Written by Nellie Ellis '23

There are loads of movies set on a college campus, and many include the same scene. Whether you're watching Pitch Perfect or Monster University, you'll notice the main characters walking through a maze of tables adorned with painted cardboard signs and poster boards. The situation seems fun yet chaotic, with students calling out to every passerby, urging them to join their club while shoving a flyer into their hands.

Yes – it is the illustrious club fair. (Or activities fair. Or whatever the given college called it.)

When I was younger, I watched these scenes in awe. I couldn't wait until it was my turn to get onto a campus on a sunny day, meet tons of new people, and sign up for all sorts of incredible opportunities. The sky was the limit!

And boy, did my first club fair deliver. I found myself working my way around a maze of tables, meeting tons of people, and getting all the free goodies, just like I had seen on screen! Only, I completely got wrapped up in the thrill of it all, and I didn't realize how many clubs I had signed up for. (It was between three and 30. I’m not revealing the number. It was a lot.)

They don't include that part in the films: the aftermath of signing up for dozens of clubs. If the movies were truly accurate, they would flash forward to the day after the event. The young girl or guy would open his or her e-mailbox and find it flooded with emails from each campus organization. "Did I really give my email address to the Dignified Educated United Crust Eaters Society?" they would ask themselves. "I thought I just agreed to a free T-shirt!" You see, that's where these clubs get you. One minute you're scanning a QR code to get free candy, and the next you're getting emails from Students Against Hippies in Trees.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but those are both real clubs. I Googled them myself. 

Of course, clubs don't actually have a sinister plan to lure you in with free stuff and then haunt your inbox for the rest of eternity. (Though they technically can. Cue: the Unsubscribe Button.) And most clubs won't be as silly as the examples that I gave above. But there likely will be a lot of organizations that interest you, and you'll probably find yourself signing up for most of them, especially when the free stuff is there to give you a little extra push. 

Signing up for clubs and being involved is not a bad thing: it's actually one of the best ways to make the most of your college career. I’ll repeat myself, because I want this to hit home: signing up for clubs is one of the best ways to make the most of your college career! However, signing up for too many organizations does crowd your inbox and leaves you feeling overwhelmed. You're only one person; you cannot devote yourself to five or six clubs at once.

I know what you're thinking: "But I was in that many clubs in high school, and I did fine!" Maybe so, but this isn't high school. Your college studies are much more demanding, and the time and energy you have available for clubs are much more limited. Trust me; I was that girl doing all the things in high school.

I thought I was a #girlboss and could bring that same level of energy to college extracurriculars. I was wrong. I signed up for way too many clubs and found myself in a constant state of stress and burnout. I realized that my grades would be impacted if I didn't make a change. (And my scholarship depended on my grades, so that wasn’t an option.) So, I made the difficult decision of unsubscribing to multiple email chains and handing in my resignation to a few positions. I narrowed my focus down to two to three clubs, which was more than enough for me. 

So, when you're considering getting involved on campus, keep these two things in mind. 

  1. How much time do I realistically have to devote?
  2. What can this club do for me? 

#1 is important because you do not want to spread yourself too thin. Not only because it can cause burnout and hurt yourself academically, but because you can't fully show up for anything you're doing. People won’t know you as an excellent contributor in the club, they’ll know you as a mediocre contributor, and they might not realize it’s only because you’re contributing to so much elsewhere. Do you really want that?

This leads me to #2. Narrow the clubs you're active in down to two or three, and make sure that these clubs give as much to you as you give to them. Pick organizations that revolve around something you're passionate about, like a cause or your faith. Or, pick something that you know that you really enjoy doing, something that will bring you joy when you show up to its meetings/events. Being selective with what you sign up for in this way will motivate you to show up fully to each one and maximize what you get from being a part of it.

I love clubs. I love being able to devote myself fully to a few select clubs at a time. And I love the awesome experiences, memories, and relationships that I’ve gained from those. Try out as many clubs as you want so you get a feel for what you like! But then narrow it down to the few you really love. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be really thankful you did.

To read up on what Cumberlands clubs you might want to be involved in, visit www.ucumberlands.edu/student-life.