPad Mac and Windows
3. STUDIOUS: Keep track of deadlines and save notes text and photos related to assignments. Free; for Android
8 THINGS YOU NEED TO STAY HAPPY AND HEALTHY AT COLLEGE
1. FRIENDS. They’ll keep your mind off the fact that you miss your parents your dog and your ex.
2. SLEEP. Probably the rarest commodity on campus. Too bad you can’t trade something for it.
3. NUTRITION. If you’ve got the food pyramid upside down fix it.
4. DOWNTIME. Even your iPhone needs recharging to work at maximum efficiency.
5. SUPPORT. Call you dad seek out counseling or share your problems with your best friend.
6. EXERCISE. Running on empty: BAD. Running on treadmill: GOOD.
7. ORGANIZATION. You can lose your cool lose your mind or lose your chance but don’t lose your laptop.
8. WILLPOWER. Sometimes fellow students may try to tempt you into doing something you aren’t up for. Repeat after me: “No.” See how easy that was?