The point of a student organization is to expose you to various resources, like-minded individuals and get you connected to your school. Some orgs are more academically or career-oriented while others are purely social. Regardless, you should invest time in learning about different organizations on your campus and how to get involved. Being actively engaged in a student organization is a part of the quintessential college experience.
With that being said, not all orgs are worth joining. Your time is precious and joining a student org can be a significant time commitment. Because of the time commitment, I encourage you to limit your involvement to 2-3 orgs max. It’s better to show a significant level of commitment to a few orgs than half-hearted membership to many.
If an organization meets only a couple of these attributes, then you might want to reconsider your involvement in that organization. However, if the organization meets at least half of these attributes, it’s probably worth a fair shot.
This is what to look out for in a student organization:
The organization should have strong leadership and defined rituals on how leadership is chosen. Strong leadership gives an organization structure and it provides a roadmap for you as well. I encourage you to pursue leadership opportunities in organizations. This will help you become more well-rounded in your academic career.
An organization with strong leadership means that you can find out who the president, secretary, treasurer and other significant roles in the organization easily either online or during a general meeting.
The organization needs to be organized. I know this sounds obvious, but don’t take this for granted. You can tell that an organization is organized if there are set protocols or meetings, leadership meeting, accountability and events. You can also tell by the attitude of the members if the organization is organized. Being a part of an unorganized org is stressful and you can see that in the members.
There should be a purpose to the organization. Every meeting the org hosts should somehow support the overall mission of the organization. This is what makes the organization worth joining. For example, if the organization promises to make you an effective leader and public speaker but none of the meetings are leading you toward that goal, it’s time to move on.
#4 Professional or Academic Development
This does not apply to social organizations like Anime Club or Dungeons and Dragons Club, but other organizations that are academic or career-oriented should provide workshops that are academic or career oriented. Again, this sounds obvious, but some people take this for granted. If an organization is not adding value to you academically or professionally, it’s time to move on.
Again, this one does not apply to social organizations, but student orgs should provide an opportunity to meet with professionals in related fields and learn more about career opportunities post-graduation. Networking within a student organization can be less intimidating, especially considering that most of the professionals who come back are alums of that organization as well. Furthermore, the student org will provide workshops and resources to help you network effectively with these professionals. (If they don’t, that’s also a red flag).
Student orgs should expose you to different resources and I’m not just talking about networking opportunities. Try to find student orgs that get you in contact with people you normally wouldn’t see otherwise. This is also a form of networking and makes your academic experience more dynamic.
#7 Community Involvement
Student orgs should have some type of social responsibility arm. Don’t underestimate the importance of community service. It shows that the organization is making strides to affect their local community. Some organizations have stronger community service initiatives than others, but community service (at any level) should be present. You need to be able to tell that the organization is dedicated to making a difference (even if it’s only a small difference.)
#8 Productive Meetings
Remember, your time is precious. The meetings you attend need to be productive and worthwhile. They also need to start and end on time. This is a sign that the org respects your time.
Don’t get me wrong. No one is perfect. If things run a little behind but they are still adding value to you then it’s probably okay. The point is to make sure that the meeting is worth attending.
Student orgs should be fun. I know it sounds silly to mention this, but there’s no reason to be miserable in your organization. It’s not work, work, work all the time. There should be time to socialize, relax and have fun. If no one is enjoying their time in the organization, there’s probably something wrong.
This last attribute is related to having fun as well but the difference is that kinship is a bond/friendship that is formed during quality time spent together; whether it’s socializing or participating in a workshop. You should be able to find people you identify within the organization.
I’m not saying you’ll find a new BFF or future spouse but you should enjoy the company of the people in the organization. Furthermore, the organization should encourage its members to be active participants in the organization and listen to feedback from its members. That’s a part of kindship as well.
Joining an organization is a time, emotional, and financial commitment. Most come with a modest membership fee that helps the organization run. If you’re joining multiple organizations these modest fees add up! That’s why it’s important to be judicious about the organizations you commit yourself to.
Look out for these ten attributes to help you make the best decision. These attributes are designed to be a guide to help you make the best decision for yourself. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to use your best judgment when it comes to joining an organization. If you want to learn more about different types of student orgs read the other article I wrote here.
If you found this article helpful, please pass it along! What do you look for in a student organization? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them here or in the comments section. You can also find more resources on my Facebook page.